OnDemand
August 22nd, 2015

Modern Romance: Dating, Mating, and Marriage

Description

When American sociologists initially studied modern romance about a century ago, they discovered that most people were fiercely parochial. Americans generally dated and mated within their hometowns, and in big cities they often married someone who lived within a few blocks. This session explores the transformation of modern romance over the past century, paying particular attention to recent changes related to the Internet, globalization, the rising status of women, the acceptance of non-conventional sexual relationships, and the search for a soul mate. The panelists, who come from inside and outside the academy, will assess how singles manage the expanded options available to them today, and examine emerging attitudes about and experiences in committed relationships and marriages.

Speakers

ERIC KLINENBERG: Thank you, everyone, for coming here on Saturday night when there's so much to do in the city of Chicago. It's really a thrill for me to present this panel. For those of you I don't
know, because even though I'm from here, I think not all of you are family members, my name is Eric Klinenberg. I'm a professor at NYU, a colleague of our current president, Paula England, and the
co-author of this book, Modern Romance, which I wrote with Aziz Ansari, who will be here in a minute. [APPLAUSE] It's actually a really funny story about how the book started, people always ask, you
know, were you Aziz's professor at NYU? Were you guys old friends in some random and very weird way? And actually, no, not at all. I was leaving the ASA meeting in New York two years ago. Anyone here
at the New York conference two years ago? [APPLAUSE] And literally, I was on the train tracks to go back home and I got a phone call from Scott Moyers, the publisher at the Penguin Press, asking me
if I knew who Aziz Ansari was, thinking I'd never know, and I said, "Aziz Ansari, he's my hero!" And, okay, you know, he kind of is.
And so we wound up writing this book together over two years. And we talked to a lot of people, went around the world, talked to many, many sociology experts, whose research is featured in the book,
it really is a book of social science and comedy together. People like Andy Cherlin and Rob Willer and Stephanie Coontz who are here doing other panels, their work you know, you'll find it in the
book.
But there's also a bunch of other social scientists who are not sociologists, and I wanted to bring them here to let them get in on this conversation about Modern Romance as well. So this should be a
really fun evening, and a really interesting evening as well. And I want to introduce the panel. So we have three terrific social scientists, the first of whom is kind of an amateur social scientist,
Christian Rudder. He's a co-founder of OkCupid. Maybe some of you have used OkCupid in the past? It's okay, everybody's - everybody's doing it, as you'll soon find out. He's also the author of the
book Dataclysm, and I should say that after this event, Christian and also Aziz and I will be in the room next door signing copies of the books. So we have Christian Rudder, we also have Helen
Fisher, who's a biological anthropologist. She's a professor at Rutgers, and for many years was the head scientific consultant for Match.com. We have Eli Finkel, who is a psychology professor at
Northwestern, just up the road, as well as a faculty member in the Kellogg School of Business.
And then we have, you know, kind of an odd social scientist, without a PhD, I believe, but still full of insights. He was on this television show, Parks and Recreation, [APPLAUSE] that's why it's
taking so long for these dissertations to get written, I can tell. [LAUGHTER] Probably also seen him do standup, three different specials on Netflix, and now he has a brand new sitcom of his own
that's coming out on Netflix this November. So please help me in welcoming Aziz Ansari and the rest of the panel. [APPLAUSE]
So we had them remove the table so we could be a little bit less formal than normal, but we do have a few PowerPoint presentations to start the evening. So Christian, I'm going to have Christian,
Helen, and then Eli do some short presentations, and then Aziz and I will talk for a little bit, and then we'll all mix it up. So Christian, take it away.
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: Sure. Is this thing on? Good. Thanks. [APPLAUSE] Great. Thanks, so yeah, I was one of the founders of OkCupid, I know we're talking about Modern Romance tonight, and I know that no
discussion of that is complete without talking about online dating. And so I thought I'd give you guys, in my 10 minutes, a sort of look under the hood at how a dating site actually recommends people
to one another. Because that's all dating websites are, they're just a way, or like a big marketplace, or like a big warehouse full of people, basically. And you've got to figure out which 10 New
Yorkers of that half million you have to show when someone refreshes the page. This is how we do it. I'm going to figure this out, I'm going to do that. Is this thing even showing up? There it is.
Okay, perfect. All right.
So, the first component, there are now four. The first one that we thought of is called "match percentage." This is, as it says, a simple question and answer system. It's what you expect when you go
to a dating site, especially back when we started OkCupid in 2003. You see some questions about do you want to have kids, or do you believe in God, or do you smoke, do you have a foot fetish or
whatever. You say how and whether you do it, you say how you want your other person to answer. And then we do a little bit of basic arithmetic that gets some score for the two of you guys. And I say
"agreement" - you don't have to agree. You don't have to both answer the same way. You can stipulate a asymmetric type of answer, so, like a lot of people who are sexually dominant, for example, they
don't want another dominant person, that's going to be a lot of awkward collisions. So you want [LAUGHTER] a submissive in another person, for example. And we also let you say, "This is irrelevant,"
and you can just skip the question if you don't care about dogs or having kids.
So this was, like, the foundational idea of OkCupid. This was the thing that we put on the proverbial napkin. We're, like, yes, sweet! This is going to be a sweet dating site. It turns out that this
is not actually sufficient to run a dating site. Everything, like Match.com, Tinder, everybody has some version of this thing. They spend all their time on this, I'm assuming, the other two cases.
And I know about Match and Tinder intimately, because they're also owned by the same company that owns OkCupid, just to be clear I'm not speculating.
You start your dating site or dating app, and you discover very quickly that no matter what you're doing or what people are telling about themselves, everyone just swipes left or bypasses the ugly
people an clicks on the hot people. And it's called the - it's what we call at OkCupid "the focus problem," and it's a problem because you end up with a situation where one person, it's almost always
a woman in a heterosexual case, gets too much attention, she can't deal with it, she can't reply to the messages, she's grossed out, whatever. She maybe leaves or just ignores everyone. The guys are
ignored. So at that point, they have a choice. They can either get bummed and leave too or double down and be, like, "I'm going to send more messages!" And then they do it to the next person and the
next. And the whole thing just kind of death spirals, it's a big, bad deal.
I don't know if I'm turning on my slides or what, but whatever. Okay, cool, perfect. So in order to circumvent this, you need to know who is good looking before they run into this problem. So you need
a way of capturing attractiveness outside of the recommendation engine itself, right? And for us, it's called "Quick Match." This is the earliest version of it I can find. It's a too blurry, maybe,
to read. It's really, really JV. This is from 2005 or 2006, I think. You can't read this purple over there, but, like, we had Wiki edits for people's profiles. We had, like, points that you could
earn, just, like, all kinds of garbage. We tried every single thing under the sun, including this, which actually worked. These days, we realized through a series of experiments, it's really only the
picture that matters. So all this other schwag, like the profile and all that stuff is gone. Also, we let people rate looks and personality separately, this was also naive. They were almost the same
for every single person on, like, a per capita basis. So we just got rid of that. You can go - I was going through the old logs when I was writing my book, and I'm, like, oh yeah, here's someone
with, like, a four and a half star personality. So, like, you know, 95th percentile. It is, I looked at the account, it is a woman in a bikini kind of hugging this piece of wood with no text. And I
was like, I was, like, God I bet she's so awesome to talk to. So we, like, cut that - they cut that shit out.
So this - the ratings information on this, is the most important single piece of data that we use, that we have. It's how we make a lot of decisions. And the next thing is Attractiveness Distance, so
when we're recommending you to someone, we want you to be - we want that distance between the two of you guys to be as small as possible. And that's how it's weighted. This kind of speaks for itself;
I won't read the PowerPoint to you. But as an implication, kind of a next-level type of thing, piece of advice, if anybody ever complains to you that everyone on Tinder or OkCupid is ugly, you can
know that that means that they are ugly also. You have to run the site like this. After many years of just experimenting and seeing what drives the most conversations, this homogeny, I learned from
Eli over club soda earlier, is very important.
All right. And here is, just to run through this data really quickly, our table now is, like, four billion rows of votes. Tinder's is probably 10 billion, because it's just - people swipe like
assholes on that thing. [LAUGHTER] So the - so this, and this is men rating women. It's a pretty well-centered, like, bell curve looking thing; the natural median should be three, the observe median
here is, like, 2.86. It reflects our prior belief of how attractiveness is distributed, genetically out there. You have a lot of ugly - a lot of mediocre people, some super-hot people and some super,
super ugly people. And that, you know, that's how it should work, right?
Most dating sites, the women are rated basically the same kind of way, it's sort of in the center. Tinder, Match - the same. Okay, keep it - this is how the men are rated. [LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE] So
yeah, substantially lower. So there's two things that could be working here. There's obviously a market dynamic, there's slightly more men than women. But also, I think it's also the timbre of the
site. And the reason I have this these thesis, on Match.com, they use the blue and the red curves, almost overlap. The proposition there isn't, like, "Hey, let's go," like, "Have some casual sex,"
or, "Do you want to come over to my spooky apartment?" It's, like, "Hey, let's go on a date, and I'll give you a rose," or whatever. And the women and the men rate each other about the same. On
Tinder, which is kind of, like, way at the other extreme, that blue curve is just jacked way on the Y-axis, like, super high. Way, way - it's like, it tops out at 40 percent, or something, to have
less than five percent "yesses" of men.
I'm just plowing through here, I know we're short on time. This data is also something that academics as from us a lot, and you can do fun things, because we collect so much demographics, you know,
race, age, sexual orientation, body type, I'm just going to run through age, really quick, if this thing works. So this is how women rate men, by age. I know it's hard to read, it's probably small.
So you see women 20, 25, 30, 35, the black is the highest decile of guy to the woman of that age. So 25-year-old women rate 26-year-old men to be the hottest, 30-year-old women rate 30-year-old men
to be the hottest. Thirty-five to thirty-four I think - you can see it's a diagonal. So women think guys their own age are better-looking, until guys are, like, 39 or 40, and then that's, like,
that's good - don't get older. [LAUGHTER]
And then this is how the men rate the women. [LAUGHTER] That sort of speaks for itself. You can play with this stuff forever, and I have. That's how I ended up writing my book. There you go.
