Next! Speed Dating Through Webcams The latest way to find a mate has the hopefuls chatting at lightning speed over webcams. Dr. Jim Houran, a research pyschologist and a columnist for, takes a look.
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Next! Speed Dating Through Webcams

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Next! Speed Dating Through Webcams

Next! Speed Dating Through Webcams

Next! Speed Dating Through Webcams

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The latest way to find a mate has the hopefuls chatting at lightning speed over webcams. Dr. Jim Houran, a research pyschologist and a columnist for, takes a look.


Okay, here's a little tip about online dating.



STEWART: That picture, the person puts up there - that is the best picture he or she has ever taken in their entire lives - just know that. So…

FUGELSANG: It's scary but true.

STEWART: It's so true. Thirty-one percent of adults in America say they know someone who has used an online dating service. So it's likely that you've heard the stories ranging from the romantic tales that lead to marriage to the one say about the guy who showed up all sweaty because he was scraping his boat, he didn't have time to shower. True story in…

FUGELSANG: It's charming.

STEWART: …my life. Well, if you - could know what you were - getting yourself into - really getting yourselves into, some online dating services are leaving nothing to chance. They're touting to use of DNA matching, others suggest using a Web cam to meet your potential date. Check out this exchange from

Unidentified Man: I'm a chef over at a restaurant.

Unidentified Woman: Oh yeah? What's your favorite thing to make?

Unidentified Man: Chicken.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Woman: That's my favorite thing to eat.

Unidentified Man: What about sushi? Do you like sushi?

Unidentified Woman: I really like chicken sushi. There's this really good place.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Woman: No I'm serious.

Unidentified Man: Like tofurky.

STEWART: Yeah, that couple - match made in heaven, I'd say. Dr. Jim Houran has a PhD in a research psychologist dealing with relationships. He's based in Dallas, Texas. He's also a columnist for

Hi, Jim. How are you?

Dr. JIM HOURAN (Research Psychologist; Columnist, I'm doing well. How are you?

STEWART: I'm doing well. I can call you Jim right, doctor?

Dr. HOURAN: Oh, absolutely.

STEWART: Okay. So why do you think these sites have taken this to this next level - this more intimate level where people are looking and talking to each other and possibly matching up their chromosomes?

Dr. HOURAN: Well, they have to. Traditional dating has always been done sort of anonymously. Meaning, you know, we, usually were matched up by our family, friends or people we met at work or people we met through accident. Well, online dating has sort of changed that nearly 20 years ago, and we've now come to the point where people don't really trust online dating as much as, oh, people have in the past. We don't always think that the person that we're seeing in the profile is really them, like you've mentioned. The photograph, gee, how recent is that? This profile that I'm reading, how accurate is this?

So people are a little bit more concerned with safety, security and honesty, and they're trying to get back to basics. And that is they're trying to recreate that old-fashioned way of meeting and talking to somebody, you know, offline, but bringing that to cyberspace. And so, they'll be using more of the tools of online dating to try to get a sense of what this person truly is like not from a written profile, not from a static photograph, but they try to recreate that human interaction. The only way that can be done online is through Web cams.

STEWART: Now the Web cam dating does seem to have built-in possibilities to get your feelings hurt very, very quickly. That you could be deleted or moved - this person could move on to the next person. I'm wondering if this has any effect on, like, attrition rates, because people can be rejected so quickly.

Dr. HOURAN: Well they can, but it's unusual. People seem to recover pretty faster (unintelligible)…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. HOURAN: …because there's - the options are so wide.


Dr. HOURAN: I mean, if you were only one of five guys in a bar and you're rejected, that's one thing. But you know what, when you're rejected by one person out of a million, you have another person to go to immediately. So it's not as bad.

STEWART: As for the DNA testing, some of these sites are suggesting they can match you up with someone whose chromosomes might match yours perfectly and you might make beautiful children or you might have the same interest or the same body type or maybe even look alike. Now, are there any studies or methodology that you know of that actually shows this can work?

Dr. HOURAN: No. In fact, it's sort of scary when it comes to the issue of compatibility testing in general. You know, we know a lot, as social scientist, about what it takes for a couple to be first happy and then stable over time. But as far as compatibility testing where you're trying to match up people that have never met before based on personality characteristics, personal preferences, and then predicting that will end in a long-lasting, satisfying relationship, there is almost no scientific studies. Peer reviewed scientific research that shows that test at most online dating sites are real.

FUGELSANG: Well, Jim, is there any scientific research do you think is valuable towards matchmaking?

Dr. HOURAN: Oh absolutely. I mean, I can - we know a lot about what it takes for couples to be happy and stable. I mean, generally speaking, people that are in a romantic relationship that is satisfying and stable - they show strong similarity in age, political and religious attitudes, moderate similarity in things like education, general intelligence and values, but they show almost little to know similarity and personality characteristics. The notion of DNA testing - it's almost a little spooky to me. It's someone that was - like 1984, do you know what I'm saying?

STEWART: Yeah, real brave new world.

Dr. HOURAN: And there's many different ways of going about it. But this notion that Mother Nature wants us to mate with people that have different, say, immune systems than we do. Oh, there's some truth to that in the sense that our goal as human beings is to increase our diversity, adding to the gene pool in that constructive, positive way and that comes from diversity.

However, the specific method by which some of these online dating sites are using to pair us up based on DNA, literally, that has never been put through any peer reviewed research that I know of.

STEWART: We're talking to Dr. Jim Houran who has a Ph.D. in a research psychologist. We're talking to him about the brave new world of online dating. And we've been discussing the Web cams and the DNA matchups and the compatibility test. I think something we might need to remember is these are businesses, right?

Dr. HOURAN: Oh, absolutely. And we shouldn't fault them for that. But remember, love is blind, literally. When people are in those early stages of attraction and they're getting very excited about another person and getting wrapped up, you get what is almost like a mental illness in a sense that you act irrational…

STEWART: I'm not laughing at mental illness; it's just a funny comparison to that being in love.

Dr. HOURAN: No, I don't mean that literally.

STEWART: (Unintelligible). Yeah.

Dr. HOURAN: You know, that people though act in very irrational ways, and we know that, that the notion that love is blind is true to some extent, at least in the early parts of love and attachment. And so, businesses can easily manipulate that as well as appeal to us that sense of Hollywood romance. Most people's idea of relationship comes from books and films - basically from fantasy. This notion that there's love at first sight and that lasts forever. Well that's just ridiculous. That's not how relationships work at all.

We all long for that spark, that sense of chemistry with the person. Some of us are lucky enough to find it, but it ebbs and it flows. It goes away over time. But these are businesses that are trying to capitalize on emotion, and in some cases, they work. Now don't get me wrong.

STEWART: So we just need to be realistic about it, that's what you're saying. Dr. Jim Houran, thank you so much for joining us.

Dr. HOURAN: My pleasure. Take care.

STEWART: This is the BPP.

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