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Dataclysm

Who We Are When We Think No One’s Looking

By Christian Rudder
13-minute read
Dataclysm: Who We Are When We Think No One’s Looking by Christian Rudder

Dataclysm shows what data collected on the internet can tell us about the people who use it, opposed to information gathered from the sterile environment of a scientific laboratory. What you’ll learn is not all good news: when we think no one is watching, we often behave in nasty, brutish ways.

  • Anyone interested in human behavior “in the wild”
  • Anyone who gets mired in pointless arguments on websites’ comments sections
  • Anyone looking for love through online dating websites

Christian Rudder was the creative voice of TheSpark.com before going on to co-create the popular dating website, OkCupid.

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Dataclysm

Who We Are When We Think No One’s Looking

By Christian Rudder
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Contains 8 key ideas
Dataclysm: Who We Are When We Think No One’s Looking by Christian Rudder
Synopsis

Dataclysm shows what data collected on the internet can tell us about the people who use it, opposed to information gathered from the sterile environment of a scientific laboratory. What you’ll learn is not all good news: when we think no one is watching, we often behave in nasty, brutish ways.

Key idea 1 of 8

Raw data from online dating sites has a lot to tell us about our preferences in potential partners.

When researchers interview people about sensitive issues, they have to account for a certain degree of dishonesty. Even when we voluntarily participate in a study, that doesn’t mean that questions – or our honest answers – won’t embarrass us.

The internet, and in this case data from dating website OkCupid, has enabled researchers to gather unfiltered information directly from the source.

For example, the data reveals that heterosexual men and women typically prefer the same types of partners, respectively.

When men are interviewed about their age preferences for the opposite sex, for instance, they tend to give numbers closer to their own age. However, data from OkCupid profiles reveals that most men actually prefer women in their early 20s.

OkCupid’s profile ratings data also shows that women tend to prefer men who are older than they are – that is, until the men reach their 30s. At that point, women will show a preference for both older men and men who are their own age.

The data also demonstrates qualitative differences in men’s and women’s preferences, namely: men are most interested in physical attributes, while women are more interested in materialistic things, such as social status and wealth.

In addition, and despite common wisdom, being seen as conventionally attractive is not always beneficial when seeking a partner online. In fact, having a low profile rating on dating sites can actually bring you more attention.

A woman with a rating of two out of ten, for instance, is more likely to find a match than a “perfect ten.” The assumption is that there is less competition for the lower-scoring woman as a partner, which in turn means a greater chance of success for an interested man.

Conversely, a woman with a higher score may give people the impression that the competition for her attention is high, and so she becomes less appealing to potential suitors.

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