“This is one of the biggest problems that humans face and one of the first times in human history there was some innovation,” says Michael Norton, a psychologist at Harvard Business School.Finding the right partner, whether for life or for Saturday night, is so important to so many people that you would think we might have cracked it by now.By assembling a vast array of date-worthy people in a searchable format, online dating seems like it should be a huge improvement on the old-fashioned methods of meeting people at work, through friends, or in bars and nightclubs.

Apps such as Grindr and Tinder allow people to skim quickly through profiles based on some very simple criteria. The alternative, embraced by more traditional matchmaking sites such as and Ok Cupid, is to use the power of data to find the perfect partner.

We badly want to believe that after giving a website a list of our preferences, hobbies and answers to questions such as, “Do you prefer the people in your life to be simple or complex?

”, a clever algorithm will produce a pleasing result.

This was the third problem: people tended to have high expectations before the dates they had arranged online but felt disenchanted afterwards.

To adapt a Woody Allen joke: not only are the dates terrible but there are so few of them.

Given that online dating tends to be tedious, time-consuming and fruitless, it is no surprise that we seem hungry for a better way.Most approaches to online dating have tried to exploit one of the two obvious advantages of computers: speed and data-processing power. ) That is, of course, fine for a one-night stand but less promising for a more committed relationship.A simple survey that Norton conducted with two other behavioural scientists, Jeana Frost and Dan Ariely, revealed that people were unhappy with their online dating experience in three obvious ways.The first was that the “online” bit of the dating was about as much fun as booking a dentist’s appointment.The second was that it took for ever — the typical survey respondent spent 12 hours a week browsing through profiles and sending and receiving messages, yielding less than two hours of offline interaction.Now, 106 minutes are plenty for certain kinds of offline interaction but, however people were spending their time together, they didn’t seem satisfied.