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Matchmaking Carries Its Own Rewards

Matchmaking brings intrinsic happiness to the matchmaker, finds research by Duke, Harvard

With Valentine's Day around the corner, now might be the perfect time to fix up two single friends. And if you do, it might pay off for you as well -- in happiness.According to new research at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and the Harvard School of Business, matchmaking brings intrinsic happiness to the matchmaker, which could explain why so many people try to do it. "At some point, most people have made matches between others -- like grabbing two strangers by the arm at a party and introducing them to each other -- or can think of a friend notorious for their efforts to make introductions," says Lalin Anik, a postdoctoral fellow at Fuqua. She notes that the rising popularity of social networking websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn has made matchmaking effortless and central to social life.Anik, along with Michael Norton of Harvard, recently conducted an in-depth investigation of modern-day matchmaking, examining what motivates us to match others -- even when it often goes wrong. In four studies, to be presented this week at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual conference in Austin, Texas, they used surveys, computer games and in-lab social interactions to show when and why making matches between others boosts happiness. Anik and Norton found that for the best psychological benefit, matchmakers should be sure to pair two people who are compatible and who wouldn't have met otherwise. "There are many reasons why people make matches," Anik says. "Matchmakers may be proud that they have the social acumen to recognize a social link that others hadn’t."  In addition, Anik says people may enjoy matchmaking because they view it as an act of kindness. Of course, ego plays a role, too."People enjoy being the key person who made that critical match between newlyweds or between business partners who started a successful venture," she says. Future work on this topic will explore the costs to people's emotions and reputations when matchmaking goes wrong: Think of setting up two acquaintances on the worst date of their lives."The study of matchmaking is especially timely now as social structures, as well as definitions of social ties and friendships, are changing," Anik says. "Our exploration of matchmaking can help people to navigate their increasingly complex social webs."                                                               _      _      _      _Anik and Norton will present this research in Symposium S-A1, "Let's Get Connected: New and Untapped Routes to Social Connection," on Friday, Feb. 14, at the SPSP annual meeting. More than 3,500 scientists are expected to attend the conference in Austin from Feb. 13-15 ( promotes scientific research that explores how people think, behave, feel and interact. The society is the largest organization of social and personality psychologists in the world (