The third factor is responsiveness, so we - this is the third factor that we added. We prioritize users with fewer unread messages, so you know, even if you're the same level of hotness, even if in
theory you like the same number of things, or whatever your match percentage is good. We want to send you to people that are actually going to write you back. Message health is extremely important,
and by "health" I mean both breadth - everybody gets messages and depth - everybody gets a lot of messages. We don't want it all piled in; it's another kind of focus problem mitigation thing. Again
speaks for itself.
And then randomness. We add a big random number in. It sounds a little counterintuitive, why would essentially mathematically undo the other three variables, by adding a big spoof into our formula.
The rational is as follows: One, you know, there should be some serendipity, and that's math, randomness. That's the mathematical serendipity. And more realistically, you just can't - first of all,
we don't think that we have calculated compatibility, exactly. Even if you did think that, when someone hits, "Okay, OkCupid, match me," you can't show them the same 10 people because they're the 10
best over and over again; they're going to think nobody uses your site. So you just have to keep starting the pond. You have to intentionally show people that might not be the ice cold, number one
match for somebody, according to the other three criteria. Because if you did, again, people would leave your site, because it would be so stale.
So that's how we do it. This is how we weight them, attract them. This is by far, attracting by similarity is, by far, the biggest of the other three, that thing that we just thought we were geniuses
for thinking of, stupidly enough. Number two, when we thought of OkCupid is much smaller. And all of this comes after a filter, so you say, you know, unfortunately, a lot of times, you have to obey
what the user tells you, even if you know it might not be in his or her best interest. But if somebody tell us they only want to see 25-year-olds, you know, whatever, above 6'2", or within five miles
of me, you've got to filter that crap out. You do a hard filter, and then you sort the results, and you spit them back a bunch of profiles that, hopefully, maybe they'll sleep with. [LAUGHTER]
And so, that's it. We're just trying to get people to talk to one another. There's never, to my recollection, ever been a discussing of finding you a soulmate. I don't think anybody in the industry
thinks that, just to debunk anyone who might have that idea. And that's pretty much it. I think the ultimate algorithm, obviously, is always going to be on each individual person, no Website will,
like, capture somebody's funky breath or cool sweater, or awesome haircut, or any of that stuff that makes or breaks a first date. So thanks! I'll talk more later. [APPLAUSE]
HELEN FISHER: Good evening. I'm Helen Fisher. I'm delighted to be here, I'm delighted that you're here. Thank you very much, Eric, and everybody for joining me here.
I and my colleagues have put over 100 - let's see if this works, here - how come that's moving forward? Ah, shoot. I've got to go back, oh my God. Anyway, I and my colleagues have put over a hundred
people into a brain scanner who are madly in love. The first group were 17 people who had just fallen happily in love, the second were 15 people who had just been rejected in love, and the third were
17 people who had just - were in love long-term. And so I want talk first about that, very briefly, just some highlights, and then address this issue of current romance.
But I'll start with a story. I was recently in the highlands of New Guinea, and I was traveling in the back of a truck with several men. And one of the men had three wives. And so I said to him, I
said, "How many wives would you like to have?" And there was this long pause, and I thought, "Is he going to say five? Is he going to say 10? Is he going to say 25?" And he looked at me, and he said,
"None." [LAUGHTER] We are an animal that forms pair bonds. People who have more than one wife at a time begin to fight, sometimes they even poison each other's children. So the bottom line is, I
think that we've evolved three distinctly different brain systems from mating and reproduction. Does this thing work? The sex drive, feelings of intense, romantic love and feelings of deep
attachment. And I think they evolved with humanity over four million years ago. The sex drive, I think, evolved to get you out there looking for a whole range of partners. I think romantic love
evolved to enable to focus your mating energy on just one at a time, and I think this third brain system of attachment evolved to enable you to tolerate this human being, at least long enough to
raise one child together as a team.
And I'm just going to show you a few brain scans to show you the power of romantic love; that's the one that we've studied. It lands in the most basic part of the brain, along with brain regions that
orchestrate thirst and hunger. It's basically a drive. It's way below the cortex, where your thinking process is. It's way below your limbic system, with your emotion processes. It's a basic drive,
it's associated with wanting, craving, focus, motivation, energy, and, in fact, addiction. It lies right next to the sex drive, that's in the hypothalamus, and above that slightly is the attachment
system. These are three basic brain mechanisms that orchestrate how we love.
I think it evolved over four million years ago, all three of these basic drives, human drives, and that they will be with us, as a matter of fact, if we survive as a species even a million years ago -
I mean, from now. It is an addiction. We have proven that in the brain, when you're madly and happily in love, and even when you have been rejected in love, brain regions that are associated with
cocaine addiction, heroin addiction, nicotine addiction, all of the addictions become activated. It's one of the most powerful brain systems the human animal has ever evolved.
And so, what makes a happy partnership? [LAUGHTER] You know, psychologists will say to you that, you know, there's all kinds of psychological things that make a happy relationship. There's all kinds
of sociological things. There's a lot of economic things. But I wanted to find out what the brain is doing when it is happy. What are the basic things that you're feeling when you're happy? And so
we've looked at people who were in love long-term, and in fact, it is possible to remain in love, not just loving, but in love long-term. Got to pick the right person. We also went to China and
looked at people who were in love long-term there. We've done other studies since.
And here are the three basic things that happened in the brain when you are happily in a relationship; empathy - the brain regions linked with empathy become activated, the brain regions linked with
controlling your stress and your own emotions become activated, and the third becomes - is a brain region almost right near the center of the head linked with what we call positive illusions - the
simple ability to overlook what you don't like about him or her [LAUGHTER] and focus, you just have to focus on what you do. And if you can do that, you're ahead of the game.
So bottom line is, tonight is about Modern Romance, and I want to tell you just a couple of things about that. Where are we headed? I have long been the chief advisor, scientific advisor, to
Match.com. And for the last five years, what we have done is a national study called "Singles in America." We poll over 5000 men and women every single year. We don't poll the matched population, we
poll the American population. It's a representative sample, based on the U.S. census. One year, in fact, we also studied almost 1100 married people in the United States to compare our singles with
our married people. And in fact, you can cross-tab this in any way; you can cross-tab it a million ways. But anyway, so I want to focus on just one idea that we've found.
We've got big data, and we're drowning in the data. I would like for people in the room to be of - have this data of use to you, too. But I'll just tell you this one thing that we have found. First of
all, we are marrying, 83 percent of American men, 89 percent of American women will marry by age 49. But this is the statistic that really stopped me cold: Singles in America are terrified of
divorce. So I began to see all this data, and began to fall into place with something that I call "slow love." And I think what's going on is that we're so terrified of the consequences of divorce,
that what we're doing is having a long pre-commitment stage in our partnerships, before we tie the knot. And I call that "slow love."
For example, over 50 percent of men and women are having a one-night stand. Over 50 percent are having a friends with benefits, and over 50 percent are living together with one or five partners before
they tie the knot. We are [INAUDIBLE], we want to know every single thing you can possibly know about a human being before you marry them. And indeed, that's what we're doing. Where marriage used to
be the beginning of a relationship, now it's the finale. [LAUGHTER] And because of that, I really think - I began to think about that, and I said, oh, okay, so you got the long pre-commitment stage
now, we're marrying much later, we really know the person. Perhaps all of the bad relationships can end before you walk down the aisle. Maybe today we are moving towards happier marriages, because
bad relationships can end before they tie the knot.
So I did a study with Match to see if people were happier in their relationships today. It's a study of almost 1100 Americans in the Singles in America study. And I asked them a lot of questions, but
the most important question for me was, would you remarry the person that you're currently married to? And 81 percent said yes, and 75 percent that they were still very much in love. And there's
other scientists now who are beginning to confirm that we are seeing a great many happy marriages.
Is technology changing love? People are constantly asking me this. Very definitely, they're changing courtship. We're emailing instead of swinging on the porch before Sunday lunch with the gang, and
we're texting. We're using emojis to express our emotions. We're sexting to express our sexuality. The Internet is also expanding the dating pool, enabling people of all ages and all interests to get
together. We're seeing new courtship rules and taboos. I'm here to explain one of the nicest ones, as far as I'm concerned, is the fact that 72 percent of Americans really do not like you to text
when you're on a data with somebody. We're going to see a host of new courtship rules. But in fact, I think there's a big misunderstanding about these dating sites, and that is, they're not dating
sites. They're introducing sites. All we're really doing is enabling you to kiss fewer frogs until you go out on a date with somebody; and, in fact, the only real algorithm is your own brain. So
whether you met them on Tinder or you met her on Match, or you went to OkCupid, or wherever you went, basically when you get into that bar and sit down and talk to them, or sit in a coffee house, or
whatever, the ancient human brain clicks into action, and we court the way we always have. We smile the way we always have, we flirt the way we always have, we listen the way we always have, we
parade the way we always have. It is the basic human brain skips into action. So the Internet cannot change these brain circuits for romantic love and attachment.
So I want to conclude with what I think is really changing partnerships, and that is, as an anthropologist, for millions of years, we lived in these little hunting and gathering groups. Women commuted
to work together, their fruits and vegetables, they come home with 60 to 80 percent of the evening meal. The double-income family was the rule. It was the rule for millions and millions of years.
Then we began to settle down on the farm. We evolved an entirely different belief system about what a man is and what a woman is. We are now shedding 10,000 years of our belief systems, and actually
moving forward to the past. We no longer have virginity at marriage. As a matter of fact, one of my Match.com studies, one third of men won't even go out with a woman who's a virgin, won't even go
out with her. The belief that a woman's place is in a home, the belief that the man is the sole provider, to death do us part - that seems to be history for a lot of people. The bottom line is, the
Internet is changing how we court, but it's working women and the double-income family that's changing who we choose and how we love. Thank you! [APPLAUSE]
ELI FINKEL: So a few years ago, I happened across some data that I found rather puzzling. I want to share them with you. So this is, in principle, right here, will be some results from a recent
metaanalysis by Christine Proulx and her colleagues. And what I'll show you here, there's a bunch of dots. Each dot represents a different study, a different effect size. And what those effect sizes
tell us is the link between earlier marital quality and change over time and personal well-being. And one thing that jumps out about that graph is that all of these effects are positive; that is, the
higher quality marriage you have, the better off you are in terms of your global overall happiness over time. None of that is puzzling.
