The scores given to pre-dates were much higher than those for post-dates.

And the perceived degree of similarity between participants and dates also took a dive after face-to-face encounters. Online profiles inherently provide limited pictures of people, a level of vagueness that is fuel, Norton said, for love-seeking imaginations.

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In the second reinforcing experiment, scientists surveyed two groups of online daters.

Subjects in one group answered questions about an upcoming date.

If subjects said the first trait failed to describe them, they were more likely to say the same of subsequent traits presented to them.

The opposite was found if the first trait got a positive score.

“We were working with a couple of online dating companies who were finding that their users got very unhappy very quickly with online dating. To find out, they showed each of 304 online daters, average age 34, a grab-bag of anywhere from one to 10 traits randomly culled from more than 200 characteristics gathered from real online daters.

Each online participant rated how much they liked their potential date, as well as which traits they would also use to describe themselves.

And as soon as I find that one thing, then things start to cascade so everything else I learn about you suddenly now feels like more evidence that we are dissimilar and we don’t get along,” Norton said.

“Once you start this process of saying, ‘Ah, it’s not going well,’ it’s like an avalanche basically,” Norton said.

The next time you log onto a dating site, you might want to add “mysterious” to your list of desired traits, because the less you know about a potential mate the better.

A new study of romantic relationships finds that as online daters got to know another person over time, their initially sweet notions turned sour.

Women put more stock in the virtual dating world because they seek a soul mate, he said, whereas men are typically after a more casual relationship.