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The least desirable man and woman in each city had a score of 0 and the most desirable man and woman had a score of 1, with everyone else's score in between.
Another common tactic men and women employed was to send desirable prospects longer messages, but it didn't seem to result in a higher response rate, she said.
The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, shed new light on the patterns and priorities of men and women when they peruse dating sites.
Researchers have long tried to pin down the behaviors that drive people to choose particular romantic partners.
"What you don't observe is all the people who asked out someone who said 'no'—which is really the information you need if you want to understand desirability hierarchies," said lead author Elizabeth Bruch, a computational sociologist at the University of Michigan.
Online dating offers a solution, because you can see who first contacts whom, and whether the recipient responds to that initial message.