Now, secret online dating tips revealed by Harvard math majors

Updated: May 22, 2011, 16:13 PM IST

Washington: Want to know the secret of successful online dating? Try these tips by Harvard math majors.

OkTrends ( is a blog written by the founders of OkCupid (, a free, online dating site that counts 7 million visitors each month.

Every six weeks or so, the bloggers — all former math majors from Harvard — examine the gold mine of dating data collected from their members`` online interactions. They sort and sift, crunch and correlate, catching whatever nuggets of mating wisdom fall out.

Then they post a report of their findings — and the resultant dating tips — often with pop culture references, statistical graphs and pictures of half-naked young men and women.

"It`s our version of an advice column," Los Angeles Times quoted Sam Yagan, OkCupid`s chief executive.

"We love the fact that our own data tell us what works on a date," Yagan added.

Even scientists analyse the tips and the results are divided.

“I`m a big fan,” Northwestern University social psychology professor Eli Finkel told Los Angeles Times, adding that the posts are `generally insightful`.

Viren Swami, co-author of The Psychology of Physical Attraction, was less enthusiastic, saying: ``They could also potentially be very misleading and, at worst, quite far from the truth``.

According to the scientists, women were told to flirt with the camera for their profile photo. If they made what OkCupid called ``flirty-face``, they received on average 1.5 additional messages per month.

That`s because a woman`s smile is well-documented as a signal of sexual interest.

``Flirty smiles trigger what we call men`s sexual over-perception bias,`` said David M. Buss, psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of ‘The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating’.

This advice is only, however, for women. Men were ordered to be aloof on camera. When they did so, they had a roughly 90 per cent success rate with their emails than otherwise.

“There is good evidence that men high in status smile less and that smiling is sometimes interpreted as a sign of submissiveness. Also, some male smiles can look like leers, so it`s good to avoid those,” Buss told the LATimes.

The data also showed that women who took their ``flirty-face`` to the next level by showing a bit of cleavage had better results - vastly better results as they got older.

According to OkCupid, an 18-year-old woman with a cleavage shot in her profile gets 24 percent more contacts per month on average than more demure 18-year-olds.

If she does it at age 32, that jumps to 79 percent more than her buttoned up peers.

“Women`s mate value declines with age,” said Satoshi Kanazawa, evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, co-author of "Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters’.

But they can compensate for their decline in mate value by showing their cleavage.

`It`s bait,` Dr Peter Jonason of the University of South Alabama said.

For men, the inverse is true. Male online daters should show off their six packs in their profile pictures, but only if they are young.

That`s because women in their 30s are less interested in the man``s body than whether or not he will be a good provider, clinical psychologist Marianne Brandon said.

Another tip was both to subtract two inches from the height your potential date claims to be - and 20 per cent from their salary.

For men, the experts said, this makes sense. Height suggests good health and genes; while wealth, obviously, suggests resources. ``Men deceive about their status and income in order to make themselves seem more desirable to women,`` said Dr Buss.

Women, however, may not be lying, Kanazawa argued.

If a woman is trying to get dates online, he argued, she must be having difficulty in real life. That could be because she is Amazonian - both men and women prefer that the man is taller.

They also may have a bigger paycheque than the average man - and the very average man prefers, by and large, to be the one who brings home the bacon, he said.