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However, desirability is not only about how many people contact you but also about who those people are.

If you are contacted by people who are themselves desirable, then you are presumptively more desirable yourself.

However, while the two hypotheses may produce similar outcomes, they carry very different implications about the processes by which people identify and attract partners.

If there is consensus about who is desirable, then it creates a hierarchy of desirability () such that individuals can, at least in principle, be ranked from least to most desirable, and their ranking will predict how and to what extent they are pursued by others.

We present an empirical analysis of heterosexual dating markets in four large U. cities using data from a popular, free online dating service.

We show that competition for mates creates a pronounced hierarchy of desirability that correlates strongly with user demographics and is remarkably consistent across cities.

These studies typically focus on how specific attributes of individuals shape their browsing and messaging behavior.

The results indicate that, with respect to attributes such as physical attractiveness and income, people tend to pursue the most attractive partners ().

Strategic behaviors can improve one’s chances of attracting a more desirable mate, although the effects are modest.).

One possible explanation for this is the matching hypothesis, which suggests that men and women pursue partners who resemble themselves.

This in turn implies that people differ in their opinions about what constitutes a desirable partner or at least about who is worth pursuing.

At the other extreme, and more in line with biological studies of mate selection (), lies the competition hypothesis, which assumes that there is consensus about what constitutes a desirable partner and that mate seekers, regardless of their own qualifications, pursue those partners who are universally recognized as most desirable ().

Historically, however, these hierarchies have been difficult to quantify.


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