The science..? of speed dating?

Timing gears

Mr 30 not so flirty shared his experiences of a event called datelab. Something I’ve never heard of but it sounds interesting

We are a dating agency for young professionals.
Through psychology + dating science we offer Londoners unique matchmaking services and dating events.It’s time your dating life became exciting and effortless

Like Mr 30, I have also been involved in a few science + dating events. I have done speed dating at MOSI (the science museum Manchester), also took part in BBC’s Horizon dating experiment, even took part in a few other things including that horrible year of making love and more to come soon (if you can’t guess I won’t tell). But unlike Mr 30, I have a real wonder if there really is science? Is the matching and chemisty actually unquantifable?

I find the intentional and unintentional effects fancinating as we try and grapple with the limits of our understanding of ourselves and each other. Throw that into the melting pot with sexuality, identity and diversity all as spectrums not absolutes and you got a unquantifable mess. I find it fun to watch people try and untangle it all.

Anyway I also found one of the things datelab did fancinating for reasons above and from a progressive point of view.

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Another one I quite liked was the thinking behind getting both ladies and gents being asked to move…. apparently when you sit, you become pickier. I have experienced this with Netflix. For the ladies at most speed dating events, it becomes a real-life twist on Tinder, a conveyor belt of gents (and not so gents)… I’m quite looking forward to the dating company that does a parody real-life version on Tinder.

I can totally understand the effect Mr30 is talking about (that effect I’m sure is part of the paradox of choice; with people feeling much more picky about their choices). But I have always wondered why its the men who have to move in speed dating? This certainly isn’t the case in gay speed dating, I’ve been told. I asked a few times the host of a speed dating event I have gone to a few times. He said its a bit of legacy but also practicaily.

The legacy of course being women are waiting for the suiter to step forward, can’t possibily have women making the first move (don’t get me started!) But also practially, asking women to move around in the short amount of change around time will take longer? (i’m not sure but this feels sexist to me, but its his event and I do find women do put more effort into their clothes).

One of the things which I did find interesting in the MOSI dating experiement was that everybody moved table, but frankly it take a long time due to the massive shifting around. Maybe theres a system where women move one way and men the other? Matt suggested using some kind of gear rotation like system, which had me looking it up in Berlin Tegel Airport while waiting for the plane. Theres a BBC bitesize thing for this. Hows that for science eh?!

I’ll suggest this to the host and see what he thinks…

BBC Horizon explores how to find love online

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Its weird how things all seem to happen at once… First my TEDxManchester talk, then a chance enounter on BBC News 24 Live stream with LJ Rich, then me and Kate’s listening project recording is edited for Radio4. Now the BBC Horizon documentary about finding love online.

They were nice enough to tell us this afternoon via email, but I wasn’t sure I could blog it (nothing on their programme page or facebook page either) till I found it in the Radiotimes.

Update – The programme information page is up.

The internet has transformed every part of our lives and is now changing arguably the most important – our love lives. Internet dating is a cultural phenomenon and is now the second most common way that couples meet. But what is the best way to make the online search for love successful? What are the ‘matchmaking’ algorithms that the big companies use? Do they really deliver the goods, is it really clever marketing and actually a giant con – is there really any science?

Funny enough Mr30notsoflirty and Maren I met through the show filming (as you will find out soon, in a post I wrote straight after the filming). We were talking about the trailer on twitter, and Mr30 said he spotted, Mr30 and some other people. I watched a couple times and spotted myself! Scary stuff!

BBC Horizon dating experiment

So look out on Monday 25th April at 9pm – 10pm on BBC Two. It will be fancinating to see how its all crafted into a hour show and how much success they have in the matches compared to the Birthday paradox.

Hannah Fry the pressure is on…!

Horizon takes on the science of online dating?

Its happening againI swear everybody has caught on to the fact dating has changed and are studying it from a data point of view.

