Pragmatic Men, Romantic Women: Popularity Feedback on Online Dating Platforms

50 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2022

See all articles by Lanfei Shi

Lanfei Shi

University of Virginia - McIntire School of Commerce

Peng Huang

University of Maryland - Robert H. Smith School of Business

Jui Ramaprasad

University of Maryland

Date Written: November 19, 2021

Abstract

Popularity feedback (e.g., upvotes on Reddit) is increasingly employed by digital platforms to motivate user participation, and such information is typically accessible to the public. Given the extrinsic incentives associated with such publicity, it is not clear whether feedback interventions would have similar effects when feedback information is delivered in private, i.e., it can only be viewed by the focal user for privacy reasons. Moreover, many digital platforms provide popularity information in both absolute and relative terms, and it remains unknown if users respond to the different types of feedback information in the same way. In collaboration with an online dating service provider, we design and conduct two randomized field experiments in which we provide private feedback to platform users. In the first experiment, we reveal information about their popularity relative to other users and investigate their post-feedback behavioral changes in two engagement strategies: the selectivity for potential partners they pursue (i.e., selectivity calibration) and the frequency of their online profile modifications (i.e., self-marketing). We find that the way individuals react to comparative popularity feedback is contingent on both revealed popularity and gender. Specifically, those who receive low-popularity feedback significantly increase self-marketing efforts and lower their selectivity, but the opposite is observed in individuals who receive high-popularity feedback. We also find that males exhibit pragmatic adaptations in selectivity calibration and self-marketing, whereas females display a 'romantic' persistence and show little strategic change in their behavior. We then compare the outcomes with those from a second experiment in which the intervention reveals absolute popularity instead of relative popularity, and conclude that social comparison associated with relative popularity drives user behavioral changes.

Keywords: Popularity feedback, comparative feedback, social comparison, two-sided platforms, matching markets, online dating, gender difference, randomized field experiments

Suggested Citation

Shi, Lanfei and Huang, Peng and Ramaprasad, Jui, Pragmatic Men, Romantic Women: Popularity Feedback on Online Dating Platforms (November 19, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3967702 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3967702

Lanfei Shi (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - McIntire School of Commerce ( email )

125 Ruppel Dr
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4173
United States

Peng Huang

University of Maryland - Robert H. Smith School of Business ( email )

College Park, MD 20742-1815
United States

Jui Ramaprasad

University of Maryland ( email )

Robert H. Smith School of Business
4313 Van Munching Hall
College Park, MD 20815
United States

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