The Best Body Language For Online Dating, Backed By Science

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Body language and online dating

Picture two online dating profiles. In one, your prospective date is hunched over with contracted shoulders and crossed arms. In the other, their spine is straight and they’re holding their arms up in a “V” shape.

Assuming you’re basing your choice only on the picture (because, well, like it or not, that’s often how it works), which date are you more likely to pick? Science can predict not only your answer, but why you're inclined to choose it.

Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, author, and professor at Harvard Business School, explored the subject of body language in online dating in a 2016 talk in New York City. She says she was drawn to her husband, who she saw for the first time on Facebook, because he was in what she has deemed a “power pose” - an expansive posture that can make you feel more powerful and confident.

Cuddy is hardly alone. Many are drawn to their partners because of body language, and research suggests that our attraction is stronger to people who strike expansive - rather than contracted - postures. It happens even if we aren’t consciously aware of it.

A 2016 study put the phenomenon to the test. The experiment was divided into two parts: speed dating and online dating. In the speed dating portion, researchers filmed 144 speed dates. They then reviewed the footage, looking at whether participants sat still or gestured a lot, and asked each person to indicate how attractive they found their partner.

The study found that people who took up more space with their bodies were rated more attractive. On top of that, those who displayed open body language were rated higher on dominance, possibly indicating that expansive posture is attractive because it conveys power.

In the second experiment, the researchers examined whether open body language directly causes you to seem more attractive. They created profiles on a dating app for three men and three women. One set of profiles featured their subjects in contractive positions; the other showed their subjects in expansive positions.

The results fell neatly in line with the first half of the study. Subjects in expansive postures were selected more often than those in contractive postures. The effect was slightly more prominent in women selecting men. The study concluded that open body language does indeed cause people, especially men, to be perceived as more attractive.

The lessons for online daters are clear. First, don’t assume body language doesn’t matter until you’re face to face. Even in photos, your body is sending messages to potential dates. Second, replace photos in which you’re slouching or closed off with images in which you’re standing tall and taking up space.