The Grapevine

Online Dating Trends: Women Have Strong Preferences, Men Become Selective With Age

Australian researchers explored similarities and differences in the preferences of men and women when they participated in online dating. Preferences in education levels were a specific focus in the study which analyzed members on the dating website RSVP.

The study titled "Do men and women know what they want? Sex differences in educational preference" was published in the journal Psychological Science on June 22.

Researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) examined more than 41,000 Australians during a four-month period in 2016 to identify gender-based preferences in online dating behavior. 

"We found that women are more specific than men in their preference up until the age of 40, then males become pickier than females from 40 years old onwards," said lead researcher Dr. Stephen Whyte, a behavioral economist from QUT.

During their years of peak fertility (18 to 30 years), both men and women prioritized education level to a strong degree. But it became less and less important as people aged, Dr. Whyte explained.

"However, for all age groups in our sample, women had a clearly higher minimum standard for the education level they wanted in their mate," he said. During the peak fertility years, women sought out men with an equal or higher level of education as them. They were also more likely to be upfront about it at all ages.

The psychological reasoning is influenced by how education is seen as an indicator of quality across many cultures. In other words, education is "often associated with social status and intelligence — both attributes that are highly sought after," explained Whyte.

In contrast, men became more selective than women past the age of 40 as their specificity was higher during their years of peak career-earning potential.

The new findings are an expansion of a study published by the research team last year which indicated that older women and younger men were more likely to contact potential partners who were less educated than themselves.

For many people, dating apps and matchmaking websites have not only changed the way they pursue potential partners but also the kind of expectations they have. While some believe that technology has eased the dating process and increased our chances of finding connections, others believe that the paradox of choice is actually doing the opposite.

Since the data examined in the study encompassed a range of ages between 18 and 80, Dr. Whyte stated that the findings showcased how human mating behavior and preferences change across the reproductive life cycle.

"Even with such rapid changes and growth in new dating technologies, behavioral economics and evolutionary psychology can still provide vital insight into understanding how human beings make large-scale decisions like choosing a partner," he said.