Back in the early days of online dating, e-profiles — where users answered extensive questions about their lives, histories and preferences — were the norm. But in the modern era of Tinder, e-dating is a more visual affair. Tinder users select their potential dates using profile pictures alone. A new study took a closer look at just what men and women are looking for before they swipe.
According to the study, both men and women preferred potential partners that are well-groomed, even though men considered these women to be less trustworthy. For the study, researchers from the University of Connecticut asked 153 men and 152 women — all heterosexual and between the ages of 17 and 32 — to look at look at profile photos of people of the opposite sex and rank them based on trustworthiness, attractiveness and dateability. What they didn't know was that in the mix of photos, there were two of the same person, one enhanced and one unenhanced. The unenhanced photos showed the person in natural lighting with no makeup or hair styling while the enhanced photos showed the same person with makeup, styled hair and flattering lighting.
Both the men and women ranked the people in the enhanced photos as significantly more attractive than the same person in the unenhanced photo. But the big difference was that though the men ranked these women as the ones they would like to date, they also noted that they found them less trustworthy — as if all of that makeup and styling meant that they had something to hide.
The study's authors were taken back by the honesty of the men. "They say I do find her more attractive and I do find her less trustworthy and I am OK with it," says Rory McGloin, assistant professor in residence in the department of Communication at the University of Connecticut and author of the study.
Women, on the other hand, rated attractiveness the same as trustworthiness. "If he is attractive and I would like to date him, he must be trustworthy," McGloin explains about the women's responses.
These judgments actually play out in real-life dating as well, where studies have shown that men judge women who wear too much makeup as having something to hide.
So, online daters, the question remains: is it better to choose a profile picture in which your hair and makeup are perfect to attract more dates, even if it means those dates may find you less honest? Or should you choose a more realistic picture that may mean fewer dates, but more trusting partners?
I guess it all depends on what you are looking for.
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