Is romance a science, or is finding your true love just good luck?

Do you believe in a love at first sight? (Cue the Beatles — Yes, I’m certain that it happens all the time). But does it? Stephen Whyte, a Behavioural Economist at Queensland University of Technology, is conducting an online social experiment to find out exactly how single people find love.

Is love all about looks?

You see him/her across the room and there’s a connection. But according to Whyte, men and women are both looking for different things.

“The evolution psychology literature says men base their decision on aesthetics and indicators of genetic fitness,” Whyte says.

It’s what we’ve always known, girls — the men are all about attraction. But our motives are equally calculated.

“Women look for signs of status, resources and intelligence because traditionally women have been resource-dependent when they have children,” Whyte says.

What does the study hope to find?

“We’re interested in how people search for love,” Whyte says. “We will ask participants to give us details about themselves and what characteristics they want in a perfect partner. Then applicants will log onto a website and will have 24-hours to view as many potential love matches as they like, but they can only make one selection.”

No playing the field, then.

“We’re looking for deviations,” Whyte says, “from what they thought was their perfect match to the person they actually selected.

“Seven days later, participants will then be shown candidates who selected them. But they won’t be able to look as many times as they want.”

The research is expanding on the original work of Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd Shapley. They won the 2012 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for their work, which looked at how people and companies find and select one another in everything from marriage to employment.

The results

Whyte says the study will highlight “what we will accept in a relationship and what we compromise on. It comes back to the basics of human nature — how emotions and other factors affect our search for that one love.”

Other factors in picking a partner

Looking alike

Do good couples look alike? Psychologist R. Chris Fraley of the University of Illinois digitally morphed photos of two faces — the subject and a stranger. In many cases, the subjects picked the photos where their own face was included, thus being attracted to their own likeness!

Opposites attract

Maria da Graça Bicalho, a Brazilian professor concluded that people were more attracted to those who have very different immunity genes from their own. The differences make for successful reproduction. But that doesn’t mean the relationship will necessarily last!

Do we seek partners like our parents?

Numerous studies indicate that familiarity is a reason people might choose someone like their mum or dad for a partner, or they making amends for an unhappy childhood. A study from the University of Iowa found high-achieving men were likely to marry women with education levels and careers that mirror those of their mums.

If you are a single Queensland tertiary student over 18 years of age, registrations are open now for Stephen Whyte’s social experiment at