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Can PageRank predict your dating patterns?

In a novel application of PageRank — the algorithm created by Google’s founders to rank Web pages — a group of researchers conducted a study which found that online daters tend to pursue people who are “out of their league.” The study was conducted over a one-month period in 2014, and it looked at anonymized data from heterosexual users of an unnamed dating site in Boston, New York, Chicago, and Seattle.

As discussed in class, PageRank essentially works by counting the number of quality links to a website in order to determine how important that website is. Instead of ranking Web pages, the researchers in this study used the algorithm to rate people as desirable if they were messaged by other people who were also desirable. The more messages from desirable people, the higher the desirability rating. The study found that people tended to message people who were about 25 percent more desirable than themselves, and longer messages were sent to people with higher desirability ratings. The study also found that women’s desirability ratings tended to decline from ages 18 to 60, whereas men up to the age of 50 tended to have higher desirability scores than younger men.

Although it was designed to be used on a network of Web pages, this study shows that PageRank can also be used to analyze a social network such as that of an online dating website. The algorithm can likely also be used on a multitude of different networks, which highlights the fact that many large networks have similar features that can be analyzed using the same methods, even if the information within the networks is different.


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October 2018