If you're an avid swiper on Tinder, you may want to slow your roll: New research published in Communication Studies suggests choosing potential dates based on physical attraction alone might be hindering your ability to find a real love connection.
Researchers from the University of Kansas wanted to get a better understanding of how physical attractiveness impacts online dating and the subsequent IRL interaction. For this study, they took 65 men and 65 women, all heterosexual, and broke them up into three groups. The experimental group pre-rated a selection of 10 photos of members of the opposite sex based on physical attractiveness. They then each spent 10 minutes having a conversation with one of the people featured in the photos, and afterward, rated the photos again. A second group rated 10 photos and met someone whom they'd never seen before, and a third group interacted with a member of the opposite sex without looking at any photos.
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After the conversations, all of the participants were asked to gauge their romantic interest, sexual interest, and social attractiveness in the person they spoke with, in addition to answering questions that measured their perception of their partner's intelligence, career prospects, humor and fun factor.
One of the things researchers discovered was that the attractiveness rating increased after the subjects met their partner—especially if their looks were initially judged to be average or less than average. "Perceptions of physical attractiveness do change," the study's authors write. "A positive interpersonal experience, particularly liking someone or finding him or her funny, can inspire increased perceptions of attractiveness."
The study also suggests pre-rating potential partners—i.e., swiping on Tinder—puts a damper on the real-life meet-up, decreasing a person's enjoyment of the conversation. Researchers suggest that might be the case because a person is too distracted by all those other possibilities out there to really assess a potential partner's good qualities—which, ultimately, could up their attractiveness factor. "During face-to-face interactions," the study states, "when potential partners are met without the presence of alternative partners, conversational responsiveness and potential as a romantic partner become more salient and subsequently influence future judgments of physical attractiveness."
"An attractive photo does not always lead to an enjoyable date."
The authors used General Evaluability Theory to help explain why online daters who primarily choose potential partners because of their good looks sometimes end up disappointed when they go out with them. Because of the overwhelming number of options online, people are forced to make choices quickly, and usually do so based on easily attainable information, such as physical attractiveness. As a result, other important factors, such as likeability or humor, aren't given much consideration. And, as the authors point out, "an attractive photo does not always lead to an enjoyable date."
That's why focusing on physical attractiveness when considering people to date is a bad strategy, Jeffrey Hall, a communications professor and lead author on the study, said in a statement. "It misses a lot of what makes for a good conversation, and the characteristics of a good conversational partner change how attractive they are in your eyes."
Hall, an expert on flirting styles, suggested that daters ask themselves, "Would I really like to spend time with this person? Rather than go through hundreds of photos, digest a few at a time. Slow down. Be more careful about considering who you're going to date. And if that person's personality is wonderful, your evaluation of their physical attractiveness will follow."