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Abertay Uni Research Highlights Online Dating Habits

Graham Turner


Online dating
The study shows that online dating may lead people to find ‘new’ potential partners more attractive than ‘familiar’ options.

New research from Abertay Uni shows that single people find familiar faces less attractive compared to ‘new’ options, which we consider novel.

A study led by Dr Christopher Watkins from Abertay’s Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences, found that the phenomenon unique to dating apps – that we inherently think we have the option to pick and choose from many alternatives – means that familiarity in faces is less attractive.

The research, published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour, had participants think about accepting or rejecting dating profiles and food items presented in a series of picture slideshows to create an ‘assessment mindset’.

Immediately after this, they were asked to rate how attractive they found faces they had been shown earlier, then the same for a set of new faces.

The results showed single women found familiar faces less attractive when they were shown them the second time, and single men found new faces more attractive than the familiar ones they had been presented with earlier.

In a follow-up task, participants were asked to think about ‘matching’ with the dating profiles they had just viewed.

The results showed that those who imagined matching even all the profiles they were shown, still went on to find new faces more attractive than familiar ones during subsequent testing. Essentially meaning that, even if they deemed the previous, familiar faces as potentially suitable partners, these would be superceded by what is percieved as being ‘new’.


Dr Watkins said: “Our findings suggest that the ability to choose, in and of itself, changes attractiveness evaluations of familiar faces and how we evaluate them in relation to new faces.

“This may have an ironic effect as online dating platforms enable us to evaluate lots of potential romantic options quickly but may, as a consequence, orient us away from current romantic prospects toward new ones.”

Jordan Sculley, first author and PhD student said “Technology has allowed us to expand our networks, but my research supports the theory that this choice may not always lead to positive user experiences with dating apps.

“My research is particularly relevant to profile browsing on these apps, where people’s attractiveness will be evaluated in relation to others and normally in a quick or superficial manner – compared to when we meet those same people face to face offline.”

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Graham Turner

Sub Editor

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