Psychological reasons for online dating
So, here are my 10 favourite psychological insights on internet dating.Contrary to the stereotype, there’s little evidence that internet dating is the last resort of social misfits or weirdos. Internet daters are more likely to be sociable, have high self-esteem and be low in dating anxiety (Kim et al., 2009; Valkenburg, 2007).
For some people it works, and for others it’s a nightmare.But, over the years, we’ve heard conflicting stories about how successful it is.Believe the internet dating companies and it’s all sweetness and light, with wedding bells ringing in the distance; believe the media scare stories and it’s all lying, cheating, perverted social misfits. Fortunately, now there’s enough research to suggest what’s really going on.Most people want to meet up eventually so they know big lies are going to be caught. Even without Photoshop to iron out the wrinkles, camera angles and lighting can easily change perceived attractiveness.People instinctively understand this when choosing their profile photo so Toma and Hancock (2010) took photographs of internet daters, then judges compared these to the real profile photos.On average people are looking for someone about the same as themselves.Indeed there are now many dating sites aimed at narrower demographics such as sports fans, Jewish people or those with particular medical conditions.Although 94% deny their internet dating profiles contain any fibs (Gibbs et al., 2006), psychologists are a suspicious lot. (2008) measured the heights and weights of 80 internet daters, as well as checking their driving licences for their real age.When this data was compared with their profiles, it showed that nine out of ten had lied on at least one of the attributes measured, but the lies were only small ones.Although less physically attractive people were the most likely to choose a self-enhancing photo, overall the differences were tiny.The lab photos were only a little less attractive than those chosen for online dating profiles (about 5% for women and 4% for men). Clues to which types of profile photos work come from one online dating site which has analysed 7,000 photographs in its database (oktrends, 2010): (Remember, these are all associations so we can’t be sure about causality.) Even amongst a diverse population of online daters, people still prefer someone who is similar to themselves.