Forcing daters to discuss interesting but more controversial topics made for more enjoyable conversations:
Via Dan Ariely:
We limited the type of discussions that online daters could engage in by eliminating their ability to ask anything that they wanted and giving them a preset list of questions and allowing them to ask only these questions. The questions we chose had nothing to do with the weather and how many brothers and sisters they have, and instead all the questions were interesting and personally revealing (ie., “how many romantic partners did you have?”, “When was your last breakup?”, “Do you have any STDs?”, “Have you ever broken someone’s heart?”, “How do you feel about abortion?”). Our daters had to choose questions from the list to ask another dater, and could not ask anything else. They were forced to risk it by posing questions that are considered outside of generally accepted bounds. And their partners responded, creating much livelier conversations than we had seen when daters came up with their own questions. Instead of talking about the World Cup or their favorite desserts, they shared their innermost fears or told the story of losing their virginity. Everyone, both sender and replier, was happier with the interaction.
What we learned from this little experiment is that when people are free to choose what type of discussions they want to have, they often gravitate toward an equilibrium that is easy to maintain but one that no one really enjoys or benefits from. The good news is that if we restrict the equilibria we can get people to gravitate toward behaviors that are better for everyone (more generally this suggests that some restricted marketplaces can yield more desirable outcomes).
More on the subject here.
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