With Valentine’ s Day around the corner, you may be thinking of pairing up two close friends for a date. If you follow your own instinct to play Cupid, it’ lmost all pay off in happiness — not really for the new couple, but certainly for you.
Based on new research, matchmaking, a time-honored tradition, brings intrinsic happiness towards the matchmaker. To maximize the psychological benefits of matchmaking, you should take care to present two people who not only seem suitable but who would be unlikely to meet otherwise, researchers say.
Anik, with her colleague Eileen Norton of the Harvard Business School, conducted an in-depth investigation associated with modern-day matchmaking, examining what motivates us to match others — even when it often goes wrong — and how we can reap the emotional benefits of socially linking others. In 4 studies, to be presented this week in the Society for Personality and Interpersonal Psychology (SPSP) annual conference in Austin, they used surveys, computer games, and in-lab social interactions to show when and why making matches between others boosts happiness.
In one study, the researchers asked groups of participants to engage in a brief “ get acquainted” task within the laboratory. They then asked participants to pair others in the group: A single group of participants had to match sets that they thought would get along; another group tried to match pairs they thought would not get along; and a 3rd group matched people on the basis of a random characteristic — their social security numbers. Participants who chosen pairs of people who they believed would bond became happier as a result of their matchmaking. Those in the various other two groups felt the same as these people did before the task.
In another study, the experts created a simple computer game in which individuals saw a target face and selected one of three other confronts with whom they thought the target would best or worst get along. Once again, the matchmakers had the very best experience and were willing to play the game much longer than participants asked to pair people on the basis of mutual dislike.
Some individuals received monetary rewards for each suit made, while others did not. Interestingly, the researchers found that paying individuals diminished their interest in the game. “ Participants who made matches between others for free persisted on the matchmaking task much longer than participants who were offered money, ” Anik says. These results challenge the rising trend of online social networks providing monetary incentives for people to make introductions.
Another surprising result of the newest studies, published today in the record Social Psychological and Personality Science , was that matchmaking brings the most happiness to those exactly who pair together two people who are less likely to meet. Making matches between those who are already likely to be members of the exact same social network, for example , two White ladies, is not as rewarding as producing matches between people less likely to stay the same network, for example , a White woman and an Asian guy, Anik says.
“ There are many reasons why people make fits, ” Anik says. “ Matchmakers may be proud that they have the social acumen to recognize a social hyperlink that others hadn’ t. ” In addition , people may enjoy matchmaking because they view it as an act associated with kindness. And, of course , “ individuals enjoy being the key person who made that critical match between newlyweds or between business partners who began a successful venture. ”
Future work will further discover the costs to people’ s emotions and reputations when matchmaking goes wrong: Think of setting up two associates on the worst date of their lives.
“ The study associated with matchmaking is especially timely now as social structures, as well as definitions associated with social ties and friendships, are usually changing, ” Anik says. “ Our exploration of matchmaking can help individuals to navigate their increasingly complex social webs. ”
In the meantime, this Valentine’ s Day, Anik and Norton encourage everyone to generate matches — romantic and otherwise. They suggest caution as well, however , referencing a past episode of The Office: “ In a Valentine’ s i9000 Day episode, Michael Scott presents Eric — who is interested in device and die repair — to Meredith — who had a hysterectomy — emphasizing the ‘ repair’ aspect as a common ground. Not surprisingly, the introduction is brutally uncomfortable, ” Anik says. “ Matches should be made with the goal of creating meaningful connections. ”