New research from Abertay University has found treating online dating like online shopping may lead people to find new potential partners more attractive than familiar options.
A study led by Dr Christopher Watkins in Abertay’s Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences, found that familiar people become less attractive if we think we have the option to pick and choose from many alternatives – as is often the case when using dating apps.
The research, published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour, saw study participants induced into an ‘assessment mindset’ by asking participants to think about accepting or rejecting dating profiles and food items presented in a series of picture slideshows.
Immediately after this, they rated the attractiveness of both faces they had viewed prior to the slideshows as well as new faces.
The results showed single women found familiar faces less attractive second time round, and single men found new faces more attractive than those they had previously encountered.
In a follow-up task, participants were asked to think about ‘matching’ with the dating profiles they had just viewed.
The results showed that those who imagined having 100% success at matching still went on to find new faces more attractive than familiar ones during subsequent testing.
Dr Watkins said: “Our findings suggest that the ability to choose, in and of itself, changes attractiveness evaluations of familiar faces and how we evaluate them in relation to new faces.
“This may have an ironic effect as online dating platforms enable us to evaluate lots of potential romantic options quickly but may, as a consequence, orient us away from current romantic prospects toward new ones.”
Jordan Sculley, first author and PhD student said “Technology has allowed us to expand our networks, but my research supports the theory that this choice may not always lead to positive user experiences with dating apps.
“My research is particularly relevant to profile browsing on these apps, where people’s attractiveness will be evaluated in relation to others and normally in a quick or superficial manner - compared to when we meet those same people face to face offline.”
Dr Watkins’ research examines social judgements of faces. He has published many papers on the typical judgements we make of others based on facial features, and how individual and circumstantial factors lead to differences in these judgements. He is interested the implications of trait judgements of faces for various social and personal relationships.
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