Take Your Pick For millions of years, humans have been selecting mates using the wealth of information gleaned in face-to-face interactions — not just appearance, but characteristics such as tone of voice, body language, and scent, as well as immediate feedback to their own communications. Or are words the key to someone’s heart (or at least their inbox)?
Does mate selection differ when those looking are presented with an almost overwhelming number of potential partners, but limited to a few photos, statistics, and an introductory paragraph about each one? In one survey of Australian online daters, 85% said they would not contact someone without a posted photo, so physical appearance is indeed important (Fiore et al., 2008).
Some theorize that online daters may be wearing rose colored glasses when looking at potential dates — filling in the information gaps with positive qualities in a potential partner (Gibbs et al., 2006).
In one study, knowing more information about a potential date generally led to liking them less, possibly because it called out inconsistencies and reduced opportunities to fill in the blanks with positive inferences.
What I Like About Me Research has also shown that although the old adage “opposites attract” seems to ring true, it may actually be a false note — we are more likely to seek out a mate similar to ourselves and then grow even more like each other as the relationship continues.
This idea is supported by online dating research (Fiore & Donath, 2005; Hitsch, et al., 2009).
Research has also revealed gender differences in both preference and messaging behavior on online dating sites.
In a nine-month study of participants on a dating site in 20, Andrew Fiore, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues examined stated preferences and actual messaging behavior (Fiore et al., 2010).
More popular users are contacted more and, therefore, are less likely to respond to any one user.
Taking this into account, dating sites may want to steer users toward slightly less popular potential dates who are more likely to respond, “a trade-off many users may willingly accept” (Fiore et al., 2010).
A 2008 study in which participants rated actual online profiles confirmed this, but also explored the criteria that made certain photos attractive (Fiore et al., 2008).
Men were considered more attractive when they looked genuine, extraverted, and feminine, but not overly warm or kind.