This time its Horizon who are sniffing around doing some dating research, and they actually have someone who really knows there stuff involved. Hannah Fry… yes the same woman who did the Tedtalk about the popularity in online dating. Ironically the most scientific dating experience was using her work around popularity at Manchester’s MOSI.

But even with Hannah Fry involved  I’m nervous because of 2 experiences.

  1. The year of making love – I mean I couldn’t believe it was actually the BBC behind this smoking cluster of a show. I should have known with it being aired on BBC Three.
  2. How to have more sex – Ok it was ITV and I guess it was the first time I had speed dating but seriously, when the guy tapped me on the shoulder in Brighton during the d.construct after party I was so shocked.

Saying all that, am I going to sign up?

Yes I did… I really hope its not a mistake I will regret! Now time for 150 questions, in the style/vein of OkCupid. I have a feeling I could be in for something interesting…

horizon goes okcupid on us

Stop following stupid dating steps, get some advice

Ah Valentines day, the day when us singletons are meant to feel crap about the fact we are alone and unloved? Bollox, I feel great and to be honest it feels like any other day, except I imagine most restaurants will be overpriced and booked up? Brunch in Pimlico, London wasn’t… (I even said to a female friend I would love to meet up for brunch while I was down in London, forgetting it was valentines day, thats how much I care about the moneymaking day)

And its the whole, how you should be living you’re life which slightly winds me up, just like the follow my steps and this will work for you.

Just like a while ago somebody (sure it was Mancnewgirl) sent me this from the New York times. How to fall in love with anyone.

More than 20 years ago, the psychologist Arthur Aron succeeded in making two strangers fall in love in his laboratory. Last summer, I applied his technique in my own life, which is how I found myself standing on a bridge at midnight, staring into a man’s eyes for exactly four minutes.

I already had enough problems with most of the 36 questions and the setup…  For example.

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

What? Seriously when would you bring that up? Why would you bring that up? What would you ultimately learn from it which isn’t a binary state?

Now I admit some of them are pretty good and I have been known to ask at speed dating, of my own mind (I knew nothing of the 36 questions)

30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

Which I ask as… Tell me the last time you cried?

The problem with most of these is the context and the answers will sometimes be almost useless. If it was more about picking and choosing from a few of these questions or a general guide it wouldn’t be so bad. Frankly besides the science (yeah I can’t believe I said that too, but bear with me) its not exactly much more than another buzzfeed list, which funny enough got the force of the community against it.

Just like the buzzfeedy list… there was always going to be trouble around the corner.

I had enough of this frankly bollox advice things… The problem seems to exist not because the science is wrong, although I could argue they are trying to quantify the unquantifiable. Nope its taking the science and then trying to boil it down to a easy to digest list for us common folk to follow. F-that! and F-them for doing the science a great injustice!

If you start the experiment with …

Let me acknowledge the ways our experiment already fails to line up with the study. First, we were in a bar, not a lab. Second, we weren’t strangers. Not only that, but I see now that one neither suggests nor agrees to try an experiment designed to create romantic love if one isn’t open to this happening.

Then whats the bloody point? You might as well just pick and choose the questions, modify some and do you’re own thing. Yes I understand it doesn’t sell adverts/papers but frankly I get sick of these pre-subscribed nonsense. Say this and you will get this, if this then that, because humans are well known for acting exactly the same to the same input.

Its worth saying I’m not against advice but there is a big difference between

4. Keep it fresh – Avoid the Yes/No game with light-hearted open questions. Chat matters know “who, what and how” yield greater results than “me, myself and I” But tread lightly, nobody wants a grilling.
– All bar one’s guide to flirting from Flirtology

and ask this question:

13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

Generic pointers are far more useful when dealing with the unquantifiable. Directed or rather specific advice will get you specific results and only work in specific conditions. Unless you can recreate the whole experiment then why even bring it up? Plus if you go back to the start, don’t tell me exactly what to do! That is no way to live life, feel the joy and energy of life in the opportunities which arise out of mistakes and being adventurous.

Smell as an indicator of interest?