Here is what's puzzling. That effect has been getting stronger over the course of the last several decades, right? So in fact, if you look in the early 2000s and compare that to the late 1970s, the
degree to which the quality of your marriage is influencing your overall happiness with your life is about twice as strong in the new millennium as it was in the 1970s. And so I wanted to try to
understand why that is. My home discipline of psychology does not offer particularly profound insights about these temporal changes. I took a rather broad tour through the broad scientific
literature; you'll know these names, Ernest Burgess, Coontz, Cherlin, et cetera, and I learned that there are - basically throughout the course of American history, there's been three different eras
of marriage. The first one was an institutional era of marriage, from the colonial era until maybe the mid-1800s, where the unit of economic production was the individual farmhouse. Men and women
were both engaged in this sort of economic production. And people weren't looking to their marriage for personal fulfillment, or at least that wasn't the central point of the institution. It was
about basic economic and political considerations.
Fast forward, the industrial revolution takes off. Now we're to the middle of the 19th century, and what you see is, there's a surfeit of jobs in major urban centers in the U.S. that draws people like
a magnet from rural areas from other countries. And so what you have for the first time in the course of human history is a whole bunch of young people who are geographically and economically
independent of their parents and their broader family networks. And what does that mean for marriage? They now have a much greater amount of choice in the marital decisions that they make. And when
they have a lot of choice about the marital decisions that they make, what do they choose to prioritize? Personal fulfillment, and in particular, companionship, love intimacy, passion. And these now
become defining features of the institution of marriage. And these are really best-represented by the - this reached its apotheosis in the 1950s, with the breadwinner-homemaker love-based marriage.
Well, fast forward into the 1960s, and you get a third different model of marriage; a major era of marriage that you can call the individualistic or the self-expressive era of marriage. So here, in
this era, which we're currently living in, we still tend to prioritize things like love and companionship. But we also prioritize things like self-expression, personal growth, authenticity. These are
things we're now looking for from our marriage. And if we look to Robert Bellah and his colleagues to talk about this, he talks about expressive individualism in the context of relationships. In
expressive individualism, "a relationship is created by full sharing of authentic feelings," and love "becomes the mutual exploration of infinitely rich, complex and exciting selves." This idea would
have gotten you laughed out of your colonial Hamlet, [LAUGHTER], but it is a reasonably common way that those of us today tend to think about what we would like from our marriages, things that the
marriage will help us on our self-discovery; personal growth, personal betterment to help us become our ideal selves, and so forth.
Now, there are a variety of intellectual trends that led to this self-expressive era. But the most immediate and most powerful predecessor was humanistic psychology. People like Carl Rogers and
Abraham Maslow, many of you will be familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, one of the more famous ideas that comes out of humanistic psychology. So what Maslow argues is that we have a whole
spectrum of really important basic needs, but that as we fulfill the lower needs in this hierarchy, we can increasingly focus on the higher needs in the hierarchy.
So I want to say a few things about this. You can see it's physiological and safety needs toward the bottom and belonging and love needs toward the middle, and esteem and self-actualization needs
toward the top. Now, Maslow wasn't primarily focused on marriage or relationships, he was focused more on individual or personal development. But I want to say three things about this hierarchy that
I think are crucial if we want to get insight into how marriage is functioning today, at least in this country. The first one is, how striking is it when you compare the historical trajectory of
marriage in America that I just described with this hierarchy, right? So right there at the bottom, you have the physiological and safety needs. Really, in the institutional era of marriage, a huge
amount of the institution of marriage was built around the satisfaction of these basic physiological and safety needs. Then you get to the companionate era, and you're focusing toward the middle of
this hierarchy of love and belonging needs. And then in the self-expressive era, you're way toward the top of the hierarchy. On the esteem needs, and in particular the self-actualization or
self-expressive needs. Second thing I want to say about this hierarchy in terms of marriage, when Maslow talked about the consequences of meeting these needs, what he said is that higher need
gratifications produced more profound happiness, serenity and richness of the inner life.
Now, he wasn't saying - he believes that all of these needs are fundamental. He wasn't saying, yeah, well, you can meeting your physiological and safety needs or not, it doesn't matter - of course it
matters. If you don't meet your physiological and safety needs, you could have all sorts of bad outcomes, including death. So he was fully cognizant that meeting lower-level needs mattered. But if
you want to talk about what makes meaningful, fulfilling, filled with purpose, really it's as you go higher up that hierarchy where fulfilling the needs tends to have that sort of really positive
effect.
The third thing I want to say about this hierarchy in terms of understanding marriage is, it is not easy to self-actualize. It is not easy to self-express. Maslow makes it very clear that very few
people are able to get to the top of that hierarchy and then just settle in there for their lives; it is a constant effort of introspection, self-awareness, working on understanding what it is about
you that's unique and special, your particular idiosyncratic qualities. And then once you've figured those out, going ahead and structuring and building a life that affords the expression of those
qualities over time.
Now, imagine not only doing that, but having your spouse doing that and facilitating that for each other, right? This is a tall order. We've now changed marriage in a way that requires that we, or at
least many of us are looking for the marriage to help facilitate these self-actualizing, self-expressive needs. It is a tall order that we're asking marriage to do that. And presumably, it's going to
be pretty hard for you to have a marriage that can do that successfully, unless you're investing considerable time, psychological effort, a lot of support for each other, and so forth, and so we can
ask as Americans have really escalated up this hierarchy, are we, in fact, investing more time in the marriage? Are we putting more of our psychological effort, our time, in the marriage?
Well, it turns out there are good data relevant to this question, so this is one particular graph that looks at how much spousal time people get. This is time alone with your spouse, regardless of how
you're spending that time, in 1975 and in 2003. And what you can see is, regardless of whether you don't have children at home or you do have children at home, not only are we not seeing an increase
commensurate with this idea that we're going up Maslow's hierarchy, that we're looking to our marriage to do these sorts of very intensive psychological sorts of things that we weren't looking for in
the past, we're doing the opposite. So on average, while we're going up that hierarchy, we're putting fewer resources in the marriage to meet those sorts of needs. So what we should see, on average,
I that marital quality is coming down a bit. I don't want to start sounding like this is a crisis, marriage is in crisis - I don't believe anything like that. But that we should be seeing incremental
declines in the quality of marriage, the average marriage.
And in fact, there's some pretty good evidence that, in fact, you're seeing some sort of decline like this, or these are strong data, nationally representative survey data from the general social
survey. And what you can see over time is that there is, in fact, a decrease in the proportion of people who say they're very happy. What this suggests to me is that the ability to - the average
marriage is struggling to sustain a particularly high-level of quality. But if Maslow's right, that the gratification, the meaning, the purpose, the deep fulfillment you can get from your life is
much bigger if you're focusing on the top of the hierarchy, rather than the middle or the bottom of the hierarchy, we should also see a second sort of effect. This second sort of effect should not be
what's happening with the average marriage, it should be what's happening with the strongest marriage. Do we have more marriages today that are truly flourishing?
Now, unfortunately, the data relevant to this question are not particularly strong, there's no, like, general social survey equivalent that only looked at the very top slice of marital quality. But
you can look, you know, at the data that exists. So for example, there's a study [LAUGHTER] - "blissed out," you like that? There's a study that looks at the end of the companionate era, the second
era of marriage, and then a very recent study. Now, these studies differ in all sorts of methods; I don't want to say the comparison is direct, but what they have in common is, they study American
marriages of at least 10 years in duration, and the researchers took pains to say there is a category of marriage that is exquisite; that is really flourishing, that we would say are truly excellent
when it comes to psychological sorts of fulfillment. And what we're seeing is that the proportion of marriages that are reaching this very high threshold - again, the comparison across these studies
is a little haphazard, but it's the best we've got - the comparison that in 2012 there's a greater proportion of marriages that are at the very top.
So we're simultaneously from the previous graph seeing that the average marriage is struggling a bit, and we're seeing that the best marriages are doing better, and that even more of them are at the
top. And I think that helps to explain that puzzling meta-analytic finding we saw earlier. Basically, what we're seeing, the average marriage is getting a little worse, the best marriage is getting a
little better. You're stretching out that marital quality component and consequently, the effect of whether your marriage is a high versus a low-quality marriage on your overall life satisfaction has
become substantially larger over time.
Now, what does this all mean? This is the - bringing it home. I don't believe there's every going to be some sort of one size fits all solution, like these are the nine tricks to a happy marriage. But
what I would urge pretty much all of us to do is to ask some questions that I bet almost none of us do. So, for example, what is it - be precise - what are you and your spouse asking of your
marriage? My guess is, if you get into this and really take this task seriously, your jaw will drop when you start to think of how many different sorts of things you're looking for this particular
relationship to fulfill in your lives. Second, once you've figured that out, are the two of you investing the resources required to meet those expectations? Whatever your expectations are, is it
possible that on the 15 minutes a day you're getting for each other that you're going to have the satisfying sex life, and that you're going to be able to go through all these things that you're
prioritizing?
And if not, then you probably want to engage in some sort of recalibration process, and you pretty much have three options here: First option is, in principle, you can invest more, right? You can say,
boy, I didn't really realize how much I was asking - how much we are asking of the marriage. We're not putting the time in, we need to put the time and the psychological effort and change our
activities in a way that can, in fact, get us to where we need to be. Second option is, you can actually try to be more efficient with the resources that you have. Psychologists have developed a
number of procedures lately, the procedure that we've developed is called the "Marriage Hack." This procedure involves over the course of a year, you write for a total of 21 minutes where you analyze
conflict from in your marriage from the perspective of a neutral third party, who wants the best for all involved. And we do see relative to the control condition significant increments in
satisfaction and passion, and so forth. But let's not fool ourselves into thinking that that's going to be sufficient to take a mediocre marriage and make it outstanding.
