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Abstract

We suggest that online dating frequently fails to meet user expectations-because people, unlike many commodities available for purchase online, are experience goods: Daters wish to screen potential romantic partners by experiential attributes (such as sense of humor or rapport), but online dating Web sites force them to screen by searchable attributes (such as income or religion). We demonstrate that people spend too much time searching for options online for too little payoff in offline dates (Study 1), in part because users desire information about experiential attributes, but online dating Web sites contain primarily searchable attributes (Study 2). Finally, we introduce and beta test the Virtual Date, offering potential dating partners the opportunity to acquire experiential information by exploring a virtual environment in interactions analogous to real first dates (such as going to a museum), an online intervention that led to greater liking after offline meetings (Study 3).