January 2011



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Online Dating: 10 Psychological Insights

September 16, 2010

Psychological research reveals who uses internet dating and why, which strategies work, and uncovers the truth about lying online.
Somewhere between one-third and three-quarters of single people with internet access have used it to try and meet someone new. 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. The truth is somewhere in between, but where?

Fortunately, now there’s enough research to suggest what’s really going on. So, here are my 10 favourite psychological insights on internet dating.

1. Internet daters are not losers

Contrary to the stereotype, there’s little evidence that internet dating is the last resort of social misfits or weirdos.

In fact, quite the reverse. Internet daters are more likely to be sociable, have high self-esteem and be low in dating anxiety (Kim et al., 2009; Valkenburg, 2007). These studies found no evidence that people use online dating because they can’t hack it face-to-face. It’s just one more way to meet new people.

People’s motivations to start online dating are many and various, typically involving a triggering event like a break-up, but overall Barraket and Henry-Waring (2008) have found that people’s motivations are less individual and more social. People aren’t using online dating because they are shy but because they have moved to a new city, are working long hours or don’t have time to meet anyone new.

2. Online daters do lie (but only a little)

Although 94% deny their internet dating profiles contain any fibs (Gibbs et al., 2006), psychologists are a suspicious lot. Toma et al. (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. The most frequent offender was weight, with daters either adding or shaving off an average of 5%. Daters were more truthful about their age (1.5% deviation) and height (1.1% deviation). As expected women tended to shave off the pounds, while men gave themselves a boost in height.

These lies make little difference in the real world because the vast majority of fibbing would have been difficult to detect in person. Most people want to meet up eventually so they know big lies are going to be caught.

3. Photo fallacies

The saying ‘the camera never lies’ is bunk. 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.

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). Once again, internet daters weren’t lying much…

4. Your best look

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):

  • *Women had higher response-rates when they made eye-contact with the camera and looked flirty. Conversely the least successful pictures for women were looking away with a flirty face.
  • *Men’s best look was away from the camera, not smiling. But guys should avoid a flirty face, which was associated with a drastic reduction in messages.

They then looked at which photos were associated with the longest online conversations. These were where it showed the dater:

  • *Doing something interesting
  • *With an animal
  • *In an interesting location (travel photo)

The photos associated with shorter than average conversations were (in increasing order of conversational deterrent):

  • *In bed (associated with slightly shorter conversations)
  • *Taken outdoors
  • *Having fun with friends
  • *And the most likely to deter interactions: drinking! (associated with the shortest conversations)

(Remember, these are all associations so we can’t be sure about causality.)

Read in Full:  http://www.spring.org.uk/2010/09/online-dating-10-psychological-insights.php

Proof Positive: Can Other People Make Us Happy?

By Daniel Tomasulo, Ph.D.

When we feel love and kindness toward others it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.
– Dalai Lama

Are we happy when we get what we want?

It depends.

This year the keynote speaker at the American Psychological Association convention was Dr. Dan Gilbert of Harvard. His book Stumbling on Happiness is an international bestseller and his talk was about affective forecasting: Do we know what will make us happy?

He pointed out that we are hardwired from birth to be happy when we get salt, fat, sweet things and sex. Beyond that our culture provides us cues about what will make us happy. That was when he showed us a photo of his mother.

He explained that his mother was the cultural agent informing him of what will make him happy: Marry a nice girl, find a job you like, and have some children.

Read in Full:  http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/09/13/proof-positive-can-other-people-make-us-happy/

Women: Hope To Marry Young? Head To Alaska, Steer Clear Of Alabama

Article Date: 17 Sep 2010 – 5:00 PDT

When men outnumber women, females marry younger and the age gap between spouses grows, a University of Michigan study shows.

“Women don’t stay on the market long because men are more motivated to commit,” said Daniel Kruger, research assistant professor in the U-M School of Public Health. “They want to secure the relationship before some other guy gets her.”

The study looked at the ratio of men to women in the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S with 2000 U.S Census data to determine how it impacted marital ages.

Male and female behavior differ because each gender has a somewhat different reproductive agenda, and the ratio of men to women impacts that behavior. Women want commitment from men, Kruger says, because having a reliable, stable provider greatly benefits their children. This means men may have to build up their social status and resources to be considered marriageable.

However, men can have more offspring with multiple sexual partners and thus are not as eager to settle down, said Kruger, who studies human behavior and motivation from an evolutionary perspective.

Read in Full:  http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/201543.php

Touching the space between us

Slate has an excellent article on the psychology of collaborations that highlights the often underplayed role of the creative relationship and bemoans are obsession with the illusory ‘lone genius’.

The author is Joshua Wolf Shenk who you may recognise from one of the best psychology articles I’ve yet read – an Atlantic article on happiness and ageing – which we covered last year on Mind Hacks.

This new piece is part of a ongoing series that aims to pick up on our cultural neglect of the dynamic interaction between partners.

But a burgeoning field has shown that, from the very first days of life, relationships shape our experience, our character, even our biology. This research, which has flowered in the last ten years, took root in the 1970s. One reason, explains the psychologist and philosopher Alison Gopnik, was the advent of the simple video camera. It allowed researchers to easily capture and analyze the exchanges between babies and their caregivers. In video of 4-month-olds with their mothers, for example, the two mimic each other’s facial expressions and amplify them. So, a baby’s grin elicits a mother’s smile, which leads the baby to a full-on expression of joy—round mouth, big eyes. This in turn affects the mother, and so on in a continuous exchange that entwines the pair.

Read in Full:  http://mindhacks.com/2010/09/15/touching-the-space-between-us/

Freedom to Love

When did “I love you,” degenerate into “Meet my needs!”

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