For modern romantics, the “swipe right” feature on dating apps has become a colloquial shorthand for attraction—and the pursuit of love itself. Now, it’s under fire.

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The possibility that the perfect match is just one swipe away can be irresistible.

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Elias Aboujaoude, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Stanford, says dating apps give users a “rush” that comes from receiving a like or a match. Though the exact mechanisms at play are unclear, he speculates that a dopamine-like reward pathway may be involved.

“We know that dopamine is involved in many, many addictive processes, and there's some data to suggest that it's involved in our addiction to the screen,” he says. 

Part of the problem is that much remains unknown about the world of online dating. Not only are the companies’ algorithms proprietary and essentially a black box of matchmaking, but there’s also a dearth of research about their effects on users. “This is something that remains severely understudied,” Aboujaoude says. 

Amie Gordon, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, agrees, saying predicting compatibility is “a big known mystery” among relationship researchers. “We don't know why certain people end up together.”

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