Recommendations are meaningless when looking for a partner

LEAD: Christiane, Du you are a psychologist and sociologist. How do you define love: butterflies in the stomach, a deep sense of connectedness, or is it simply a data equation?

Christiane Lénard: In the fortunate case, a love relationship begins with being in love and feeling butterflies in the stomach, then enters a deep sense of connectedness. It does not matter if the love started online or offline. However, for love to last, more is needed: understanding, empathy, respect, and above all, good communication between both partners.

LEAD: How can the mystery of love be decoded?

Christiane Lénard: The parship principle brings matching partners together in two steps. First, based on our questionnaire, we create a profile of partnership-relevant personality traits. Then the matching takes place: Based on the personality profiles, Parship proposes partners with whom there is a balanced mix of similarities and additions. That this works is reflected in our success rate. 38 percent of our Premium members found a partner during their membership.

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LEAD: What is your algorithm and how does it work to get the perfect match going?

Christiane Lénard: Our principle is: as much similarity as possible and as much difference as necessary. Our focus is on features that are really relevant to a partnership. You can ask yourself whether it is more important for a fulfilled partnership, whether your partner has brown, blonde or black hair or whether they both have the same need for closeness and activity or how well they listen and participate in conflict situations can. These key features, we call them partnership-relevant, can be found based on our questionnaire completed in your profile. This will first tell you how you “tick” in a partnership. The features are then evaluated on the basis of 136 rules in a matching algorithm, resulting in the matching points. The higher the matching points, the higher the chance of a happy partnership.

LEAD: Which criteria are evaluated in the test?

Christiane Lénard: Our test measures 32 partnership-relevant characteristics. This results in the individual personality profile, it thus contains e.g. Statements about how great their desire for contact with the partner or contact, how they deal with frustration or how much they want a regular life and how they communicate and just a lot more features. The individual results of the personality measurement of the partner seekers are compared and compared or evaluated. This is the matching, that is, based on 136 algorithms, for example, the characteristic of partner A in a characteristic of the individual expression in this characteristic is compared with partner B and evaluated with a corresponding score. For example, this rating may look good on a particular trait if both partners are similar, giving them a correspondingly high score in this characteristic. For other characteristics, however, it is beneficial for a harmonious partnership to complement each other. Finally, the points are summed up, weighted and summarized to the overall match result.

LEAD: How do you check if this algorithm is the right one?

Christiane Lénard: That by Professor dr. Hugo Schmale developed procedures for the identification and comparison of personality characteristics relevant to the partnership based on experiences that he and his team of the psychological faculty of the University of Hamburg have collected in more than 40 years of research work. We are now on the market since 2001. We regularly ask our members and our couples as well. We use the insights gained to regularly adapt and update our system.

LEAD: Based on which technology is the algorithm based? Do artificial intelligence or machine learning play a role?

Christiane Lénard: Our matchmaking system is written in the Java programming language. We can not tell you our exact formula. Because that is – like the Coca-Cola recipe – of course, top secret. We do not use machine learning or artificial intelligence, because recommendations made by major online retailers “other customers also buy XYZ” make no sense when looking for a partner. Unlike an online retailer who knows exactly how many pairs of the ordered shoes have been returned, we do not get so much feedback on which singles found each other and became a pair. However, we already know from several comparisons between online and offline couples that relationships created by Parship are happier, couples contract and marry faster – even without Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

Parship Christiane Lenard Head of Scientific Development and Matchmaking
(Image: Christiane Lénard)

LEAD: What are your visions: Will people in the future rely on a machine that will calculate their perfect partner? How would that change society? Is it conceivable that you will be looking for friends and colleagues in the future?

Christiane Lénard: It is already the case today that most singles use the internet for dating. According to a representative poll by Parship and Innofact 2017, 53 percent of German singles with their desire for a relationship are no longer just looking for friends or sports clubs, but are banking on the much greater possibilities of the network. And they are good at it. So they have the largest selection and the best chance of success. Three-quarters of all Parship couples are very satisfied with their current relationship. The same is true only for half of the German couples who have not met on the Internet – that is, offline. That’s good news and could mean long term for society, happier couples and less divorce. The current figures of the Federal Statistical Office indicate in any case in this direction.

LEAD: What is that?

Christiane Lénard: As with all things, however, the needs and intentions that people bring with them are crucial. In search of a fast date, singles will use platforms other than those who have a serious desire to find a partner to “grow together” with. Incidentally, this applies online as well as offline. So I can certainly find good friends on the social networks, it is crucial how I give myself and what I want. And if it fits with my counterpart. But to create real relationships, you have to step out of the virtual world into the real world. “Machines”, as you call it, only extend our possibility space. For one thing, it has no influence on our basic needs for, for example, love and security.

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