DSC00503 alena

A while ago I wrote about the idea of finding partners by smell.

In the modern world of dating theres a lot of gimmicks setup to catch the eye of the potential singles market. Everyone knows about the free weekenders online daters get sucked into. But sometimes something seems so far fetched it might actually work…

One such idea a friend had was the idea of picking someone by smell. Now this concept isnt’ actually new. Pheromone parties were all the range a while back.

The get-togethers — which have been held in New York and Los Angeles and are planned for other cities — ask guests to submit a slept-in T-shirt that will be smelled by other participants.

Then, voila! You can pick your partner based on scent, or so the theory goes.

Interestingly enough,  Zoe sent me a link to a experiment the science museum are doing around the same concept. Nick named, sensory speed dating.

Forget love at first sight – what about love at first sniff?

Feel and sound out your match as we explore the invisible hormonal magnets that draw us together.

Who knows, you might even get lucky…

First of all I’m confused. Is it really speed dating? Is it aimed at getting people together? Why is it open to all ages? Why is there a adult only version?

I did call it a gimmick but frankly anything which puts single people in one place and good to talk will generally get a higher success than doing nothing.

I mean it works for other animals, so go figure!

The science behind love?

We all know there is a geeky side to love. Being a tiny bit datasexual (although I can’t imagine LGBTQAI+D ever happening) I can’t help but read about things like Chris and Amy’s exploits and think there is some science behind a part of love, even if its not all explainable in an algorithm. Another story which I believe came from Tim Dobson again, comes via Lifehacker, why Love makes you feel loopy is also talked about.

…being attracted to a person is a lot like being on drugs. The release of chemicals into our brain and body creates an altered mental state in which we both perceive and behave differently than we normally would. While no individual substance can single-handedly control your brain, here are just a few of the different chemicals swimming through your brain when you see a pretty person, and how they affect you.

Like the chemistry of love talk by Helen Fisher, The main factors are…

Adrenaline: When you see someone you’re attracted to, your body releases adrenaline into your system. Adrenaline is what’s responsible for causing your heart to race or your hands to sweat. Adrenaline puts your body on high alert, sending oxygen-enriched blood throughout your body, and prepares you for immediate action

Dopamine: When you feel elated, giddy, or pleasure, dopamine is the culprit. This is a double-edged sword, though. Dopamine is responsible for rewarding stimuli, which nurtures habit-forming behaviors.

Serotonin: When you can’t seem to get someone out of your head, serotonin is usually to blame. Or, more accurately, a lack of serotonin. This same drop in serotonin creation is present in people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Testosterone: The levels of testosterone (which fluctuate regularly) affect attraction in both genders.

Estrogen: A multitude of studies have shown that female attraction is affected in a variety of ways by the estrogen and the ovulation cycle.

I’d really like to see a TV or Radio documentary with this level of depth. The piece is worth reading as theres a lot more to the quotes I’ve grabbed.

The Year after we were meant to be making love

Psychologists Emma and Tomas talk about how science is important when it comes to matchmaking and we see how the couples were matched for the Year of Making Love.

Right its over… 6 episodes of BBC Three TV episodes. It couldn’t have gone so well because on the 4th episode, it got shifted around in the schedule and in the end I had to find it on iPlayer to finish off the series.

The last episode does have a look back and goes considers the science a little more but frankly lets talk maths (bear in mind I never studied it beyond GCSEs)…

Originally it was meant to be 1000 single people matched to 500 couples. That didn’t happen so it was roughly 300 couples matched on the big day and then who knows how many couples were matched afterwards to make up the original 500 couples. However! we don’t know that for sure because there’s never been any data released about it. So lets say 500 couples matched over a few months…

Out of the 500 couples which were matched, about 20+ of them made it to the screen. Most ended after the first date or soon after. Only 3 made it through a year  and are still together now? Funny enough out of the 3 which did make it. 2 of them are from the later matches not the original match day. Tweak to the algorithm?