The third option, and I think we should look at this without shame - ask less. If the history of marriage has taught us anything, it's pretty arbitrary what we're asking for this particular
relationship. There's no, like, two tablets that told you exactly what this relationship is supposed to provide. If it's true that you're miscalibrated, and that you're not able to figure out how to
reallocate your resources in a way to invest more in the marriage, then you may want to think about ways you can turn to somebody else when you need to complain about your work, or whatever it is
that you can outsource to other perspectives.
Now, not all of these approaches will get you to the top of Maslow's hierarchy, but for sure all of them, if you're calibrating or recalibrating to make sure you've got better balance, all of them
should, in fact, lead to some amount of increment in your overall marital quality. Thank you very much! [APPLAUSE]
ERIC KLINENBERG: Thank you! Thank you, so - damn, we should have put together a PowerPoint. Those were good PowerPoints.
AZIZ ANSARI: I didn't know we were supposed to do a PowerPoint presentation. I thought it was just a panel discussion. [LAUGHTER] No one told me to make a PowerPoint. But it's interesting, a lot of
this stuff you guys are saying, you know, Helen and Eli, that it was something that I really learned from the process of doing our book, is when we started out doing the book, I thought, you know,
the big changes are technology; texting, online dating, all this stuff. And what you realize is, the change is actually much different, and bigger change is just this shift in how we view love and
marriage, and the shift from, you know, the companionate marriage to the soulmate marriage. And I think we learned that very quickly. One of the first things Eric and I did when we worked on the book
was, we went to a retirement home to talk to older people, to kind of learn what it was like for them when they were being single, and how they met their spouses and things like that. So we went to a
retirement home, and we were, like, how can we get these people to talk to us? And the people who worked at the retirement home were, like, "Oh, just, like, bring them a bunch of donuts, and they'll
just, like, talk to you." [LAUGHTER] So we brought a bunch of do-
ERIC KLINENBERG: Classic sociology technique there -
AZIZ ANSARI: Yes.
AZIZ ANSARI: So I brought a bunch of donuts, and they started talking to us and telling us stuff. And it was particularly interesting talking to women in the retirement home, because they all seemed
ERIC KLINENBERG: - research [INAUDIBLE].
to, when they talked about marriage, they talked about, you know, meeting some guy that lived pretty close by to them, and, you know, a pretty brief period of courtship, then married them very
quickly. And what they seemed to miss was kind of what Helen was describing, this period of "slow love," or this period of emerging adulthood, where you're just an independent adult, just, like
dicking around, basically. [LAUGHTER] And, like, that's all young people do now is, we just dick around, and we go get brunch. That's, like, all we do! [LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE] And that's - he just had
to sign "dick around!" [LAUGHTER]
Wait, I've got to see, like, what the sign is for "dicking around," like, to me it must be, like - [LAUGHTER] all people do is dick around! And they get brunch! Are you, like, now signing, like, "This
guy's a dick, I'm so sorry!" [LAUGHTER] But yes, I think that shift is the big change. And I think it's very easy to overlook that and start, you know, saying it's, like, oh, the big change is, you
know, Tinder, or whatever is the new flashy thing. But really, this is kind of underlying change in that. And also, I think, you know, what Helen was saying about just kind of how we've kind of grown
out of these generals that used to be so defined. And I think that makes relationships hard.
I mean, I've been thinking about that myself in my own relationship, I feel like in the beginning of a relationship. You're just, like, bonin' and having fun. Like, that's all you're doing, and it's
really fun. And that's the whole passionate stage! And again, I'm sorry, guy in the front. [LAUGHTER] I do the conference every year, it's never been this vulgar! But you're just bonin' and having
fun, and it's the passionate stage. And then as you shift to the companion stage, basically what you're doing is, you're, like, all right, well now we have to set up an infrastructure to maintain the
bonin' and having fun, and how do we do that? And how do we manage the rest of our lives, our careers, and everything like that? And even just, like, both people having careers, that's a big deal. I
mean, like, I just think, like, how much easier it would be if in my relationship if, like, one of us was just like, "You know what, I'm just not going to do shit anymore. Like, I'm just going to
stay home. And then, like, when you come home, we'll just bone and have fun!" It would make things so much easier!
You know, I think it does make things tough. I think that and the shift in what marriage and love is is really the big change. To me, like, of all the stuff we learned during the book, the craziest
statistic that always stuck in my head was, there was a study in 1967, 76 percent of women said they would marry someone that they were not romantically in love with. And that, like, blew my mind
when I read that. And now, like, you know, women don't - the number is completely reversed. Like, everyone wants to marry someone they're really in love with, and that's what we're looking for. We're
looking for this amazing thing. We're not looking for something that's, like, good enough. And that, to me, is a huge change I never really heard talked about or anything, until I learned it from
doing the book.
ERIC KLINENBERG: And I remember when we went down to that senior center together also because we had just been talking to Andy Cherlin about the idea of the "good enough marriage," right? And we
started talking to people about how they met their spouses. And an enormous number of people were telling us that they met the guy who lived across the street, or the woman who lived in the building,
remember that set of interactions?
ERIC KLINENBERG: And then, you know, we had to check to see, is that really a thing, is that a trend? Or did we just happen to find some weird set of, you know, people who had this experience? And so
AZIZ ANSARI: Yes. Yeah.
I actually got Aziz reading 1930s issues of the American Journal of Sociology.
AZIZ ANSARI: Yeah, and then we found the Bruce [INAUDIBLE] study, which showed that this was actually a big trend, that people were marrying people that lived in very close proximity. And it was one
out of 12 people who married someone within the same building, one out of three was within a few blocks, and 87 percent was, like, within the same town. And now, like, they don't even do those
studies anymore. Everyone, you know, they're just dicking around for their whole emerging adulthood -
ERIC KLINENBERG: Having brunch. Having brunch, yeah.
AZIZ ANSARI: - period. And you meet people from all over the world and, you know, in college, and different parts of your career, or whatever. And yeah, it's just not the same thing.
ERIC KLINENBERG: So you guys could probably tell that the last couple of years have not involved standard sociological research experiences for me. You know, we did a lot of amazing things, including
going to senior centers. But I also have to say, one of the really fascinating things from my perspective, working with Aziz, is, we had access to a kind of data that would be almost inconceivable, I
think, for most of us doing our regular thing. And because Aziz does standup and puts a lot of himself personally out there, people we talk to seem to really trust him and to be open to a kind of
honesty that we could only hope for when we do a standard interview, right, or let alone hand someone a survey. And one of the most remarkable things for me was that we would do focus groups or
interviews, and ask people to tell us about the way they had met someone they were dating, or how they started relationships. And normally we would just get a story and we'd write down the story or
record it, and then take that as data. But that's not so reliable, right, because it's retrospective, and people might be honest or they might not be honest. Much better would be to actually see how
it happened. And Aziz was, like, "Oh, you know what? I could actually get people to just hand me their phones, actually I could probably get people to project their OkCupid screen up on a big screen
in front of a few hundred people, and we could all talk about it together." And I was, like, "There's no way that people are going to do that, Aziz, that's a crazy thought, right?"
AZIZ ANSARI: And I was, like, "Yeah, they'll do it." And they did. And I think, like Eric's saying is, when you see the actual communications people have in these mediums, you hear a much different
story, like one of the first times we did one of these focus groups, I remember, you know, I asked them, "Has anyone been texting with anyone recently?" And this woman raises her hand, and she's,
like, "Yeah, I've been texting with this guy." I'm, like, "How's it going?" And she's, like, "Oh, it's going pretty good." And I was, like, "Well, can I just see, like, your real messages?" And as
soon as I looked at her phone, I noticed right away something interesting was that the gentleman on her phone, his name was Kevin Don't-Text-'Til-Thursday, which [LAUGHTER] - not a common last name!
And it right away, like, told me, like, "Oh, like, looking at these real messages is going to teach us so much." And I think as Helen pointed out in her presentation, like, what the technology has
changed is the courtship. And we see, you know, we looked at the numbers from Helen's study and saw more and more people, their communications in the initial stages in the courtship is moving more
and more to text as you get younger. And younger people just don't call each other on the phone, when we talk to people -- I'm 32, if you talked to people around my age, and you brought up, "Like,
what if you met a guy and then he called you?" And someone would be, like, "Oh, well, that would be very nice. It would be very refreshing, very romantic. Who is this guy? Tell him to call me!" But
then if you asked someone in their early 20s, "Oh, what if a guy called you on the phone?" "You mean, like, err, you mean, like, on the phone? Are you fucking kidding me? No! That's disgusting! Why?
Is he on fire? Like, why?" [LAUGHTER] And you just see, like, how these norms change as you go younger-younger, what seems crazy to one generation becomes the norm for the next.
So as you take an issue like breaking up. Whenever you ask people in their 30s, like, "Oh, what if a guy broke up with you over text?" You know, "What if a woman broke up with you over text?" They're,
like, "That's so rude. I couldn't imagine that. It seems so rude." And then when you go to younger people in their 20s, they're, like, "Every single person who has broken up with me has broken up
with me over text." [LAUGHTER] And then if you go even younger, people are, like, "I wish someone would text me and let me know that we've broken up, because it's..." [LAUGHTER] "I haven't heard
anything, I'm just assuming..."
ERIC KLINENBERG: Yeah, so we have this tradition of looking at interactions very closely in sociology, and you know, it's a wonderful part of the discipline; it actually is one of many areas Aziz and
I discovered where there's some pretty substantial overlap between what sociologists do and what standup comedians do. And, you know, one of my favorite experiences of our collaboration together was,
just really spending time looking closely at these small dynamics that seem to make a different in the way the courtship plays out, right? And actually, sometimes there's a debate, like, we talked to
a bunch of people about this question of, does it really matter, you know, what you text someone? Does it really matter what you write in a message? And there's definitely a school of thought that's,
like, it doesn't really matter. If they like you, they like you. It's really just about that interpersonal connection. They'll just send anything. And there's other people, like, no no no no no, it
really does matter. You can make or break it, you know, just on the basis of what you text. And so obviously, you would want to have a much bigger sample than we had to really answer this question
definitively.
