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Dating as an Auction

We all understand the concept of auctioning off dates, usually for a fundraiser of some sort. But even in the real dating game, auction theory is at work. If you think of mates as items being bought and sold, trying to find your perfect mate suddenly becomes an interesting variation of a matching problem.

Let’s say a person has a certain amount of confidence in his or her ability to attract a good mate, we’ll call it worth. If everyone is matched perfectly, a woman with high worth would pair up with a man who has an equal amount of worth. But relationships don’t always work out that way. Sometimes there is a pairing that seems a little off balance. This can be attributed to high worth prospects who “hold out” in hopes of getting a better deal, which causes mismatching among the prospects who are willing to settle right away.

The article linked below describes two types of women in search of mates: strong and weak bidders. It claims that strong bidders (with high worth) might stay single for a long time because they are waiting to find men who match up to them, which is the equivalent of trying to get a really good deal. Often, these men are already taken. This is because weak bidders know that other prospects are worth more, so they aggressively pursue higher-worth men, with basically nothing to lose if they are rejected.  Many times, this aggressive pursuit will win a mate over a strong bidder who steps back and tries to wait for someone better.

If we think of women as the buyers and men as items being sold, we get an interesting result. As people get older, the only remaining prospects are men with imperfections and women of high worth. It is quite a paradox.


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