So frankly 500 to 3 is a terrible result! I mean would you sign up to a dating site where 166 people need to get in touch before you find one worth following (would you?). 1/166.666 is pretty bad odds! And we don’t know if they changed the questionnaire or changed the formula half way through? I certainly didn’t fill in 100’s of questions. You can’t claim scientific if its certainly not…

I’m sure (heard) there are others who are still together but we never saw them. It could be because they weren’t attractive enough to be on TV? or maybe there were no one else? Another question for the programme commissioners.

To be frank, the odds are maybe better if you go down your local deansgates lock, big market, etc and try pulling people. Heck a lot less people would be hurt or have there hopes raised

I’ve dated a lot but I guarantee you if I was to date 166 people on OKCupid I would be in a serious relationship now. I do understand what Emma and Tomas are saying about the one but unforgivably the programme didn’t back up there thoughts. Even Emma shouts at one point, how people are too busy considering the looks not the person. The thing they hadn’t considered or calculated in to the theory was Chemistry. Chemistry is important… and no ones quite got that part figured out, no matter what anyone says

Someone should really do a proper scientific trial… and give up some data about how it went. Maybe I’ll ask around to see if there’s any anonymous data we can get from the year of making love?

Continue reading “The Year after we were meant to be making love”

Times review of the Year of Making Love

Year of Making Love Times review

Thanks to Teknoteacher for the tweet… alerting me to the Times review

Just as I feared

Unfortunately very little airtime during new series “The year of making love” is given over to actual “science” involved

Science…! Yes science we all shout…!

@zeonglow  said something interesting while I was watching the latest episode.

#yoml isn’t science. They should have matched up half of them at random. That would have been interesting.

All the science in the programme is 2 scientists looking pretty saying comments like, “oh there a good match…” I would suggest the title is quite correct, biology lessons minus the science.

Yes most people who watch BBC Three would yawn but thats part of the reason why I personally took part

The whole post is online as you’d expect. But I leave you with this fun section…

Unfortunately, very little airtime during new series The Year of Making Love is given over to the actual “science” involved. Essentially, personality-profiler Thomas and behavioural-psychologist Emma have analysed the assembled single masses and paired them off with one another. Imagine Yente, the matchmaker in Fiddler on the Roof, if she exchanged the layered shawls for a lab coat.

Epic Werewolf – This Halloween…

EPIC Werewolf

This Halloween, there is only one place to be…

Four times the deception, four times the lies and four times the paranoia. It’s a social game which you can easily pick up but is impossible to master. This Halloween we show social engineering like never before…

Islington Mill for some Epic Werewolf with Larkin About… All part of the Manchester Science Festival

Dream recording device possible, better get mydreamscape.org up

Go Deeper

My boss Adrian sent me a very interesting tweet which linked to a article on bbc news from Nature.

Dream recording device ‘possible’ researcher claims

Writing in the journal Nature, scientists say they have developed a system capable of recording higher level brain activity.

"We would like to read people’s dreams," says the lead scientist Dr Moran Cerf.

The aim is not to interlope, but to extend our understanding of how and why people dream.

Theres some interesting parts to the article including this one.

"There’s no clear answer as to why humans dream," according to Dr Cerf. "And one of the questions we would like to answer is when do we actually create this dream?" Dr Cerf makes his bold claim based on an initial study which he says suggests that the activity of individual brain cells, or neurons, are associated with specific objects or concepts.

He found, for example, that when a volunteer was thinking of Marilyn Monroe, a particular neuron lit up. By showing volunteers a series of images, Dr Cerf and his colleagues were able to identify neurons for a wide range of objects and concepts – which they used to build up a database for each patient. These included Bill and Hilary Clinton, the Eiffel Tower and celebrities. So by observing which brain cell lit up and when, Dr Cerf says he was effectively able to "read the subjects’ minds".

I’m really interested in this stuff too. My thought is somewhat consistent with the memetics theory.

