Courtship has become casual, with texts, hookups and hangouts.For Millennials in particular, who view a "date" as too much of a commitment — both in time and emotional connection — the vagaries of dating can be especially confounding. The process by which single men and women meet and agree to marry can readily be seen as a market phenomenon in which both material and psychological benefits are exchanged in the process of forming and formalizing ongoing relationships.

Clinical psychologist Sonya Rhodes, also of New York, says a date today "transcends this sort of 'hanging out culture.' ""A date shows some special interest in a special person.

A date takes it to a new level," says Rhodes, author of The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match, to be published in April.

Talk shows such as Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue, as well as news shows like 20/20 (Pfifferling 1989), seem to have an endless fascination with these services.

Even the Wall Street Journal (Freedman 1989) devoted front page coverage to a renowned matchmaker.

In some cases, researchers have used these services as a convenient vehicle to investigate basic questions about mate selection (Curran 1972, 1973a, 1973b, Curran and Lippold 1975, Woll and Cozby 1987, and Woll and Young 1989), whereas other researchers have sought a better understanding of this phenomenon in its own right (Adelman 1987, Bolig, Stein, and Mc Kenry 1984, Cameron, Oskamp and Williams 1977, Godwin 1973, Jedlicka 1981, and Woll 1986).

This paper presents two examples of research involving formal social intermediaries, one from each of these two categories.

But that kind of gesture also could be misconstrued.

"I do it out of respect and just to be polite — not intentionally to send a signal that I don't want to consider this a date," she says.

Bernard and Adelman's work falls into the second category and furthers understanding of these services themselves.

Although this research deals specifically with the clients of a matchmaking service, the findings have wider-implications for general theories regarding the role of self-image in product or service utilization.

Indeed, because consumer researchers combine a theoretical interest in exchange per se with a solid understanding of the commercial marketplace, they are particularly well suited to perform studies involving formal mate-selection services.