By Sara Schneemann
PsychologyCo made a Valentine’s Day questionnaire to make this ‘special’ celebration a bit less desperate for most of you. The general idea was the following: whether you’re searching for your soulmate or your new best friend, just fill in the survey and get matched! While this is a nice idea, it makes you wonder about the psychological background of the survey and the matching process. How reliable are the outcomes? I interviewed Ana Sutherland, a PsychologyCo boardmember, about what went on behind the scenes and the essentials for a successful relationship.
What inspired you to make this Valentine’s survey?
“In my high school in Canada we had a similar survey for Valentine’s Day as well, but it mostly consisted of silly questions. Since I’m very interested in personality research and love doing personality tests myself, I wanted to expand on the potential that the very superficial high school quiz had.”
I was surprised by the sincerity of the questions: no superficial ones about looks, but instead profound ones about destiny and human nature. How did you come up with these questions? Do they have a psychological background?
“We wanted to do it differently from last year, when we tried to imitate an existing test with sixteen different personality groups. However, this method requires more questions than we could ask. This year we decided to include more questions about core values, because we think those are really important to share in a relationship. A group of Harvard mathematicians came up with three key questions that determine if a couple has a long-term potential and ‘Do you like horror movies?’ was one of them. The others are: ‘Have you ever travelled around another country alone?’ and ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?’ So yeah, we did some research on popular psychology. Sometimes we use significant correlations that we found in articles. Compared to last year, the questions are more serious. Besides, we think it’s nice that some of the questions are not too explicit, too obvious. It is a subtler manner of personality testing. We aimed to make the questions less prone to social desirability than the standard ‘Are you an introvert or an extrovert?’ kind of questions.”
How did you match people?
“In contrast to last year we programmed everything. We ranked the questions on a scale of 1-5 based on how important we considered them, which wasn’t really scientific. That was actually very difficult, since we all had somewhat different views on which questions were of more importance, and which should have been weighed more heavily.”
Do you think that sharing too many similarities will result in a boring relationship? At least discussions might be more interesting when people have (slightly) different views.
“The test mainly aims at finding what people have in common and matching them based on that. Your general outlook on life, optimism and compassion are factors that we think are important to have in common. We did consider that for certain traits ‘opposites attract’; an alpha often pairs well with a beta, and an extrovert often matches well with an introvert.”
Since we both love psychology, I can’t stop myself from asking you this: Do you think personality can be shaped or changed throughout life?
“I think personality is somewhat set due to genetic predispositions, and many twin studies have shown the role genes play in determining personality. Of course, environment and experience shape the way people express and develop certain traits. Melina (another board member) says: ‘I think that everybody is capable of changing their habits, but most dominant personality traits will remain’”
Based on this survey it seems as if having the same core values is the key to a successful relationship. Do you think it is possible for two very open-minded people with very different core values to have a successful relationship?
“We [the PsychologyCo Board – Ed.] agree that it is indeed possible, if two people are open and willing to understand each other’s point of view. Being respectful and open-minded is key, otherwise a relationship might have problems further down the road.”
Fruzsina Barany adds: “I would say that core values are incredibly important in the sense that if they don’t surface in the beginning then they will later on when you have to make more difficult decisions, like marriage, kids, employment opportunities or setbacks.”
Any expectations for Valentine’s party?
“I am expecting many hook-ups! No, just kidding. But it would be nice if some people actually got together or at least became friends due to the results of the questionnaire!”
So, how was your Valentine’s Day? Did not find your soulmate at the party? You aren’t the only one. Think about all those other lonely souls and cherish your platonic relationships. Maybe you’re not that lonely after all! Alternatively, keep on getting ice pitched every Thursday in the bar.