- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2004

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Chemistry? Forget it. Psychology and statistics best determine whether two people will have a happy marriage. At least so says an online dating service that has patented its matchmaking formula.

EHarmony.com Inc. this month received U.S. Patent No. 6,735,568, which describes a “method and system for identifying people who are likely to have a successful relationship.”

Not surprisingly, critics and competitors trash EHarmony’s process as overly scientific — some dismissing the so-called “love patent” as gimmicky.

But the patent also has sparked a debate more prickly than whether annual incomes should be included in online dating profiles: Can the elusive art of matchmaking be reduced to equations and databases?

Researchers at Pasadena, Calif.-based EHarmony, founded by clinical psychologist Neil Clark Warren, maintain that an individual’s psychological profile is a better barometer of marital success than purely demographic data.

Sites such as TrueBeginnings.com allow users to screen partners through increasingly complex questionnaires, standing apart from the many online dating services that match people according to simple data such as age, religion and education level.

EHarmony users answer more than 430 questions, ranging from “Do you smoke?” to “How much does the word ‘dominant’ describe you on a list of one through seven?” and “How often do you feel depressed?”

Researchers compare a person’s score with a “marital satisfaction index” based on the responses of 1,347 couples. Nearly one in five of those couples met on EHarmony, which targets people pursuing a “long-term relationship that leads to marriage.”

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