A meme, analogous to a gene, is an idea, belief, pattern of behaviour (etc.) which is "hosted" in one or more individual minds, and which can reproduce itself from mind to mind. Thus what would otherwise be regarded as one individual influencing another to adopt a belief is seen memetically as a meme reproducing itself. As with genetics, particularly under Dawkins’s interpretation, a meme’s success may be due its contribution to the effectiveness of its host (i.e., a the meme is a useful, beneficial idea), or may be "selfish", in which case it could be considered a "virus of the mind."

Anyway, before I drop into the theory behind dream science and how one method is maybe better that the other… Some people have wondered whats happened to mydreamscape.org?

Well at the moment I’m running a modified version of Status.net (open microblogging system) in the backend. I’ve decided that after watching the Social network (the facebook movie) its maybe more important that I get something up even if it doesn’t have all the functionality that I described or would want in the previous blog post or the slideshow. So right now I’m taking the advice from Imran Ali and dropped the ability to hide stuff (levels).

On the system side, I’m ummming and errrring between a few options…

  1. Ideally I would have the framework which runs Flickr (hopefully Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield are listening) and I would adapt it to mydreamscape.org.
  2. Second ideal option I would use Diaspora once its publicly available. I’m watching it with quite keen interest.
  3. Thirdly I would use W3c’s Anotea server if I can actually work out how to install it. That would mean you would need to download some browsers extras to comment, collaborate and annotate other peoples dreams. But then you would have a robust annotation system instead of just comments.
  4. I’ve consider using a standard solution like drupal and even alfresco to do the bulk of the work. In actual fact I’m very interested in Drupal because I spotted the Drupal Social Network Framework (unfortunately it seems very early days).
  5. Using microblogging platform Status.net, Blojsom or WordPress with maybe Anotea as a kicker for real annotations.
  6. Write something custom…

In addition I’ve started writing my own dreams down in an app called Rednotebook which is an example of the kind of app I would like to attached to mydreamscape. Maybe once things are up and running I could modify the source code to include sync with mydreamscape.org or something…

I also have something big up my sleeve for mydreamscape.org and its founded on Ludicorp’s original idea for Flickr (Game Never Ending). Have a guess what it is…

Peering into the science of dreams with inception

Found on twitter via @girlonetrack and ultimately @rowanNS, the science of dreams.

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a dream snatcher. He’s an industrial spy, who steals secrets when his victims are at their most defenceless: when they are asleep, and dreaming. But he has an even rarer ability, that of inception. He can plant an idea in someone’s sleeping mind, and watch it grow and take root in reality. "The most resilient parasite is an idea," he says.

Inception is a complex sci-fi thriller that lies somewhere between a James Bond film and The Matrix. Many of the film’s themes are often covered in New Scientist, so we have assembled a spoiler-free guide to the science of the movie, and all you need to know about dreams and the unconscious mind.

I can’t really get enough of inception(currently number 3 in imdb’s top 250 films of all time.) Its such a great film, not only because of the great action sequences but because of the whole premise. I love the idea of entering the dream state of someone else.

The film somewhat reminds me of the Cell but its a lot more clever than the cell. It also has a lot of notions which make sense, such as the memetics stance.

What’s the most resilient parasite? An Idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. Which is why I have to steal it.

or even

The seed that we planted in this man’s mind, may come to define him, may come to become him.

Anyway I still find the dream world fascinating and i’m surprised how many people can’t direct there dreams. Things like changing there dreams or continue there dreams the next night can be learned an come in very useful.

I’m considering writing a story or even a script about dreams based on inception.

The Psychology of Being Scammed

I love reading about social engineering type stuff, and this paper (PDF) by Paul Wilson and Frank Stajano is ideal Christmas after turkey reading. Schneier has the low down as usual.

This is a very interesting paper: “Understanding scam victims: seven principles for systems security,” by Frank Stajano and Paul Wilson. Paul Wilson produces and stars in the British television show The Real Hustle, which does hidden camera demonstrations of con games. Frank Stajano is at the Computer Laboratory of the University of Cambridge.

