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The Dating Auction


This article considers dating as if it were an auction, discussing different methods. In this theoretical auction, the buyer is the person seeking a mate or love, and the “prize” or “item” is the mate, or potentially, a spouse. The two approaches that are discussed are the English auction method and the Dutch auction method, two types of auctions that we have discussed in class. In the English auction, the ascending “bidding” is applied to dating, as a person continues to “trade up” with the person they are dating until they find the person who they want the most. In this case, the second-price principle can be applied in that the “price” can be compared to the risk that the person does not find a mate of higher value than the one they currently have. Therefore, they would stop before the price (or risk) that matches their value in a mate. On the other hand, there is the Dutch auction, which is exactly the opposite. Here, a person sets one’s expectations, or value, as high as possible, and continually lowers them until a mate of that value is met. In this auction, the bidder gets a mate at first price, as price can be equated to the person’s willingness to commit to a person of this lower value.

Both of these auctions, or strategies, come with advantages and disadvantages on a social level. The English auction approach, given that it works (the “bidder” ends up with a mate), leaves the bidder with the mate of highest value throughout the entire dating process. However, it does involve a great deal of risk. When the person “trades up,” they must abandon their current mate, likely without the opportunity of having that particular mate return. If the person overplays their hand, they might end up with no one. This strategy results in a lot of break-ups, and likely, a lot of hard feelings. In the Dutch strategy, the hard feelings are solely upon the bidder. In this situation, the advantage is that there are no break-ups involved, and the first mate for the bidder is also the last mate, as the bidder stops as soon as he/she lowers their value enough to find someone to match it. However, this bidder must lower his/her expectations continuously, continuously being rejected until finally finding a mate. While many people might not realize it, they are likely using one of these strategies in their dating process; they either continuously seek a better mate, or set their expectations too high, only to end up finally settling for someone they might value less due to preconceived notions about finding a mate.


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