A Psychologist's Guide to Online Dating

Posted on September 27, 2016

Photo: flickr

Tinder offers a one-sentence tagline and a selection of five photos, including the all-important first photo, or "calling card", as the writer Amanda Lewis put it. She points out a few other tips in her "Tinder glossary": "Most players reflexively swipe left [reject] at the sight of a toddler or baby", but posing with your adorable Lab can be an "effective misdirection". And then there's the iron law that "95 percent of players who choose a calling card that does not include a clear shot of their face are unattractive".

It's not the first time in history that a face plays such an important role in one's fate. Physiognomy, or the bogus theory that we can predict a person’s character from their features, was once a widespread doctrine.

There has been some evidence that strangers can accurately predict qualities like extraversion, emotional stability, and self-esteem based on photos. For instance, hockey players with wider faces, considered a sign of aggression, spend more time in the penalty box.

It takes longer, more meaningful interactions, however, to pinpoint other traits, like if the prospective mate is open, agreeable, or neurotic. It seems people might only be able to determine the extremes of a personality from a photo, rather than its nuances. (One study found that the owner of an "honest" face is not any more likely to be trustworthy, for example.)

It's true that attractive people generally are treated more nicely by others, and they might have better-adjusted personalities as a result. But Royzman said looks can deceive. In relationships, personality eventually overtakes attractiveness - or at the very least, we tend to find people more attractive when we think they have good personalities. So perhaps you should make that Tinder tagline all about how you volunteer at an animal shelter every weekend.

Swiping through endless Tinder photos in search of the most alluring possible one might not be fruitful, either. Most people end up with someone who's about as good-looking as they are.

Christina Bloom launched FaceMate in 2011, drawing on her opinion that people in happy relationships tend to resemble each other. The site matches the photos of its users based on their faces' bone structure using face-scanning techniques and a computer algorithm. The service is free, for now, and currently has 100,000 users.

"It all starts with the face," she said. "People say, 'From the first time I met him, I knew.' There's a sense of recognition. That's what they're seeing, is their own image. That's what we call chemistry."

Psychologists tend to disagree with that theory. In another experimental mock speed-dating event, subjects who thought they were similar to one another were more likely to be attracted to each other, but that wasn't the case for those who were actually similar to one another.

"People are not romantically attracted to people who look like them," Zebrowitz said. "That has to do with the disadvantages of mating with your brother, for example."

Indeed, Lisa DeBruine, a psychologist at the University of Glasgow in the U.K., has found that people find self-resembling, opposite-sex faces to be trustworthy, but not sexy, and they can even be repulsive for a short-term relationship.

We may have more options for potential mates than ever before, but unfortunately people have trouble determining what they really want in their lovers. One 2008 study by Eli Finkel and Paul Eastwick at Northwestern University found, for example, that though men and women tend to say they prioritize different things in their mates (men are more likely to emphasize looks and women money), there’s no difference in the types of mates the two sexes actually choose in a real-life setting - which the authors gauged using a speed-dating exercise.

What's more, there was little association between the traits participants said they wanted in a partner on paper and what they actually liked about the mates at the speed dating event. In other words, you may flaunt your Rolex in your Tinder photo, but that might not stop your date from heading home with a scruffy artist once you’re at the bar.

This is in part because the way people pair with one another on dating sites is different from the way they will then later evaluate the relationship, according to Finkel and Eastwick. People browse online profiles in what’s known as "joint evaluation mode," comparing multiple suitors against one another on the basis of attractiveness, income, and other factors. But they make relationship decisions in what's called "separate evaluation mode," judging just that person and thinking, "Is this person right for me?" If you pick out the prospect with the most striking jawline, you may overlook the one who will willingly spend hours watching Cake Boss with you, sans judgement.

To read the full article, click on the link below.


Category(s):Relationships & Marriage

Source material from The Atlantic


Mental Health News