The paper describes a dozen different con scenarios — entertaining in itself — and then lists and explains six general psychological principles that con artists use:

  1. The distraction principle. While you are distracted by what retains your interest, hustlers can do anything to you and you won't notice.
  2. The social compliance principle. Society trains people not to question authority. Hustlers exploit this “suspension of suspiciousness” to make you do what they want.
  3. The herd principle. Even suspicious marks will let their guard down when everyone next to them appears to share the same risks. Safety in numbers? Not if they're all conspiring against you.
  4. The dishonesty principle. Anything illegal you do will be used against you by the fraudster, making it harder for you to seek help once you realize you've been had.
  5. The deception principle. Things and people are not what they seem. Hustlers know how to manipulate you to make you believe that they are.
  6. The need and greed principle. Your needs and desires make you vulnerable. Once hustlers know what you really want, they can easily manipulate you.

It all makes for very good reading. Two previous posts on the psychology of conning and being conned.

Talking of Schneier, he was talking in London on the 11th December and although I was in town I couldn't make the event. Luckily someones recorded the lot and put it up online.

Bruce Schneier did a benefit gig for Open Rights Group last Friday and here's the video of his 'Future of Privacy' talk and the 45-minute Q&A.

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Wow! The universe as far as we currently know…

If you've never seen the start of Contact (the film with Jodie Foster) you're not only missing out on a great film but also a fantastic opening sequence which rolls back from present day earth out beyond out solar system and the milky way, way into the deep darkness of space. The Known Universe does the same but goes as far as we currently know (16.7 billion light years). Its amazing and worth watching in HD at full screen if possible.

The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world's most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010.

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Wake up to light in the mornings

Philips Wake up light

I heard about these light alarms which wake you up using daylight from a large bulb instead of a nasty buzzing noise like traditional alarms. So in an aid to improve my wake up routine I invested in a Philips Wake-up Light HF3463. Of course I never paid 100 pounds for it, actually I picked it up for 20 pounds because I knocked the retailer down again and again due to the bad state of the box, paint on the power lead and that it was a return product.

So far I got to say its working pretty well, I do feel better waking up to the bright light and I tend to wake up about a minute or two before the set time or the noise of blips (which I have mine set to). It all sounds like marketing crap but there is something about the bright light which does work even in my room with lots of glowing leds from machines and mobiles.

Will this be a path to a more healthy lifestyle of waking up early and feeling full of energy? I doubt it, I still feel very rough in the mornings and feel so much more alive at night but anything which gets me up without that jolt has got to be pretty good.

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AdaLovelaceDay09: Marie-Louise von Franz

I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same…

That's how it started a, Suw Charman-Anderson's vision to do something special for Ada Lovelace day has become huge with a sign up rate and more being added still a few days before.

Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers (mother and daughter) created the psychological test better known as the MBTI (Myers Briggs type indicator). Although not exactly in the technology field, this has a profound effect on the technology field and this was also a field run by super intelligent males such as Sigman Freud and Carl Jung. However the lesser known story is Carl Jung had a lab partner called Marie-Louise von Franz. It was Carl Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz's work which Katharine Briggs read and studied then passed on to her daughter Isabel Briggs. Marie-Louise later worked with Carl Jungs friend Barbara Hannah, who Carl Jung actual set up together. She later went on to publish first the mathematical structure of DNA and a series of essays, books and videos. I found out about Marie-Louise by accident while reading Into the Dream by William Sleator which sounded like a film I watched sometime later called The way of the Dream. Marie-Louise's intelligence pushed her forward and although not the only woman drawn to Jung, she was the only one not to have a affair or get mixed up in all that. Instead she worked hard and paved her own way, linking psychology and physics. Before she died she lectured all around the western world and became known for her own thoughts and theories instead of Jung's. Shes not as well as known as than Myers-Briggs but her influence in psychology has been huge, and its great to see hard work pay off.

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