But you know how every once in a while you just get, like, one perfect case study that seems to show the thing you're after more than anything else? We kind of had an experience like that that I
wanted to share with you when you were doing one of your standup shows here in Chicago.
AZIZ ANSARI: Oh.
ERIC KLINENBERG: And I wonder if you wouldn't mind just reading this section where we test this question of, does it actually matter what you text someone in courtship?
AZIZ ANSARI: Yeah. Okay, so this actually did happen in Chicago in spring of 2014. And I was doing a show at the Chicago Theater, and during this tour, I would do material about texting, and then I
would ask someone to bring up their phone and I would read the messages back and forth. And as Eric said, this is one of the big questions for me, like, doing the book. Because I've been in
situations when I was single, like stressing out over what to say, and I've seen friends stressing out. And there's these two schools of thought. And so this was something we tackled in the book, and
this is what happened at this show in Chicago.
At this particular show, I speaking with Rachel, who had met a guy at a good friend's wedding. As it happened, the guy was also a friend of her sister's, so we had a pretty good shot at a first date
with her. She was single, she was interested. All he had to do was send her a simple message introducing himself, and asking her to do something. Here's what happened: He sends his first message. "Hi
Rachel. Since I never got a chance to ask you to dance at Marissa and Chris' wedding, I'm Chris' old roommate from Purdue, he and your sister gave me your number, and I wanted to say hi, and sort of
texty-introduce myself, ha ha! Hope you had a great weekend, and hope to chat with you soon."
As soon as I said, "texty," it was clear that no one sitting in the 3600-seat Chicago Theater would ever fuck this dude in a million years! "Texty," for whatever reason, seemed to be unequivocally
disgusting to every one of us there. He may as well have said, "By the way, I have a really disgusting next-level STD, ha ha! But for real, I do."
Rachel wrote back 10 minutes later. "Hey, great to meet you. Currently enjoying my birthday weekend with lots of good Mexican food. It happens when your birthday is Cinco de Mayo. Hope you had a great
weekend too."
?
Rachel never met Will. [LAUGHTER] After a few messages of this nature, Rachel stopped responding. None of us know Will. He may be a kind, handsome man with a heart of gold. But all we have to go on is
those messages. And those messages have shaped in our minds a very dorky, terrifyingly Caucasian weirdo! [APPLAUSE]
I thought it was a goofy exchange, but I think that does illustrate a larger point of, this has really changed courtship in a big way, in that you kind of have your real self and your phone self. And
with so much of this stuff shifting to text or, you know, whatever you're doing on your computer, messages you send online sites, or whatever, people base their impressions of your real self based on
your phone self. So how you conduct yourself in that world is really going to shape people's impression of you. And I think that's something we definitely learned from our work.
ERIC KLINENBERG: Well, and you know, it seems to me like one of your big concerns, you know, that started a lot of this project was your sense that there's something about the way we interact with
our devices that we carry with us everywhere we go that encourages us to treat the other person we're interacting with as if they're a bubble, and not a person.
AZIZ ANSARI: Yeah, I mean one of the people we talked to early on was Sherry Turkle, and, you know, in her work she talked about how, you know, text messaging is maybe a medium that facilitates
rudeness sometimes, like, there's a story in her book about a kid who had, like, a standing dinner with his grandparents. And every week he wanted to cancel. And so his parents would tell him, "All
right, well, call your grandparents and tell them you're not coming." And he wouldn't do it, because he didn't want to hear the disappointment in their voice, and all that kind of stuff. They didn't
text, so he'd have to call. And, you know, I think that really applies to dating as well, because it's just easy to be shitty to someone on text, you know? Like, I mean, if that kid could text his
grandparents, he'd just be, like, "Fuck off, grandma, I'm not coming!" Like, he wouldn't care. But when you see, you know, you hear a voice and all this stuff, it's a much different thing. And so I
think, well, the texting stuff, I think it is much easier to be rude to people and flake on them, or whatever, because you're dealing with a bubble and not a real person, or hearing a voice or
ERIC KLINENBERG: Now, did you feel like you had that concern about online dating generally? I mean, there's a lot of anxiety, you know, the last week there was this big story in Vanity Fair about how
anything.
Tinder is really turning us all into superficial people, we're not really having deep relationships. There's something about the new technology is kind of encouraging us just to treat each other
instrumentally, and not deeply?
AZIZ ANSARI: Yeah, I mean, I saw that article. I think that stuff's just, you know, I don't really buy that. To me, Tinder, it's not this terrifying thing. It's just you're seeing people's faces and
you're swiping right and swiping left. And you know, the argument is, like, oh, well, that's so shallow. But, like, what does anyone do when they're single and they go into a bar or a party? They
just see people, and they're, like, "Yes, yes, yes, no, no, no, yes, yes, yes, no, no, yes, no" - it's the same shit! [LAUGHTER] I mean, like, do we, like, romanticize, like, meeting people at a
party or a bar? Like, if you meet someone at a party or a bar, like, what are you doing? Are you seeing their face? You're like, "Oh, looking at that face feels good on my head, I'm going to go talk
to this person and see what they say back, and if they say stuff that I like back, I'll maybe bone 'em, or something," and that's all you're doing with Tinder. It's the same thing. So I think all
this stuff is just, I don't know, I think it's just - I don't really buy it. [LAUGHTER]
ERIC KLINENBERG: You know, one of the really great parts of our project also involved trying to do some international comparisons, right? To not just understand how dating is operating in the U.S.
today, but you know, we went to a lot of different places; Buenos Aires, Katar, Paris and I know that you were especially interested in things we discovered in Japan, in Tokyo. And I wondered if you
want to talk about, you know, what really interested you about the situation with romance in Japan right now.
AZIZ ANSARI: Well, Japan, we were trying to figure out early on where would be interesting to go for the book, for the international element of it. And I love Japan, and I was hoping that there would
be something interesting in Japan, just so we could go to Japan. [LAUGHTER] And thank God, there is a crisis there! A crisis in marriage and dating where, you know, marriage rates are really low. And
a lot of young people are not interested in romance and relationships and sex. There is some really terrifying numbers, a huge percentage of young women and men, there is - I can't remember the exact
number off the top of my head. They said when they're asked about, like, romance and stuff, they said they "despise sexual contact," like, despise! Like, that's an aggressive word, "despise!" That's,
like, you see some breasts, you're, like, "get those titties away from me!" It's like, despised! [LAUGHTER] Now I wish I could - I wish there was, like, a separate sign translator here just so I
could know if there's a different sign for "breasts" and "titties." I'm just very curious! [LAUGHTER] Because breasts, there has to be, right? Because breasts is for men or women, titties is, there's
no man titties, so, different things. What's it like when you get... [LAUGHS]
ERIC KLINENBERG: We were going to offer you, like, an honorary lifetime membership to the American Sociological Association tonight.
AZIZ ANSARI: Eric, how are they going to go about banning you from this next year?
ERIC KLINENBERG: That's it! [LAUGHTER] They'll take me on the oddball tour. You'll take me on the oddball tour next year?
ERIC KLINENBERG: No, no chance, yeah.
AZIZ ANSARI: No.
AZIZ ANSARI: So -
ERIC KLINENBERG: I did want to ask you -
AZIZ ANSARI: - the situation in Japan - oh, sorry.
AZIZ ANSARI: Oh, so Japan, there is this big chunk of the population that has lost interest in sex and dating, and it's a big deal. And the government is spending money to try to get people to mingle
ERIC KLINENBERG: Go ahead, go ahead.
more and become more interested in sex. And there's his whole thing in the culture of the "herbivore men," these men that don't seem to be as interested in pursuing sexual relationships. What we
discovered is, there's a slew of different issues contributing to this cultural economic - and what was most kind of surprising, I also think is, we went in there thinking, "Oh, Japan," like they're
so technology-obsessed, they're going to be on the cutting edge of, you know, apps and everything. That they're the people that, like, invented emojis, I mean, these people were, like, "Whoa, I need
to be able to send someone a tiny picture of a top hat, like, we've got to figure that out." [LAUGHTER] And so I thought, like, that would be a big thing there. But online dating wasn't really taking
off, because culturally, there's things that didn't jive well with online dating for them.
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: There was also a big murder there, in, like, the 90s, from an online dating site that was, like, huge. It just, like -
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: - killed it all.
AZIZ ANSARI: Yeah. Wow. Well, I guess that would be bad -
AZIZ ANSARI: That kind of scared -
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: Not to hijack your story.
AZIZ ANSARI: No no, well, that definitely would probably sour the whole thing.
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: It did. Yeah, especially for that dude. But, yeah. Well, as you were -
AZIZ ANSARI: Yeah. Well, that was a dark turn.
AZIZ ANSARI: Well, aside from that thing, I think there was also just - they were - when we asked them how they were using the sites, even the people that did partake in it felt awkward about using
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: Yeah! [LAUGHTER]
them. Like, they said, like, "Well," you know, a big part of using the sites is pictures. And, they said, well, in their culture, you know, snapping a bunch of photos of yourself, like, you know,
with your bros or whatever is kind of douchey. And so people wouldn't snap photos like that. And so we were, like, "Well, all right," we asked a woman, like, "Well, what would a guy post a photo of,
if he's not posting a photo of himself, like, what would he post a photo of?" And they were, like, "Oh, maybe, like, his rice cooker." And we're, like, "What?" [LAUGHTER] And with rice cooker profile
pics, I think you can see how there would be trouble kind of adapting to that. But, yeah. Should we do some questions from, for everybody? Or from the audience, or...?
ERIC KLINENBERG: Absolutely, you know, given what's been happening in the debate about online dating this week, I did want to ask a little bit about this issue of infidelity to the panel. There is a
concern out there in the spirit of the idea that the new technologies that we have are making it a little bit easier to flirt, a little bit easier to stray, that we're going to see a real crisis of
commitment. And many commentators thought that the Ashley Madison scandal, you know, revealed that. And I wonder if any of you have thoughts on whether all these new technologies that are changing
the way we court when we're single are also affecting the way we relate to each other when we're in committed relationships. Helen?
