When online dating, many will enhance their profile photos to make themselves appear more attractive and score more dates. A recent study explored just how helpful photo enhancement was in the world of virtual love and found these benefits largely depend on whether you are man or woman.
For their study, which will be presented at the 65th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in San Juan, P.R., a team of researchers from the University of Connecticut had 305 heterosexual participants between the ages of 17 to 36 separate and sit in gender-specific rooms. The participants were then asked to view randomly assigned profile photos of a member of the opposite sex.
As reported in the press release, the photos of individuals came in pairs, so participants judging saw one of four distinct images of the same male and female: One image had been enhanced with either make-up, lighting, or hair treatment to appear more attractive and the other was relatively normal without any make-up, special lighting, or particular hair treatment. The participants were then asked to rate each image they viewed on their level of physical attraction, similarity to the participant, trustworthiness, and ultimately their desire to date them.
Results showed that the female participants found the enhanced photos of the men to be both more attractive and more trustworthy than the non-enhanced images of the same men. However, while men found that enhancing the images of women increased their attractiveness, it also had the opposite effect of decreasing their perceived trustworthiness. Regardless of this contradiction, the majority of men involved in the study still showed a preference for dating the images of more attractive women, even though they might not necessarily trust them.
The study brings up the dilemma of cat-fishing, a term which refers to when an individual uses a fake online profile in an effort to mislead potential dates. The anonymity of online dating has made cat-fishing an ever-present situation for modern-day singles, and the results suggest that as a society we have come to almost expect that people online are not what they portray to be.
“This finding provides an empirical highlight to the concept of cat-fishing and the larger phenomena surrounding online dating, in which it is both normal and acceptable for individuals to mislead or deceive their potential suitors," explained Rory McGloin, one of the researchers involved in the project, in the press release.
The fact that men in the study had a higher desire to date enhanced images despite not trusting them suggests that men already suspect that a woman probably does not look exactly like she does in her profile photo. Still, they are willing to take this risk and take the woman on a date, researchers noted. Although trust is an important factor when it comes to building a relationship, for the sample group of men who participated in the study, physical attraction was more important.
Source: McGLoin R, Denes A, Kamisher O. Too Hot to Trust: Examining the Relationship Between Attractiveness, Trustworthiness, and Desire to Date in Online Dating. To be presented at the 65th Annual International Communication Association Conference, San Juan, P.R. 2015.