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Tinder Users Deem Profiles More Or Less Attractive Depending On Profile Beforehand, Study Reveals

Turns Out There's A Science Behind Swiping Left Or Right On Tinder
Hand selecting from portrait grid on laptop screen
Dimitri Otis via Getty Images
Hand selecting from portrait grid on laptop screen

Whether or not someone swipes left or right on your Tinder profile could be thanks to whoever they viewed before you, new research has revealed.

That's right. The tick of approval from a potential love interest may have nothing to do with your best Blue Steel or witty bio, and everything to do with the hottie (or nottie) who appeared before you.

Researchers from the University of Sydney's School of Psychology came to this conclusion after experiments with 16 female undergrads found the participants' reactions were strongly affected by the face they saw immediately prior.

If the profile beforehand was deemed attractive, your profile was more likely to be considered attractive too. On the other hand, if the profile viewed before yours wasn't successful, yours probably won't be either.

This conclusion came about after researchers presented each of the 16 study participants with a total of 60 male profiles from online dating app Hot or Not. They were then asked to rate each profile as either attractive or unattractive.

"Love or lust at first sight is a cliché that has been around for years," said the study's lead author, postdoctoral research assistant Jessica Taubert.

"Our research gives weight to a new theory: that people are more likely to find love at second swipe."

"With each participant, we presented a profile picture on a screen for 300 milliseconds which was then replaced with a white fixation cross which remained visible until the participant rated the picture as attractive or unattractive.

"Online dating sites and apps inspired the framing of the task. To reflect the system being used by popular apps such as Tinder, participants were given a binary option rather than rating on a spectrum."

"Honey, I'm so glad the guy before you was so attractive."

Along with Professor David Alais, also from the University of Sydney's School of Psychology, and Dr Erik Van der Burg from the University of Amsterdam, Taubert was interested in discovering more about the visual science behind attractiveness judgements. The concept the researchers were most keen on investigating is called 'serial dependence' which could easily be applied to the practices employed by both Tinder and Hot or Not.

"Serial dependence was the scientific backbone of our study," Taubert said. "If serial dependence is true, the value or judgement expressed in one situation is dependent on the judgment of another. Our study found that serial dependence is present in Tinder users' judgments."

In terms of what this has to do with whoever appeared before you on any given dating app, Taubert says it comes down to something called rapid adaptation.

"In the second experiment we asked whether the influence of the previous profile pictures is perceptual in nature or a cognitive basis: sometimes people are lazy and fall into a pattern of responding, like pushing the same button over and over again," Taubert said.

"We found some evidence to suggest the origin of this effect is in the visual system, implying that the current was was perceived as more or less attractive (depending on the previous image), rather than participants simply changing the way they responded to the task or falling into a pattern of responding."

Don't believe us? Check out the published report here.

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