We take the academic papers and summarize them in plain English so you can improve your idating site, and help your users make better connections.
Title: Assessing Attractiveness in Online Dating Profiles
Authors: Andrew T. Fiore, Lindsay S. Taylor, G. A. Mendelsohn and Marti Hearst, University of California, Berkeley
Full Report: http://people.ischool.berkeley.edu/~hearst/papers/chi2008.pdf
Summary, In Plain English:
Summarized by Dr George Blair-West, MD & Psychiatrist, Relationship Therapist
The primary finding of this study is that photos are the single greatest way in which we determine another’s attractiveness. The paper, nevertheless, does raise some important issues (see recommendations).
They briefly review the research into Walther’s (1992) Theory of Social Information Processing. It is about the notion of “hyperpersonal” interaction – it suggests that people communicating in lean (offline) media, might form even higher levels of liking for one another than they would face-to-face.
They quote Norton, Frost, and Ariely (2007) who ‘found that even though online dating users believe they will like people better when they have more information about them, in fact more information leads to less liking. But when we’re presented with a highly compatible person, more information allows us to be more certain that we will like him or her. Thus, an online dating profile with a lot of information might attract fewer — but potentially more compatible — suitors.’
In an earlier study by the lead author (2005), they found that men received more responses to their online profile, when they were older, more educated, and had higher levels of self-reported attractiveness. Women received more messages when they did not describe themselves as “heavy,” had higher levels of self-reported attractiveness, and posted a photo on their profiles.
Their research question for this study was, ‘What qualities of online dating profiles and their components predict attractiveness?’
In this study they rated the photo, the free text and fixed choice answers in the profile. They developed their own software to present 200 different profiles to 41 women and 23 men between the ages of 19 and 25. They rated the components of the test profiles, along with the whole profiles, against eight dimensions: Attractive; Genuine, trustworthy; Masculine/Feminine; Warm; Kind; Self-esteem; Extraverted and Self-centered. With the breakdown of data sets they ended up with 29,000 raw responses to analyse.
High masculinity predicted overall attractiveness in men, and extraversion predicted attractiveness in women.
Men’s whole profiles were seen as significantly more attractive when their photos were rated as being more genuine and trustworthy and, somewhat surprisingly, relatively less warm and kind. For women’s profiles, the whole profiles were seen as more attractive when the women in the photos were seen as having higher self-esteem and being relatively more feminine.
Although fixed-choice responses were not so important in assessing attractiveness, they make the point: ‘we believe it is possible that online daters use this section to rule out those profiles with “deal breakers”.’
Dr Blair-West: Based on this research, you should:
- Make sure your customers understand the importance of an accurate, quality photo. For women it is important to look feminine (for men this is unclear).
- Help your customers to understand that not only is their written profile critical, certain characteristics, if they have them, should be highlighted. You could give your customers advice like: ‘For men, high masculinity predicted overall attractiveness. So, if you are well endowed with blokiness, mention it. If you are a bit on the effeminate side, go quiet on this, but do not pretend to be macho. Equally, for women, extraversion is seen as attractive, but if you are painfully shy, you either say nothing either way, or say something like “I am a good listener,” or, “I prefer listening to talking,” or, “I prefer to support, rather than compete with, more outgoing people.”
- Explain to customers that the fixed-choice section is important, not so much for working out what you want, but what you don’t want. It is where they can identify the ‘deal breaker’ issues.
Further Recommendation by Dr Blair-West
There is no benefit in knowing what increases hits on your profile if you are not well endowed in this particular regard, indeed, it can be demoralising. The most important issue this paper raises for me is the guideline for customers: don’t pretend. The short term win of a response to your profile is not worth the increase in the likely, ultimate, rejection experience.
Rejection is one of the primary killers of online dating, there is a risk that this kind of research, if not presented carefully to the public, may encourage people to overstate characteristics they may not even have. Photos need to be up to date and accurate. Photoshopped images from a decade earlier may result in the date walking right on by in the coffee shop with our hopeful running after them saying … ‘Aah … Hello, yes it really is me you’re looking for.’ You need to educate customers to seeing ‘pretending to being something you are not’ as the ultimate false economy.