#GDI12Days Quiz, August: ‘OkCupid Reveals They Experiment On Users’


OkCupid regularly conduct experiments on their users, including one where they purposefully gave users bad matches, according to co-founder Christian Rudder.

In a blog post entitled “We Experiment On Human Beings!”, Rudder said the dating site are just one of many sites who conduct experiments on their users:

“Guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work.”

The admission comes after Facebook said they emotionally manipulated their users by altering the news feeds of 70,000 people.

Rudder speaks about some of the experiments the OkCupid team have orchestrated.

Experiment 1

The site set up a Love Is Blind Day on OkCupid back in 2013, to celebrate their now defunct blind date app, where they removed all profile pictures for a day.

There was markedly less activity on the site during this period, but OkCupid found that the conversations that did take place went much deeper – first messages were responded to 44% more often, and contact details were exchanged quicker.

However, when they “turned the lights back on” and restored the pictures, some people stopped communicating with each other mid-conversation.

Rudder says that after this, he looked at the data of those who had used the blind date app, and found that those who went on dates “had a good time more or less regardless of how good-looking their partner was.”

Experiment 2

This experiment looked into the importance of the profile picture, and how influential it is over users’ decisions.

In their early days, OkCupid had a system where you rated other users by personality and looks.

When they looked at the data around these results, it showed that users effectively thought looks and personality were the same thing.

They then replaced the two ratings with one, and ran an experiment:

“We took a small sample of users and half the time we showed them, we hid their profile text. That generated two independent sets of scores for each profile, one score for “the picture and the text together” and one for “the picture alone.””

Again, they found that the ratings were pretty much the same, or as Rudder puts it: “our picture is worth that fabled thousand words, but your actual words are worth…almost nothing.”

Experiment 3

OkCupid undertook another experiment where they looked to challenge the very basis of the site – their matching algorithms, and “match percentages”.

In the test, people who were actually matched at a 30% rating, were told they were a 90% match.

As expected, the two users messaged each other more than if they had been given the correct rating.

They then took the analysis one step further:

“We asked: does the displayed match percentage cause more than just that first message–does the mere suggestion cause people to actually like each other? As far as we can measure, yes, it does.

“When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are. Even when they should be wrong for each other.”

They then tested it the other way round – told users who were good matches that they were bad. 

Here are the results:


Rudder says:

“As you can see, the ideal situation is the lower right: to both be told you’re a good match, and at the same time actually be one. OkCupid definitely works, but that’s not the whole story. And if you have to choose only one or the other, the mere myth of compatibility works just as well as the truth.”

Read Rudder’s very interesting blog post here.