"We are all matchmakers in some sense, and even if
we don't self-define as one, we know at least one chronic matchmaker
who can't resist but introduce people to each other," said Lalin
Anik, from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business in Durham,
She and coauthor Michael Norton from Harvard Business School in
Boston investigated how and why making matches makes the matcher
feel good. According to their results, people who match a lot tend
to have higher well-being and the least likely matches are the most
Matchmaking in this case includes romantic links as well as
professional and social ones.
People who make matches regularly may come from larger social
networks, which have been linked with higher well-being, the authors
write in Social Psychological and Personality Science.
For the first study, they used an online survey to poll 300 people
on how frequently and successfully they matched. Regardless of
social network size and personality traits, making frequent and
successful matches were both linked to higher happiness scores.
Based on the second and third studies, which involved in-person and
computer-based scenarios, the researchers determined they were not
just sensing the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing a task.
Participants found matching people they thought would get along more
rewarding than matching people who would not get along or people who
just looked similar, Anik and Norton found.
For the final study, the researchers hypothesized that one reason
making matches is rewarding is because it strengthens people's
social groups. If that was true, making more unlikely matches would
be more rewarding because matchmakers aren't just joining people who
would have met anyway.
The researchers gave 132 participants "match cards" with a target
who was either a white male or a white female and three potential
matches varying in gender and ethnicity.
Lo and behold, more unlikely matches — those between people of
different genders and ethnic backgrounds — were most rewarding, they
[to top of second column]
"One of the reasons not mentioned in the paper that
matchmaking may make people happy is that it increases one's sense
of meaning," said Sonja Lyubomirsky. She studies happiness at the
University of California, Riverside and was not involved in the new
"Connections between others create a more orderly,
easier to understand, and a more interdependent, productive, happier
world," Lyubomirsky said.
Another reason could be that helping others make the same decisions
you have made makes you happier and validates your choices, she
said. For example, newlyweds love to make romantic matches, she
"Make matches that will work," Anik told Reuters Health in an email.
"Don't make matches randomly, but rather, make matches with the goal
of creating rapport between others. Don't accept any external
rewards such as money in return for matchmaking; money diminishes
people's motivation to play matchmaker."
Matchmaking is high risk and high reward, she said; she has made bad
matches in the past, which can be awkward, but she keeps trying.
"Some matches may not work out, but the happiness benefits of trying
seem to trump the occasional depressing failure," Anik said.
Psychological and Personality Science, online Feb. 10, 2014.
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