Just in time for Valentine’s Day Study Finds that Being Too Popular on Mobile Dating Apps Could be a Problem


Ashley Smith
Public Affairs Coordinator

Just in time for Valentine’s Day Study Finds that Being Too Popular on Mobile Dating Apps Could be a Problem

Research exposes unexpected insights for some dating app users

Key Takeaways:

  • More ‘popular’ users miss many opportunities to connect on mobile dating apps.
  • Most users self-select based on their own perceptions of risk of rejection.
  • Study reveals key differences between “one-sided” and “two-sided” online marketplaces.


CATONSVILLE, MD, February 8, 2022 – Surprisingly, a new study has found that if you’re perceived as more popular on a mobile dating app, there is a higher chance that other users will avoid connecting with you. This is one of the major findings of a study that sought to examine the effect of a dating app user’s popularity rating on their demand on the online dating platform.

The study, to be published in the upcoming issue of the INFORMS journal Marketing Science, “Star-Cursed Lovers: Role of Popularity Information in Online Dating,” is authored by Behnaz Bojd of the University of California, Irvine and Hema Yoganarasimhan of the University of Washington.

“One of the main areas of focus for our research was to take the time to understand the psychology of users in a two-sided market as compared to a one-sided market,” say Bojd. “A one-sided market is e-commerce, where it’s centered on a seller-to-buyer transaction. In a two-sided market, both parties are both ‘buyer’ and ‘seller.’” 

“Through this research we have sought to create a better understanding of the two-sided market to help avoid unintended consequences of popularity information,” says Yoganarasimhan.

The study found that people are avoiding popular app users, which is due in part to the fact that popular people have more options, so it is less likely they can respond to everyone. 

“People avoiding popular users may appear to counter common sense in some respects,” says Bojd. “Outcomes that are the opposite of what one might assume are tied to the possibility of rejection. This fear seems to have led to strategic behaviors to minimize potential rejection.”

“Fear of rejection is very much connected to the amount of mental and emotional energy that people invest,” Bojd adds. “It’s very costly to approach someone you are likely to fail to attract. Of course, people who are already attractive, or have more self-confidence, don’t struggle with these fears of rejection as much as others do. This fear in the online setting is a very real factor that designers in a two-sided matching market need to take into consideration.”

To conduct their research, the study authors used data from a popular U.S. mobile dating app from 2014-2015. Users of the app were matched based on games in which they ranked members of the opposite sex. Each game consisted of four men and four women in a virtual room, where each player had 90 seconds to rank-order members of the opposite sex from one to four, with one representing the most preferred partner and four the least. 

A key piece of information shown to users during and after the game was a star rating for each member.  A user’s star rating is a cumulative measure of all of the preference rankings that they received. Users who received the most stars were deemed more popular. Using that piece of data, the authors were able to analyze the performance of the more popular participants in the study against all other participants.

“We found that, everything else being constant, three-star users received lower preference rankings compared with two-star users during the game. Which is to say that popularity can have a negative effect on preference rankings,” says Bojd. “Surprisingly, we found that while popular users received worse rankings during the game, they still received more messages after the game. After the game, once users are matched with a partner based on mutual interest, there is lower uncertainty about whether their matched partner is actually interested in a conversation or date. So, after the game, when users receive a message from a popular partner, they have no rejection concerns, and do not avoid popular users.” 

As to the ranking process, the researchers found that mobile dating app users may base their rankings of other users on something called “strategic shading.” This is where the user has uncertainty about whether the person they’re matched with is actually interested in a conversation or date. So, even if a match is made, users know post-match rejection is common where the other person does not initiate or respond to messages. In this case, a self-deselection process occurs.


Link to Study


About INFORMS and Marketing Science

Marketing Science is a premier peer-reviewed scholarly marketing journal focused on research using quantitative approaches to study all aspects of the interface between consumers and firms. It is published by INFORMS, the leading international association for operations research and analytics professionals. More information is available at www.informs.org or @informs.


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