"If you're gonna make scientific claims, act like a scientist. Or don't make scientific claims," UCLA social psychology professor Benjamin Karney says, leaning forward in his chair in his office at UCLA's Franz Hall, his voice rising an octave. "Don't pretend!"
"It just so happens that they tread on your turf! And it pisses you off," Karney's longtime collaborator and colleague, clinical psychology professor Thomas Bradbury responds, laughing. "I get that!"
On Feb. 17, Karney and four co-authors published "Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science," a secondary study that looks at established relationship science to critique dating websites that claim to have a scientific basis for matching singles, including eHarmony, Chemistry (whose methods are "almost crazy," according to Bradbury) and PerfectMatch and GenePartner (whose methods are "basically adorable," according to Karney).
But Bradbury didn't contribute to Karney's latest project, because, oddly enough, Bradbury works for Santa Monica-based eHarmony as a consultant on the company's Scientific Advisory Panel, a source of some tension and debate between the friends.
Bradbury, naturally, tells Karney he doesn't agree with his contention that eHarmony's pseudoscience is harming people.
"You do know that the American public has gotten hoodwinked since there was a product to be sold," Bradbury says. "The risks associated with the badness of these instruments and these devices in these sites have no long-term cost; it's just money out of someone's pocket. People are getting duped, but it's not a life-or-death situation."
UP NEXT: Why the FTC should "subject the claims of online dating sites to the same degree of scrutiny as is applied to other advertised claims that are relevant to public well-being."