HELEN FISHER: I do not think that Ashley Madison is going to make more people adulterous. I, and several other scientists, have studied the biology of adultery. And it's a little bit like some people
are predisposed to alcoholism, and they will, you know, I mean, there's a bar on every corner. There's a liquor store everywhere. Not everybody turns into a drunk. In other words, I mean, some people
are more predisposed to certain things than other people are, and we know some of the genetics that are linked with adultery. We know some of the architecture of the brain that enables you to be more
adulterous. And people are going to vary. And no matter how many opportunities there are out there, there's a whole lot of people who aren't going to do it. They're not predisposed to it. They
cognitively made up their mind. And I don't even find it terribly threatening. What to me is remarkable is that there's a site out there like that, that we finally live in a time - and I'm certainly
not advocating it - where sites like this can be put on the market and people can go to it. But I think - weren't you saying - or one of you was saying that even Ashley Madison isn't necessarily - I
mean, that it's largely sex workers on it, was it? Who was that?
ELI FINKEL: That's what Christian just said to -
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: That's me.
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: Yeah, I mean, I don't know anything about Ashley Madison for a fact, but, like, you know, I strongly suspect that that 37 million number that's been in the press of the number of
accounts, that's, like, 95 percent, like, Estonian botnets, and, like, just weird stuff, just spammer accounts, fake people getting real addresses and signing up to test if the address still works,
and all kinds of stuff. Because first of all, if their security is so bad that they got hacked in the first place, it's also probably pretty bad with who they actually let in. And then, I don't know
if any of you guys have actually looked at Ashley Madison; I get the sense that a lot of people who report on Ashley Madison do not. But -
ERIC KLINENBERG: Just raise your hand for a second if you've been on it. [LAUGHTER]
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: I have. I have, I have. Because I was trying to figure out how they get people to pay for things, which is a challenge for [INAUDIBLE] as well. And a lot of it, certainly - and I
know there is an - you guys met someone who uses it to actually have affairs. But a lot of it really, really, really, really, really seems like it's escorts trying to find jobs. I think that's by and
large what's going on. So it's not an infidelity site in the way that you think of, like, they're going to make, like, a drama about it, or something. It's just people trying to find prostitutes.
AZIZ ANSARI: Yeah, what I thought was interesting about the infidelity and technology question is, like, well, is, like, did these technologies, did they make it so, like, you know, someone that
would not have cheated in the past, are they going to cheat now because they have phones, and they have Facebook and stuff like that? And a part of me does believe what you're saying, Helen, it's,
like, well, if you predispose these things, you're going to do it. But I do think, like, to me, like, what I feel like I got from, like, what we did in the book was, like, oh, well, this does make
things more tempting at times, because you have your phone and you have your Facebook. And we had people tell us stories of, like, "Oh, like, I was at work and, you know, this person contacted me by
Facebook and said, like," you know, "We started chatting on Facebook. And at some point it was, like, 'Hey, do you want to get a drink?'" And it's, like, oh, man, like, I don't think that exchange
would have happened before Facebook because they would have had to call this person from work on the phone, and they just wouldn't have done it. That's, like, a way crazier move, whereas I think with
these devices, the intimacy of our phones, the privacy of our phones and whatever accounts we have on our social media, you can kind of, like, flirt with people in a way that you couldn't. And you
can kind of trick yourself into thinking, like, "Oh, this is innocent." And then, you're, like, "Oh, God, I'm fucking this person!" And - [LAUGHTER]
HELEN FISHER: I think people have always been fucking, I really don't think there's been -
AZIZ ANSARI: People have always been fucking, but, but I think there is a difference between, like, I think, like, yes. People have always been fucking. [LAUGHTER] I will concede this. But I think it
HELEN FISHER: Their neighbors. Not just their partner.
is like your -
AZIZ ANSARI: - I think if you use, like, your - I think if you're using, like the alcoholism analogy, right? I think it's different, I think it's different if it's, like, okay, if you're, like, an
alcoholic, all right, I've got to stay away from bars and stuff. If you're, like, hey, I'm not going to cheat, now it's, like, someone's, like, "Hey, have a drink!" "Hey, here's another drink? Why
don't you have a drink? Do it! Do it! Do it! Do it! Do it! Do it!" And you're, like, "I don't want a drink!" And you're, like, "No, just have one sip!" You're, like, "Okay!" It's just a little bit
different, like, you don't know when a bar is going to, like, pop in your face.
ERIC KLINENBERG: Eli, you want to jump in?
ELI FINKEL: Yeah, a few very short things. First of all, this is the first ASA session I've ever had, and you guys are foul-mouthed! [LAUGHTER] I attend psychology all the time, and I've never heard
anything like this! Secondly, I want to say is, I don't hear any incompatibilities between what you're saying and what you're saying, because you're talking about the desire and the craving, and
you're talking about the inhibition on that desire.
ELI FINKEL: So basically, it could easily be the case that nothing's changed at all about the architecture of the human mind and the human brain, and the temptation is comparable, but that the
AZIZ ANSARI: Mm-hmm.
threshold of temptation that you would have to have to act on it is much lower, because the mechanisms are much simpler. And that is what I believe to be the case, right? I think it is true that the
brain hasn't changed, and it is also true that these things make things tempting. The one think I would say about infidelity, so we often get questions about, is it realistic? Is monogamy realistic?
And I'm fairly convinced that that's the wrong question. Monogamy is totally realistic. Some people can do it, and if you want to do it, that's fine. But from my, like this all or nothing marriage
perspective, we should not just take it for granted. If it was, like, monogamy, we're going to do that. And then all this other stuff, no, it's a big ask. We should be aware of the size of the ask
and aware of the resources that we need to - we're probably going to have a whole lot of sex over the course of our life that we'd rather not be having. Okay. [LAUGHTER] You like that? These
sociologists, right?
So all of that is - all of that is totally fine. But then the question is, okay, so you're putting time into making sure that the sex life stays active for 50 years with the same person? Okay, that's
great. But those are time and resources that you're not investing in other sorts of activities. So I would say the question of whether monogamy is realistic is not really the right one. It's, is
monogamy a sensible choice for you in your own marriage? And I think there are a lot of people that would say yes, for sure, that's a major priority, and I'm willing to do what it takes to make that
happen. But treating it as a self-evident default that everybody should just be doing, and then you, you know, really add the real stuff that take work, it feels like a risky choice to me. [APPLAUSE]
I love these guys!
AZIZ ANSARI: But isn't life -
ERIC KLINENBERG: People did raise their hand about the Ashley Madison thing before, so just so you know, [INAUDIBLE].
AZIZ ANSARI: But to me, isn't it like - I think the issue, though, you're saying, though is monogamy right for me? But it's, like, if you ask two people that are in a relationship, "Is monogamy right
for you?" They'd be, like, "Yes," "No," - they, like, both have different answers.
ELI FINKEL: Right.
AZIZ ANSARI: And I think that's, like, oh I mean, well, what do you do then?
ELI FINKEL: Oh, but that's true of everything.
AZIZ ANSARI: I mean, that's, that's what's really hard.
ELI FINKEL: I mean, monogamy's not a special case. I mean, that's true of everything. Like, the two people's priorities have to align.
AZIZ ANSARI: Yeah.
ELI FINKEL: Sexually and otherwise.
HELEN FISHER: I think the great 21st century issue is the degree to which you want intimacy and the degree to which you want autonomy. And each one of us is going to have to make that decision. We've
got a bit cognitive brain, we've got all kinds of drives. But we are in an era when you can really build the kind of relationship that you want. I'm very, very optimistic about the future.
ERIC KLINENBERG: You know, I think what I'd like to do is give us some time to have some conversation with all you guys. So I think we have two microphones. Someone got there in record time! That was
pretty amazing. Oh, brother, that seems like Andy Cherlin on the right side.
AZIZ ANSARI: Whoa!
ERIC KLINENBERG: Andy, you promised you were not going to do that pop quiz that we had discussed. Why don't we start on the left? [LAUGHTER] And then keep going on the left, until our time is out.
Yes?
>> First of all, thank you, and Aziz. It's amazing that you're validating how close sociology is with your presence. So, thank you. [APPLAUSE]
ERIC KLINENBERG: We Just did the psychology thing last week, so...
>> Right. So the reason I was waiting to hop up is because I was very troubled by how monogamy has been assumed throughout this discussion. And I appreciated that at the end, Eli, you brought us back
to thinking more critically about that assumption and how that might be related to things like cheating. And I just want to bring some attention to some of the terminology that's been used with
reference to non-monogamous sexual activity, and how it perpetuates the stigma that may prevent people from having those honest conversations before committing to each other. So -
ERIC KLINENBERG: Could I just ask you to, to do it, but then ask a question, so we can include all the people in the conversation?
>> Yes. So assuming it's infidelity, that it's adultery - that's a very biblical term - comparing it to alcoholism, saying that - assuming that there's an innocence that is lost through anything that
is non-monogamous, so I would just - it's not so much a question, as it is, how do you -
HELEN FISHER: That's not what I said. I was just trying to say that we have predispositions, and the culture offers all kinds of opportunities to -
HELEN FISHER: - express those predispositions, and this was another example.
AZIZ ANSARI: Yes.
AZIZ ANSARI: I also - you seem to have a lot of issues. I have an issue of, you just said -
>> I have a lot of issues.
AZIZ ANSARI: - "This is not so much a question" - it is a Q and A line. So -
>> Okay. [APPLAUSE] Okay, so let me translate this into a question for you. How do you think that people's evident struggles with monogamy and with making lifelong commitments is affecting these lives
and when people are getting married, and how happy they're reporting being in their marriage? And would more open discussions about whether monogamy is, in fact, the right choice, perhaps make this a
better situation for everyone? [APPLAUSE]
ERIC KLINENBERG: Thank you. I mean, Eli seems to be, like, that's pretty much what you were arguing.
