Online dating behaviors studied

by Dating Goddess on August 7, 2010

A recent article shared conclusions from researchers at UC Berkeley’s School of Information. The paper “Self-presentation and Deception in Online Dating” found pretty much what we’ve known all along. For example:

  • Men are more likely to make the first move, sending that first “wink” or email. They’re quicker to respond to women’s queries.
  • Women responded to only 16 percent of messages, and they take longer to respond.
  • Both genders seek partners similar to themselves in age, education, height, religion, politics and views about smoking.
  • Women are less open-minded, at least regarding ethnicity. They’re twice as likely as men to specify that they’re seeking someone of their own ethnicity.
  • Both sexes tell white lies. Men say they are a half-inch taller. Women shave five pounds off their weight.
  • Women’s profiles related more to home, sex and emotions; men’s profiles talked about work.
  • A photograph is the dominant predictor of whether men will connect. Women value narratives in profiles in addition to pictures.

Some of this information was garnered by content analysis of people’s actual online behavior. They tracked people’s actions (who initiated contact, how long it took to respond, words in profiles). But they must have interviewed daters to get the info on what was attractive in a profile, their true height and how much they really weighed.

In another study reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by a team from Harvard Business School, Boston University and MIT, the conclusion was that less is more in how much is shared in a profile. Their reasoning: when a lot of information is exchanged, more differences are exposed and there is less attraction.

Now this conclusion I found interesting. I am not drawn to men who say nearly nothing in their profiles. I want to know what’s important to them.It is true that some of them disclose things that prompt an immediate delete but I think that is good that I don’t waste time on people who share something I find repelling. I share a lot in my profile, even though I know most men don’t read much of a woman’s profile. I want those who do to know as much about me as can be shared in a written essay.

What do you think of these two studies? Anything here but common sense?
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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Brenda August 8, 2010 at 6:01 am

I try to do the same as DG does with putting more information in my essay so men can decide whether my values line up with theirs. I have had the experience where I want to email a man back and their profile and their email to me literally says NOTHING about them other than the most generic information and I find that I am stumped about what to say.

Or better yet, I have had men write to me and say things like “It’s obvious that you are very fortunate genetically” or “Your parents have really raised you well – you write beautifully” (what???) and then they end it with “The man who ends up with you will be very lucky” etc. And I am never sure how to respond to that other than to thank them for their compliments. I am turned off by it though because it doesn’t really sound like they are interested in getting to know me.

And the men who use the phrase “I work hard and play hard” – skip them!

Katie August 8, 2010 at 7:04 am

It’s indisputable that the air of mystery is an attractant. The “less is more” conclusion makes complete sense — to gain initial contact with another. Gradual discovery quickens the pulse, occupies the mind, and is in general fun. The question that was NOT explored, however, is whether a less-detailed profile leads to a greater number of actual connections, or possibly relationships of any duration. Putting more info out there at the start will certainly weed out a good number who find a sentence or a characteristic off-putting enough to decline contact. Does it save time in the long run? Some researcher needs to design the next study…

Nicole Johnson August 8, 2010 at 10:14 am

Hi Goddess; great post !
Thank you for posting the Berkley paper !!

I agree with Fiore when he states that “more information leads to less liking”. Online profiles are a Catch 22; you don’t want to reveal too much, or too little. I agree with Katie’s comment that mystery is attractive, yet a lack of information can be viewed as shady, or just plain lazy.

When I assist my client’s with the writing of online profiles, we input the most important details about them and their preference, but we leave out the idiosyncratic details. No one wants to hear about the fact that you don’t like broccoli :-)

Kate August 8, 2010 at 6:25 pm

When I first became single just over a year ago, I put my profile up on a couple of sites. I spent a lot of time on the detail in my profile and included a good pic. I definitely had interest. Just recently put my profile up on another site (no pic and limited information) to see what happens. So far it’s been great. There is certainly a level of excitement and mystery and getting to know the person. Everyone who’s does it knows it’s impossible to fully capture oneself in a profile. By including less rather than more, it leaves a space for discovery. In turn, I am more open to those without photos now than when I started a year ago. I don’t like NO information, but sometimes those long essays are a bore. So why am I still looking? Well, after ending a looong marriage I fell heavily for someone (who was not into me, but I kept hoping…) and mooned about them for way too long. Perhaps I let some other good ones go, who WERE interested in me…so think I am finally ready to get serious.

Mark August 10, 2010 at 7:58 am

I never liked putting a photo up. It bothered me to think of people I know possibly seeing my pic on an online dating site. I was always fine with exchanging pics after a woman and I had emailed a couple of times.

And I agree that there is a balance between not enough info and too much. The real problem I see is that people say the same things over and over again. “I’m not into playing games.” “I want to be friends first.” “I am just as comfortable staying home and cuddling in front of the TV as I am in going out in my little black dress.” “I like to go to museums and wineries.” “My friends say I’m funny.” “I like to go out and have a good time and laugh a lot.” Really? You enjoy laughing? At long last my search is over! I’ve found another who enjoys laughing!

When I read things like that above, what I’m really reading in nothing. It says nothing to me other than the woman lacks imagination. What I really want to see is some spark of intelligence in the profile. I don’t care if she likes museums. I do care if she tells me what she likes about museums — what’s her favorite exhibit she’s seen? Is there an art movement she especially likes, and why?

What a good profile does is convey a sense of the person.

I also think women respond to fewer messages because women get more messages. Men pursue. Women choose.

pillowchats August 10, 2010 at 5:11 pm

This is interesting. Thanks for sharing. While most of these are obvious, I think the one that I disagree with is that guys and girls look for people with similar characteristics like age. I think men between the age of 35-55 tend to be ok with women between the ages of 23-45.

