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Is Your Online Dating Photo Too Hot For Your Own Good?

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You've agonized over every single detail in your profile. You've wondered if you should add an inch to your height or shave a year off your age. You've wondered if your tagline is witty enough. You've worried that saying you're looking for a relationship makes you look desperate.

In all that agonizing, you probably never worried about this: your profile picture may be too hot.

Yep, just when you thought you'd worried about everything you could possibly worry about, researchers have come up with yet another thing to stress out about. Ain't science grand?

A team from the University of Connecticut conducted an experiment to determine how people construct judgments using online dating profile pictures. They showed 305 volunteers between the ages of 17 and 36 a photo of a man or a woman. Some of the photos were casual – average lighting, no special makeup or hair treatment. The other photos were enhanced with makeup, hair styling, and strategic lighting.

Participants were then asked a series of questions to determine the profiles' physical attractiveness, similarity (to the participant), trustworthiness, and their desire to date the person featured.

The researchers found that men considered the beautified pictures more attractive, but also considered them less trustworthy than the non-beautified pictures of the exact same woman. Women, on the other hand, found the beautified male profile picture both more attractive and more trustworthy than the non-beautified picture of the same man.

Study co-author, Rory McGloin, explained the findings in a news release: “This finding suggests that even when men suspect that a woman may not look exactly like she does in her profile picture, they are willing to take the risk and pursue a date with her. In our sample, attraction seems to be more important than trust.”

McGloin also suggested that the mistrust of enhanced photos could come from the increasing spread of the catfishing phenomenon. "This finding provides an empirical highlight to the concept of catfishing and the larger phenomena surrounding online dating,” he said, “in which it is both normal and acceptable for individuals' to mislead or deceive their potential suitors."

The study – colorfully called "Too Hot to Trust: Examining the Relationship Between Attractiveness, Trustworthiness, and Desire to Date in Online Dating" – will be presented at the 65th Annual International Communication Association Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, 21-25 May 2015.

Can a profile picture really be “too hot to trust?” And if so, what does that mean for apps like Tinder that rely so heavily on photos?