ELI FINKEL: Yeah. I mean, bravo. I mean, I think the default assumption that that's just the way it has to be - I mean, I've been reading sociologists and historians, like the rules of marriage are
very variable across culture and context, and there's no self-evident reason to me why that particular rule has to be the default rule for every single couple. And I agree with you, that that's the
conversation that - the world would be a better place if people had that conversation as they were thinking about developing their marriage, and perhaps revisiting over the course of their marriage.
ERIC KLINENBERG: Yeah, actually in the book, we spend a lot of time with Dan Savage, who [APPLAUSE] - Dan Savage fans here tonight - who's talked about this idea of a monogamish relationship, right?
A monogamish, you know, where you have a core foundational relationship in which there's trust and security, but then there's also certain, you know, rules and ideas about when you can do other
things. And, you know, he pushes this idea, however we give him a lot of air time to do it in the book. We also talk to a lot of people in relationships; many of whom have tried those kinds of
arrangements, to give a sociological perspective on what it's like to experiment with that kind of thing. Actually, one of the people we talked to about that very idea is standing in line right now,
Professor Andy Cherlin.
ANDY CHERLIN: Thanks, Eric. [APPLAUSE] Here's my question: Do we have too many choices today in modern romance? We can't go back, and we don't want to go back to the situation where we marry somebody
in the building or in the neighborhood. But has the technology that we have now, and the way we think about modern romance, given us more choices than we can deal well with?
HELEN FISHER: Yes. It's called "cognitive overload," you probably know. [LAUGHTER] And the more chances you - I mean, they certainly know this at Match.com, the more chances they give to, you know,
the more people they give to any person, the more you connect with more people, the more you are likely to end up with any of them. So it's the paradox of choice.
AZIZ ANSARI: Yeah, that was a thing that whenever Eric and I talked to young people when we were working on the book, that the overwhelming choice was a big thing. And we spent a lot of time talking
to Barry Schwartz about that whole issue, and, you know, his whole idea of the paradox of choice relating to relationships. And his whole thing is, you know, basically what Helen said. The more
options you have, the harder it is to make a choice. And when you do, you're less satisfied. And yeah, I think that's what a lot of young people are dealing with now. It's very hard. And there's just
so many options, it's hard to kind of settle down.
ERIC KLINENBERG: And we talked to people who were literally on Tinder on their way to first dates with people they had met on Tinder who, when unsatisfied with the first 10 minutes of the interaction
would go to the bathroom and check Tinder again. So there are a lot of options, and it is very difficult to deal with all those choices. We also actually went to - I mean, this was one of my favorite
parts of the research, too, going to small towns and talking to people about what it was like to live in an environment when there weren't that many options.
AZIZ ANSARI: Yeah, and some people were, you know, they're, like, "I fucked everyone here, and I'm really bored." [LAUGHTER] And they, like, wanted more choice. And some of them, like, you know, in
these smaller towns, there was still more of a stigma about online dating. And some of them, we told them, like, hey, try getting on these sites. And one of the women got on the sites and she
emailed, and she's, like, "Oh my God, there's so many people on these sites!" And we're, like, "Yeah, there are!" And you know, I think the choice thing is a huge thing. You know, when we talked to
Sheena Iyengar at Columbia, she told me about the famous jam study that I'm sure all you guys know about, you know, do I need to recap that? Or is it -
ERIC KLINENBERG: I think they got the jam study down [INAUDIBLE].
AZIZ ANSARI: You know the jam study. And I mean, I heard that, and I was, like, oh, man, like, that's what everyone is dealing with that's single now. There's just too much jam out there. Like, there
- you know, you, like, you're on a date and then you go to the bathroom, you check your phone, there's more jam on there. There's, like, apps that tell you if there's jam nearby that wants to get
eaten at that very moment. [LAUGHTER] It's, like, too much jam!
ERIC KLINENBERG: There it is, it's too much - yeah?
ELI FINKEL: Could I jump in? I actually have a different - hey, Andy, don't walk away! Stay! Bzz! I have a different take. I mean, I totally agree that it's overwhelming to surf profiles online, and
I think that's a lot of what we're talking about here, Tinder, or whatever. But the social psychology of relationships within psychology talks a lot about who we engage in a broad range of motivated,
cognitive processes that are about sustaining the relationship. So we tend to derogate romantic alternatives in a motivated way. So if I tell you, "Boy, Andy, I've been checking out your marriage,
and it looks a little choppy." How attractive do you think the woman who's in this photo?" If you're highly committed to your marriage, you'll say, "No, she's not that good looking." So I think
there's a huge discrepancy between the amount of choice we're getting at this "selection stage," and what happens when we start to bond with someone. And when we start to bond with someone, we
develop - I mean, was it George Bernard Shaw, love is the great exaggeration between one person and everybody else, right? I mean, I think that's what starts to happen, and we engage in this
motivated stuff. So I'm not at all pessimistic about our ability to sustain commitment and happiness in a good relationship over the very long haul, because you're not looking at online dating sites
if you're in a happy marriage.
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: Yeah, I mean, it -
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: It'll be interesting to see, you know, in theory, like, if committed relationships that form in the presence of all this choice, they've had to run the gauntlet of all that choice
ELI FINKEL: Or, you might be, but... [LAUGHTER]
to form in the first place. So, you know, like, the small-town example, like, people - you know, you're the best of the 50 people that are here of my age. Now you know you're winning against 50,000,
or whatever it is, and it could actually contribute to more stability long-term.
ERIC KLINENBERG: All right, let's take another question.
>> So thanks to everyone. First of all, I met my husband on OkCupid. So, thank you!
>> So thank you! [APPLAUSE] Was totally not into him on the first date, we won me over on a text message a couple of weeks later, so that worked out well for us. But what I really wanted to talk about
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: Sweet!
is the boning and brunch phase of adulthood, as Aziz so eloquently put it. So I study religion, and the "boning and brunch phase" for evangelical youth in particular, evangelical Christian youth,
does not exist. Like, I went to an evangelical - I went to an evangelical undergraduate. It was assumed I would be married by the time I left that place at the age of 21. I was - ahem - not, and
therefore, was a reject. I was a social reject. And to engage in sexual activity and sexual aspiration in those contexts also makes you a reject. So I've read your book, and loved it. And I'm really
looking forward to interacting with the scholarship elsewhere on the stage that I had [INAUDIBLE] before. But I haven't heard any intersectionality with cultural religious things, which in my
personal anecdotal and professional experience has a massive effect on how people interact with dating. And I would assume how people interact with online dating, especially sites that have a
perception of sexual activity, such as Tinder. How - is that in anybody's research about how someone's religious upbringing and/or current activity affects how they interact in this way?
ERIC KLINENBERG: Great. Thank you. Christian?
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: I mean, OkCupid skews heavily toward the irreligious side of things, for sure. I can only make a guess about Tinder, it's going to be similar. I mean, there's Christian Mingle for
highly religious Christians, for example. You know, I honestly don't know, because we, for that question, we get in our own world. And there's a self-selection thing where the religious people on
OkCupid are clearly okay with the message of what we're doing, and might not be representative of the people that you went to undergraduate with, for example.
>> Mm-hmm.
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: I just don't know. I'm sorry.
AZIZ ANSARI: It's the dicking around and having brunch phase, not the boning and brunch phase.
>> Let me -
>> Oh, I'm so sorry!
AZIZ ANSARI: The boning thing is -
AZIZ ANSARI: - the beginning of a relationship. It's the boning and having fun phase.
>I'm so sorry!
>> I'm so sorry.
AZIZ ANSARI: And then later in the companion stage, you have to develop an infrastructure to maintain the boning and having fun. [LAUGHTER] But the phase you're referring to is, dicking around and
having brunch.
>> In my upcoming peer review paper, I will make sure you are quoted appropriately.
ERIC KLINENBERG: But let's just, let's take it -
HELEN FISHER: I'd love to just answer, I mean, we've got data on 25,000 people, and we ask what you're looking for in a partner. And year after year, the top five things they want is somebody who
respects them, somebody they can trust and confide in, somebody who spends enough time with them, somebody who makes them laugh and somebody who they find physically attractive. Over 95 percent of
people say that every single year. Only about 30 percent of people say they want somebody of the same religious background.
HELEN FISHER: And in many respects, I think that we're seeing a trend towards less racism and less religious prejudice in America.
>> Okay.
>> Okay, thank you!
ERIC KLINENBERG: I want to stop for the second - one of the fascinating sections in Dataclysm, your book, is the section on race and how it plays into online dating. And I wonder if you'd say
something about that.
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: Yeah, sure. I mean, there's basically a horrible bias against black users on pretty much every dating site. Not just from white people, but from Latinos and Asian people as well.
It's just kind of, like, built into the system in a way that I - I think it's built into the culture, and obviously reflected through the dating sites. There's nothing about the interface that
encourages that, certainly. But yeah, that's a pretty stark line.
ERIC KLINENBERG: It's an amazing section.
CHRISTIAN RUDDER: Yeah. It's - black users generally get, like, three quarters of the attention, the reply rate, the ratings, the things - the histograms I was showing before. The whole thing is just
skewed down. And not just like a core of people with racist beliefs pulling the average down, it's pretty well-distributed across both the recipients of the lower scores and the voters themselves.
ERIC KLINENBERG: Okay. Do we have a question here?
>> So I also read and loved the book. But I also spent a lot of time reading The Modern Romance. I read it because I am lame, and I spend a lot of time doing that. And when I was doing that, I thought
of the question I wanted to ask here today about what is fundamentally modern about what you're all talking about as modern romance? Because if you took your book and read it as a very specific
subset of the Internet's heavy population and you interviewed a lot of young people there, and you went to a lot of countries and I really enjoyed the section on Katar, for example, like, but if you
took your book and you made it about interviews from people - interviews with people from Tumblr and focused specifically on South Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, that would be a completely
different book on modern romance, right? So what is the fundamental factor about modern romance in the 21st century that is globally modern?
