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How close is Tinder to a Stable Marriage Problem?

o What is Tinder?

Tinder is one of the hottest trending mobile apps among young adults in multiple countries. For better or worst, it redefined what is online dating. The user simply downloads the app and verifies his identity through Facebook and starts swiping. The user can limit his search by setting distance, age and gender preferences. The profiles that fit those settings pop on the screen and the user can swipe right to show interest and swipe left to move on. If there is mutual interest, both users are matched and they can chat. Even with its popularity, Tinder has not escaped from harsh criticism: media has sneered it as merely a “hook-up” app.

o What is the Stable Marriage Problem?

The Stable Marriage Problem is widely studied in mathematics, economics and computer science; it consists of searching for algorithms that can find  a stable matching between two sets of elements given a set of preferences for each element. More specifically: given that a group with the same number of women and men, and that each one strictly ranks all of the members of the opposite sex by preference, we want to find an algorithm that can produce a stable matching, where no couple would break-off the marriage because nobody could do better. David Gale and Lloyd Shapley proved, in 1962, that it is always possible to solve the Stable Marriage Problem. It consists of a series of iterations in which men propose to the highest ranked woman who he has not already proposed to. Women chose the highest ranked proposal and both become engaged. Women swap when there is a better offer. After all men and women have been matched, there is no man and woman who symmetrically prefer each other over the partners they are currently engaged to.

o How are they related?

Let us analyse how closely Tinder can be modelled to a Stable Marriage Problem. Firstly, we do not have a closed group of equal number of men and women participating in the game, however percentages of women and men are close enough for our rough abstraction, and we get a closed group by setting the radius. Secondly, both women and men can propose (in this case, make the initial contact), however after a match is made, 25% of the men will initiate contact and only 8% of women will initiate contact, while the rest of matches is just left sitting there. Thirdly, a proposal can be defined as when somebody makes the initial contact, and even before that contact everyone keeps a mental record of who they like the most or find the most attractive; their minds may change as they start talking to their matches. Fourthly, let us define the equivalent of marriage to be the date/hook-up for that night. These characteristics make Tinder very interesting, for the purpose of network studies. Loosely speaking, we could approximate Tinder to a Stable Marriage Problem (and we know that there is a solution for it according to Gale-Shapley algorithm!).

o How can I “up my Tinder game”?

From an algorithmic perspective, the best way to beat the present algorithm is for women to propose/initiate conversation because for a women, she can only do better, therefore in real life, by proposing/reaching out of her “closed group” she can be matched with men better than her current partner (so, ladies make the first move!).

From a behavioral perspective, be creative and express your quirkiness freely, that attracts the other’s attention and increases your likeliness to be ranked higher.

Further readings & statistics:


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