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Harvard Business School, Fuqua School of Business Researchers Examine Modern Matchmaking

Researchers at Harvard Business School (HBS) and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business recently set out to examine what motivates people to act as matchmakers, discovering that they do it because it brings intrinsic happiness.

HBS Associate Professor Michael Norton and Lalin Anik, a postdoctoral fellow at Fuqua, will present the findings of four studies tomorrow at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual conference in Austin, Texas. As part of their studies, Norton and Anik used surveys, computer games and lab-based social interactions to show when and why making matches increases happiness.

“Our results suggest that people might be leaving happiness on the table,” Norton said as part of a press release on the HBS website. “By making a simple introduction, romantic or platonic, matchmakers not only improve the lives of the new couple, but reap happiness benefits themselves.”

Most people can think of a friend known for his or her efforts to make introductions – or have made matches themselves by introducing two strangers at a party, Anik pointed out. And today, social networking sites make the process even easier, Norton added.

“Try using ‘You Should Totally Meet on Facebook’ for friends or the ‘Suggest Connections’ feature on LinkedIn for colleagues,” he explained. “Most of us know two co-workers or two friends that are unacquainted and might get together and do the other kind of clicking. Matchmaking gives them a new business associate or friend.”

The greatest happiness results when matchmakers pair two people who are compatible and who wouldn’t have met otherwise, Norton and Anik found. They plan to continue their work by exploring the downside of matchmaking, specifically the harm it can cause people’s emotions and reputations when the matches don’t work out.

Learn more about Norton and Anik’s research into matchmaking.