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A 2008 study in which participants rated actual online profiles confirmed this, but also explored the criteria that made certain photos attractive (Fiore et al., 2008).Men were considered more attractive when they looked genuine, extraverted, and feminine, but not overly warm or kind.A forthcoming study conducted by Günter Hitsch, Ali Hortaçsu (both at University of Chicago), and Dan Ariely (Duke University) confirmed existing evolutional theory, finding that in a sample of 22,000 online daters women weigh income more than physical attributes, including facial attractiveness, height and body mass index, when deciding who to contact (Hitsch et al., 2009).Interestingly, these differences persist even when reproduction is no longer a factor.While this has led to dates, relationships and marriages around the globe, it has also been a boon for enterprising researchers — providing huge datasets chronicling real world behavior.Psychological scientists have been studying attraction, love, and romantic relationships for decades, but online matching and speed dating have given researchers unprecedented opportunity to explore who’s attracted to whom and why.In light of these findings, the researchers presented some advice to potential online daters: “Choose wisely and, if possible, be female” (Fiore et al., 2010).This study also leads to some intriguing design ideas for online dating sites’ automatic matching systems, which present users with sets of likely partners.

One research team put this question to the test on the website HOTor

In a study that looked at online daters across the lifespan, even older men “sought physical attractiveness and offered status-related information more than women” and women continued to be the more selective gender (Sears-Roberts Alterovitz & Mendelsohn, 2009).

In a nine-month study of participants on a dating site in 20, Andrew Fiore, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues examined stated preferences and actual messaging behavior (Fiore et al., 2010).

(Although feminine male photos were seen as attractive, whole male profiles were rated more attractive when they seemed more masculine, a perplexing result worthy of more study.) Women were deemed more attractive when they looked feminine, high in self-esteem, and not selfish.

This study also found that the narrative self-descriptive sections of the profiles played a key role in attractiveness, but the fixed choice sections of the profiles (where users have to pick from a specific set of descriptors, i.e., “Have children now,” “Want children someday,” “Don’t want children,” smoker/non-smoker, etc.) only minimally affected attractiveness ratings.

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