AZIZ ANSARI: Huh? [LAUGHTER] Sorry! I mean, it's just modern, because it's just, like, what we're all dealing with in the contemporary, you know, situations, with the, you know, online dating or
texting or all that stuff. And so that's why I just called it Modern Romance. [LAUGHTER]
>> Great.
ERIC KLINENBERG: So, so - I mean, it is true that we really emphasize how -
AZIZ ANSARI: It's definitely, like, American - it's weighted towards Americans, something we didn't do - we only - the international stuff was limited to, you know, Buenos Aires, Katar, Japan, Paris.
But, you know, I think that's a limited amount of time to do a book like this. And you know, we're writing a book for people here, I mean, that was kind of the plan. The book's, I mean, the book's
not Global Modern Romance, for sure, it's not that -
>> Right. Because if it was - let's not talk about global. But if you interviewed a different subset of the Internet, I feel like you'd get a different set of answers and different conclusions.
ERIC KLINENBERG: Yeah, so there's - I think there's no question about that. And we really, you know, tried to look at technology in interactions and keep that as the focus for a lot of the book.
Although we wound up discussing how people's perceptions of what a relationship means has changed over time, as well. But I think even when you read those sections on Katar or on France or on Japan,
what was interesting for us is to see the cultural variations as they got expressed in the way that people used different kinds of media. So no doubt, had we gone to more countries, we would have
found more variations, and had we looked at more groups, we would have found those things as well. And maybe someday there'll be a sequel.
So another question here?
>> So this is actually a question for Eli and Helen. When I was watching your presentation, Eli, I'm wondering if in light of recent research that women were the reason for going back to the labor
force after World War II, that they really initiated it, that couples now are spending more time together than they did in the 60s, the big rise in divorce rates that we saw, and even sort of that
single-earner couples were really only dominant for about a couple of decades in there, should we really say that we have this period of companionship, that this was one of our sort of defining, as
you said, in American history, times when that was really sort of a short fleeting thing, possibly? And why is that Helen, this was just coming off of you talking about sort of that dual earner
couples really very historically. So I just sort of wondered what you think about that.
ELI FINKEL: Do you want to start?
HELEN FISHER: No, you start.
ELI FINKEL: Stephanie or Andy, you want to - I mean, so the reason why - I'm, like, parroting the wisdom of the crowd here - the reason why I think they've talked about a companionate era, it is more
in terms of an era in which people viewed that ideologically, that that was - that the way people started to think about marriage, when it works optimally, is really around the mid-19th century up -
and certainly up through that weirdo period of the '50s, 1950s, that the ideology was about marriage being about love and companionship. And that idea had gone back a long way. It really started to
be implemented around the mid-19th century, and was pretty dominant up until the - really, the countercultural revolution of the '60s. So I agree with you that there was a very narrow period that
they really were able to live up to this ideology of the breadwinner-homemaker, love-based marriage. But in terms of how people idealize, especially the middle class, idealized marriage for a long
time, I think it is fair to say that that was the ideology from around 1850 until the mid-1960s.
HELEN FISHER: Well, I'm an anthropologist, and I take a much broader view. And for millions of years, we lived in these little hunting and gathering groups. And people really - actually, first
marriages were often arranged by parents. But it was a joke. You know, I have a girl and Eli has a boy, and I say, oh, let's marry my girl to your boy, and they do it, it breaks up after three days,
and we get our kid at home again, and all is fine. So they didn't take arranged marriages seriously until we settled down on the farm.
So bottom line, for millions of years, people were most likely marrying because they find the person attractive, because they find their jokes funny, because they are compatible in many ways. It
really is the beginning of the agrarian revolution, when you settled down on the farm, women could no longer go out and do their gathering of vegetables and come home with 60 to 80 percent of the
evening meal. The double-income family became lost. The man's important job was to move the rocks, fell the trees, plow the land, bring the produce off to local markets and come home with the
equivalent of money. And you see around the world in agrarian societies a skewing of the sexual double-standard, the beginning of the beliefs of a woman's place is in the home, the belief that the
man is the main breadwinner. Virginity at marriage - marriage to keep property together, for thousands of years a woman really had to marry a man who was from the right social background, the right
political background, the right economic things, and preferably in the farm next door.
And it really was in the beginning of the industrial revolution when we began to have men and women moving off the farm into factory work. And the beginning of the 19th century, only about 11 percent
of men - and Andrew Cherlin might get that right and I might have it wrong - but the bottom line is, it was really after World War I that women began to be pooled into the job market. They no longer
had to make the candles and the soap and the shoes, et cetera, et cetera. And they were having fewer children, they had washing machines and the beginning of dryers, and this and that. And they began
to be pulled into the job market to be stenographers, and this and that and the next thing. And you see the rise of the modern business world, really after World War I. So there was a real shift back
after World War II. And along with that, we're moving forward to the past. We are shedding 10,000 years of this agrarian tradition and its belief system. That is, by far, in my opinion, the most
powerful movement that is happening right in front of our eyes around the world, today.
>> Thanks.
ERIC KLINENBERG: All right.
>> So you all talked about the paradox of choice, and people being overwhelmed by choice. And there's another sociologist who's done some very unusual, perhaps you can call it participant action
research, to respond to that by creating the modern arranged marriage. And I'm talking about Pepper Schwartz and the show, Married at First Sight. And I wonder if any of you all would like to comment
on that show, and what your thoughts are in terms of what sort of insights it might shed on two thirds of the first - I mean, there were only three - but there were three relationships of people who
got married at an altar the moment they met each other, and two out of three of those marriages lasted. I think the same thing happened in the second season. And I'm just curious what you all think
about modern - this modern arranged marriage?
HELEN FISHER: Well, first of all, I was invited to be that person, and didn't do it. And they gave it to Pepper, which was great. And the reason I didn't choose to do it is, Americans are very, very
sensitive about marriage. But the bottom line is, we've studied love at first sight, and that brain circuitry is like a sleeping cat; it can be wakened in half a second. So you can fall in love with
somebody instantly. And in fact, all of these people were prepared to - they had said they wanted to do this. There was a great deal of screening, I know the whole process, and they were prepared to
fall in love with this person. And of course, they were under tremendous pressure, really, from themselves and their family, to do it. And as I said, this is a brain system that can be instantly, you
know, triggered.
And attachment, by the way, grows very slowly. We've seen this in the brain. But the romantic love can be triggered instantly. And I didn't end up watching the show, but it's interesting that they -
it doesn't surprise me that some of these marriages really worked. A lot of arranged marriages work, particularly in places like India where people are expected to say, well, you know, in America,
you have to go out in bars and wear a skirt as short as a belt. You know, we stay at home and play with our girlfriends, and our parents pick us the perfect person. Then this very long marriage
ceremony, and all kinds of novelty triggers that brain circuitry for romantic love. And the novelty of these people walking down the aisle and taking a look at each other would probably be enough to
drive that dopamine system up in the brain and trigger instant romantic love. So it can happen.
 
AZIZ ANSARI: My parents are Indian, they're happy. They had an arranged marriage. [LAUGHTER] But you know, I never saw that show. But you know, as far as the paradox of choice, you know, one thing
that I realized when we were doing the book is that having all that choice, one thing it did seem to do to young people was, they were very quick to move on. Like, they're, like, "Well, I went out
with this person one time, and they sucked, like, I didn't like them." And then you'd be, like, "Oh, they sucked? What was - what happened? What was the date?" And then if you cut to that date, it's
just, like, you know, it's, like, "I went to school here, I have a brother that lives in Portland, and I have parents and they live in this city, and then I have a sister that lives here, and I just
had a nephew" - and the woman's, like, "I'm from Connecticut, and I sometimes go here, and then I have a brother that lives here," and then they have this kind of boring resume exchange. And they're,
like, "That person sucked!" [LAUGHTER]
What I realized, my kind of takeaway about the whole choice thing is that - our takeaway was just that we have so many options, and we're very horrible at evaluating them. And the way we do it is,
these kind of boring standard dates where we go get dinner, we go get a drink, and then we're quick to write people off. And, you know, our two things that we, you know, took away was that one that
we should do more exciting things on the dates instead of just doing a dinner or, you know, drinks, like the most standard thing, to do something a little bit more interesting. And the thing we
discuss in the book is the monster truck rally theory. And that basically came back, because we were having a conversation with Robb Willer, social scientist, and he told us, like, him and his
friends started doing this thing where they would take women out on dates to monster truck rallies, and a lot of the relationships really worked because the dates were fun, because it was, like, you
were in this weird situation, and you don't know what's going on. And you got a better sense of who this person was and got a vibe for them, and got a sense of what it was like to be with this
person, rather than the resume exchange. And the other thing -
ERIC KLINENBERG: Hey, Robb Willer just ran out of the room crying.
AZIZ ANSARI: Robb, no!
ERIC KLINENBERG: You gave away his secret. I mean, the other thing, you know, which took a while to kind of come to, because we really had to scour the history of sociology to find the concept that
really worked, was, well, we re-covered this tired concept called the "Flo Rida theory of acquired likability through repetition," I think was the [INAUDIBLE].
AZIZ ANSARI: Yeah. And that's basically, you know, since we have so many options, we're quick to move on, and we don't want to give people a chance. But, you know, I think everyone here knows there's
a lot of social science, and shows the more time you spend with people, that's when you learn these deeper things and have the positive illusions, and all these things. And the Flo Rida theory
basically just states that ultimately, we're all like a Flo Rida song. Like, when you first hear it, you're, like, "All right, Flo Rida, I've heard this shit before. This is very similar to what you
put out last summer!" [LAUGHTER] But then you keep hearing it over and over. And you're, like, "All right, Flo Rida, you've done it again! Let's dance!"
ERIC KLINENBERG: Thank you everybody!
AZIZ ANSARI: All right, thank you guys very much!
ERIC KLINENBERG: Thank you! I want to thank the panel. It's been a really fun event! [APPLAUSE] I want to remind everybody, Christian's new book, Dataclysm, is just out in paperback. He's going to be
signing it in the next room. And Aziz is going to stick around and sign books as well. So please join us next door, and I hope you'll invite Aziz back with me. Paula, I hope that worked out, and we
haven't tarnished your reputation too much!