Making matches a route to happiness
A match made in heaven may be more heavenly for the matchmaker than those matched, according to a Duke study.
Conducted by Lalin Anik, a postdoctoral fellow at the Fuqua School of Business, and Michael Norton, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, the study concluded that setting up other people actually promotes the matchmaker's happiness. The idea stemmed from a conversation between the two researchers where Anik pondered why she tended to make connections in her community when it often resulted in more stress. Norton encouraged her to pursue the topic and, eight years later, the study came to fruition.
"Over and over again in multiple studies we realized that people loved making matches and it makes them happier,” Anik said. “It started out with a personal anecdote—why do people make matches?”
Anik and Norton broke their research into four separate studies, beginning with a survey asking the general public questions correlating happiness and frequency of matches made. Next, the researchers brought groups of six people into the lab and asked them to randomly pair each other. The final two studies focused on computer tasks and measured enjoyment in making matches versus completing menial tasks.
But not only did the research find that matchmaking caused happiness, it also discovered caveats to that happiness, Anik noted. In particular, when a match came with a price, it often detracted from the happiness of the matcher.
“People would say ‘Hey, if you make a match between me and your half-son, I’ll take you out to dinner,” Anik said. “Maybe that’s not the best way to get people to make the best matches. If you pay them, they will not enjoy it as much.”
Anik added that the study brought to light a social phenomenon that is often considered old fashioned and passe among the modern generation. According to the results, college students reported being as happy with their matches as the thirty and forty-year-olds surveyed.
“[Matchmaking] has become really important to the network as well as bringing people in the world together,” Anik said. “We tend to socialize more with people from very different networks.”
Postdoctoral associate Adrian Camilleri, a friend of Anik’s, noted that matchmaking was common among his group of friends because it is difficult for postdoctoral students to meet around campus. He mentioned a particular success when he matched a group of postdocs for a lunch gathering. Two of his friends seated together at the end of the table hit it off so well that they ended up moving in together that next week.
Camilleri said that, though that matchmaking experience was especially positive, he views matchmaking with mixed feelings.
“I can see when it goes really well and it is a win-win for everybody,” Camilleri said. “I can also see risks associated with doing this.”
Sophomore Michaela Fallon experienced the benefits of being set up her freshman year of college, when she met sophomore David Stewart through mutual friends.
“We both sort of noticed each other but nothing ever really happened,” Fallon said. “Then, our friend pulled the strings to get us together. It was always subtle.”
Although Fallon and Stewart had initial interest in each other, it was their friends who connected them and helped foster their relationship in its early stages. Fallon noted however that the growth into a relationship from the initial introduction was more random than not.
“[Our friends] thought we were compatible because we have a very similar sense of humor but…a lot of it was just, ‘Oh wow, my friends might like each other. That would be fun,’” Fallon said.