Have online match sites and dating apps left you perpetually unlucky in love? There may be a scientific explanation. New research from the University of Kansas has found that it's hard to gauge if you find someone attractive from a photograph alone. Instead, you must actually meet them in person, as personality plays a very important role in our overall physical attraction to someone.

For this reason, the team proposes that online dating and dating apps such as Tinder are not very effective in providing real matches, as they are based solely on a person’s photographs. The research was published online in Communication Studies.

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“With Tinder and user-directed online dating services, people try to manage the vast number of profiles by picking the most attractive people,” said study researcher Jeffrey Hall, Futurity reported. “Several researchers have made the critique that that is not the best way to find a partner. We wanted to look at how physical attractiveness ratings change and whether evaluating a person’s photo in a lineup helps or hurts the interaction you’re going to have.”

For the study, the team had heterosexual undergraduates look at photos of 10 individuals from the opposite sex and rate them on a scale of one to 10 for physical attraction. They were then asked to have a 10-minute conversation with one of the 10 people that they just rated. Following the conversation, they were asked to rate the 10 people once again. The researchers noted that their was a significant difference in the attractiveness rating only for the person with whom they had just interacted.

According to the study, two main characteristics played the biggest role in whether or not the participants' rating changed after the conversation: social attractiveness, and sense of humor. Social attractiveness is related to your “likeability” while sense of humor is related to both your ability to make others laugh and your receptiveness to their humor.

“If you’re rated more highly in those two things, your appearance rating goes up more,” explained Hall. “If you are friendly and have a great sense of humor, you stand to gain a lot by getting your foot in the door. Physical attractiveness is not fixed; it’s malleable.”

In addition to being based solely on physical attraction, dating sites and applications can often fail because they may overwhelm users with the sheer volume of possible dates. Having too many choices can lead to something called decision fatigue, which in turn can much us unhappy whether we make the “right” decision or not. Having too many choices over anything can exhaust you, and also make you more likely to avoid making an important decision, Fast Company reported.

“As the number of options increases, the costs, in time and effort, of gathering the information needed to make a good choice also increase,” Barry Schwartz, a researcher who has studied the effect that choices have on individuals, told Fast Company. “The level of certainty people have about their choice decreases. And the anticipation that they will regret their choice increases.”


Hall JA, Compton BL. Pre- and Postinteraction Physical Attractiveness Ratings and Experience-Based Impressions. Communications Studies. 2017

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