Mark August 10, 2010 at 5:47 pm

I can speak for men I think. I think we are comfortable with younger women, though in my case I dated a woman eight years younger and that seemed about as young as I wanted to date. I can’t imagine dating a woman 15 years younger than me and ever expecting it to be long-term.

And I’m ok dating a woman my age or a year or two older. More than a few years older, I don’t know. It may be my age because I’m 50′ish, and dating a woman more than a few years older than me is dating a woman pretty close to 60. That’s a bit hard for my male ego at this point.

I’m most comfortable with a woman close to my age. That’s what I like.

Lisa August 11, 2010 at 9:13 am

I too tried, once, to post a “less is more” profile, and did not have much luck. I think the more specific details you have, the more the search feature can find you. I have not done match.com for over a year, but I really like the profile I have created. Men often comment on how nice it is, yet, over all the years I have done match on and off, no luck so far. I think it is partly a huge dose of good luck that allows one to meet someone on a dating site.

It is always a mystery to me why someone would lie about their age or weight, especially when they plan to meet someone in person. What is the point of not being true to who you are? Which leads me to this question…… As a teenager, I had surgery for scoliosis. It is a little obvious in my posture and stance and limits me from wearing any form fitting clothes. Depsite being well-educated, creative, well-traveled, humorous, up beat, personable, etc. it has always been a huge area of insecurity for me, especially when trying to meet someone on a dating site.

I have often wondered the best way to handle it. It’s not like I have a huge deformity or anything, but men get so caught up in appearances, I think if I did not mention it beforehand, it would be a deception? But then I think, “why should I have to mention it at all?” If men can’t handle it, that is their problem. If I am to meet someone I am really interested in, I find a way to mention it somehow before we meet just so I do not have to deal with the “straying eye” syndrome.

I don’t think on-line dating is the best option for someone like myself in that regard, but as a person who more or less works from home and is an introvert by nature, is it just an option to try out.
Lisa

Julie August 12, 2010 at 9:36 am

Hi Lisa, I read your post and was reminded of how some men would tell me something if they didnt know if they should put in the profile, as soon as we got on the phone… so you could always try it that way. Say hello, chat a minute then say ‘i like to get this out right away since we haven’t met face to face yet’… but put it out there confidently, sounds like you’re just giving information… you know all that kinda stuff.

Julie August 12, 2010 at 9:44 am

I had to fight away the pain of rejection online at first when i knew some of it was due to age bias. Finally i realized there are enough men out around my age who will give me a chance. I do the same thing.. I dont want anyone more than 5 years older… my girlfriend is 4 years older.. she’s 56 and poo-poo’s anyone older than 62… and 62 is hard for her to stomach. I say ‘stomach’ because that’s how she acts towards them in front of me when they write to her. She prefers 52 – 60 at the max. And she flips out over how tall they are. She’ll say ‘oh he’s 5’7″ forget it’… she’s not that tall… her reactions astonish me. But it gives me insight to how a lot of people ‘are’…

Mark August 12, 2010 at 11:21 am

I think it’s very easy to reject someone you haven’t met in person based on things like height and age. I guess if dating someone 5’7″ is going to bother a woman and she never gets over it, she’s better off rejecting the guy, but she really is limiting herself.

If I meet a woman in person, I don’t really know how old she is. I can tell she’s middle-aged, but that could be anything from around 40 to her 50′s. It’s astonishing sometimes how old someone can look at 42 and how young someone can look at 52.

And you really do have to get over the pain of rejection with the online dating stuff. You’re just a melon in the supermarket, and you’re tossed back in the bin for the most superficial of reasons sometimes. It’s not you, it’s the shopper. And sometimes you’re the one rejecting the melons.

Karen August 13, 2010 at 3:42 am

I’ve found that as I get older myself, I’m less likely to accept a way older man as a lover.

For example, I recently dated a very nice man (met offline in real life!)–I was 48 and he was….61 !(). When I found out how old he was, I eventually had to break it off. I struggled for a while with the decision because I felt guilty somehow, but you just can’t get past the facts of biology. I just didn’t want to get involved with a man who’d be so near death in 10 years when I retire myself. Men typically don’t live as long as women, making the age difference even more of a problem in that respect. But I want a man who can travel with me and enjoy life at that time! I realize that anyone can get sick/die earlier than expected, but assuming that a 13 year age difference won’t make a difference in that area is just not logical.

I always used to “go for” older guys, but I’ve realized that I have to change my thinking now that I’m middle-aged. Rather than an older man who can “take care of me”, I realized that if I date a significantly older man now I’ll end up taking care of him/losing him way earlier than I would otherwise. So now I’m trying to only date men who are no more than 5-8 years older than me and I should probably aim for younger. Oh well. My current BF is 7 years older than me…

Richard August 25, 2010 at 9:13 am

I like it when a profile has the major details. If she wants to go camping every weekend, then I’ll pass. Unfortunately, what is major is different for every person. If you there is something about the other person you really want (deal killer), then it is best to know that upfront.

I like to hear a little bit about what you do for a job, and what you do in your non-work time. That gives me a big picture of who you are, and how our lives could mesh together. After that, let’s enjoy the intrigue of getting to know each other.

I may be naive, but chronological age is less important to me than how physically similar we are. A well-kept lady 10 years older is preferred over someone 10 years younger who has not been so attentive. I would go 10 years older/younger. I have seen a lady younger than that, and we have discussed the issue. Some ladies like older guys.

Lisa, regarding scoliosis: For me, the face is a major attraction. After that, once we meet in person, I would figure out if your degree of scoliosis would be a problem for me. Since it is something easily realized (or not, if it is not a problem) on the first date, I don’t think you need to put it in your profile. It is not like you are hiding something that I may not find out about until after we had been dating for 6 months.

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