science of online dating

The Science of Online Dating

In today’s society, young adults rely heavily on technology in all aspects of life including finding a significant other. 

Dating services such as Zoosk, eHarmony, and Tinder allow people to look for love while conveying only a small amount of personal information. 

Therefore, the details that are revealed are crucial aspects that determine whether or not two people are compatible. 

Information such as username, hobbies, and profile picture are the basis on which an individual is judged. Recently, scientists have begun to study what exactly makes the ideal profile that will attract the most people.

It is common to think that the individual’s picture is the most important feature of a profile; however, recent studies have disproved this theory. 

In a New York Times article titled “The Science of Online Dating,” published on Feb. 16, two friends set out to discover what makes a profile truly appealing. 

Sameer Chaudhry, an internist at the University of North Texas who simply could not seem to find love, proposed the idea to his friend Khalid Khan, a professor of women’s health and clinical epidemiology at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry. The two sifted through thousands of profiles, taking notes and studying the content of each.

They found that one of the most important features of a profile is the chosen username. This is the first item viewers will see and has a tremendous effect on their overall opinion. 

The researchers discovered that men are most influenced by usernames incorporating physical traits, (beautiful, cutie, etc.), while women preferred usernames that pointed to intellectualism and personality (scholar, cultured, etc.). In addition, they revealed that both sexes had an affinity for usernames that described a playful nature (goodtimes) and avert their attention away from those that display negativity (ughh).

A junior biology major who wanted to remain anonymous  not to reveal her dating preference said that she tries to make her username as appealing as she possibly can.

“I usually go for a username that reveals some sort of personality trait I have,” she said. “For example, I’ll start with something like HikingBeautyxoxo, since hiking is one of my main hobbies. This will give them the impression that I am a fun loving, thrill-seeking girl. Once we start talking, the person will see the rest of my personality. But to start, I just give them a small idea of what I am about.” 

According to Chaudhry and Khan’s research, the aforementioned username is strategically thought-out and will indeed be effective, as it displays one of the user’s physical traits. 

Moreover, the researchers concluded that usernames that begin with letters from the first half of the alphabet are more likely to find a compatible match than those from the second half. Khan explains that humans have a tendency to be attracted to things that occur earliest; therefore, letters A-L are the most recognizable. 

Dr. Natalie Ciarocco, associate professor of psychology, said that the study was reliable, as much of the methods used are viable forms of research. 

“They pooled a bunch of relevant information that they could apply to the online-dating scene. Their findings fall into place with social psychology research,” said Ciarocco. “People looking for love online have to sort through a bunch of information about each person, so they take cognitive shortcuts. We do this anytime we have an abundance of information to sort through. Preferring people with a user name in the first half of the alphabet is one example of the types of shortcuts we take,” she said.

Senior business major Anthony Branco said that online dating is one of the most popular methods of finding love because of the sense of security and confidence that the computer gives an individual. Rather than immediately meeting face to face, they can first interact on the internet and get comfortable with one another.

“The ability to potentially be a different person online is alluring,” said Branco. “Some people may not be ready to communicate in real life, so the online interaction allows them to still search for love while not quite seeing each other in person just yet,” Branco said. 

Chaudhry and Khan noted that the most successful profiles were those that featured a divide of 70 percent personal information and 30 percent compatibility information. Those that were too arrogant or confident when describing their personality traits experienced the lowest levels of compatibility, whereas the profiles that displayed humility and honesty experienced great results.

As for one’s profile picture, the researchers concluded that a person with a nice smile surrounded by friends was the most successful. The researchers suggest that users should be placed in the center of the photograph with others encompassing the sides.

An anonymous freshman business student who didn’t want to reveal that he enjoys online dating said that he often tries to alter his pictures to impress other users.“I usually put my photos in a photoshop app to edit them, just to remove small blemishes and enhance the lighting,” he said. “But this study is convincing, and I will try to use these tactics for my next picture.”

Ciarocco noted that since the information available on a dating profile is so limited, the quality of the content is important. Without a real-life interaction, viewers make judgements solely on the profile.

“All you have to go on in online dating is the profile information. Your don’t have any non-verbal behavior to go on or any personal interaction, so you are forced to focus strictly on the profile,” she said. 

“That means every piece of information listed is valuable. Then you have the added aspect of being about to look through hundreds of profiles. Your profile needs to stand out, and as I said before, we are likely to be cognitive misers and allow some mental shortcut to take place in deciding if we like others’ profiles,” said Ciarocco.

The main goal of the study, to find Dr. Chaudhry a lover, was realized. He spent his Valentine’s Day in Rome, Italy, with a woman he met online. Thus, the study was proven to be effective and the tips provided enhance one’s profile.