UCLA Professors Say eHarmony Is Unscientific and Its Customers Are 'Duped.' Here's Why.
Karney and his co-authors beg to differ. Commissioned by the editorial board of Psychological Science in the Public Interest, "Online Dating: A Critical Analysis" boldly asserts the Federal Trade Commission and other "regulatory agencies have ... adopted a laissez-faire attitude" and should "subject the claims of online dating sites to the same degree of scrutiny as is applied to other advertised claims that are relevant to public well-being."
For the most part, the new study determines that online dating is a benefit to society, because the sites allow customers access to more potential matches than they would meet otherwise, and screen out undesirables who have substance-abuse problems, mental illness or serious depression.
However, sites like eHarmony promise more than a better and bigger dating pool.
"They say, 'We will find your soulmate for you.' That's a pretty drastic claim," Karney says. "As opposed to what they're really doing, which is, 'We've screened out the freaks.' That could be their tagline -- eHarmony: No freaks here."
But that's not their tagline. Instead, eHarmony claims its methods are "scientifically proven to predict happier, healthier long-term relationships." Proven, Karney wonders, by whom?
Though he received a Ph.D. in psychology from University of Chicago in 1967, eHarmony founder Neil Clark Warren admitted in a 2006 article in the Atlantic, "I hated doing research."
No big surprise there, as Warren has not published scholarly articles or studies on marriage, dating or relationships, though he has a few self-help books. The "35 years of clinical experience and rigorous relationship research" advertised by eHarmony seem, then, to amount to nothing more than Warren's untested observations working with couples in therapy and a study (mentioned in the Atlantic article) comparing 800 marriages ... the results of which have never been published, vetted or replicated. (eHarmony refused to comment for this story, but their spokeswoman dutifully tried to reiterate that their "matching system is based on years of empirical and clinical research on married couples.")
Stuart Friedel, a partner who represents numerous advertising agencies for the law firm Davis & Gilbert, says there is no legal requirement that studies proving that a product works be peer-reviewed, but he agreed that Karney and his co-authors are "experts in the relevant field" and can therefore speak with authority about whether eHarmony, for example, fulfills the FTC's requirement for "competent and reliable scientific evidence."
UP NEXT: Poking holes in the eHarmony algorithm.