New research from the School of Psychology published in Science Reports reveals people using online dating apps are more likely to rate a face as attractive if the preceding face is also attractive.
Love or lust at first sight is a cliché that has been around for years. Our research shows people are more likely to find love at second swipe.
Editors' Note: We’re resharing this story in support of online attraction on Valentine’s Day.
New research shows people using online dating sites and apps including Tinder are more likely to rate a face as attractive if they think the preceding face is attractive.
Researchers from the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology conducted experiments with female undergraduate students and found the participants were strongly biased by the face seen immediately prior.
Published in the Nature journal's Scientific Reports, the study sourced 60 male profiles from the Hot or Not dating app and gave participants a choice between two options: attractive or not attractive.
Lead author of the study, Postdoctoral Research Associate Jessica Taubert, said offering participants this simplified question reflects the system used by online dating sites.
“Love or lust at first sight is a cliché that has been around for years. Our research gives weight to a new theory: that people are more likely to find love at second swipe,” Dr Taubert said.
“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 used by popular apps such as Tinder, participants were given a binary option rather than a rating on a spectrum.”
With co-authors (currently overseas) Professor David Alais from the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology and Dr Erik Van der Burg from the University of Amsterdam, Dr Taubert investigated the visual science behind attractiveness judgements.
The researchers applied a concept in the visual sciences called serial dependence to the methodology used by Tinder and Hot or Not.
“Serial dependence was the scientific backbone of our study. If serial dependence is true, the value or judgement in one situation is dependent on the judgement of another. Our study found that serial dependence is present in Tinder users’ judgements,” Dr Taubert said.
The researchers concluded the binary judgements are subject to rapid adaptation, meaning a face will look more attractive when the previous face was attractive.
“In the second experiment we asked whether the influence of the previous profile picture is perceptual in nature or a cognitive bias: sometimes people are lazy and fall into a pattern of responding, like pushing the same button over and over again,” Dr Taubert said.
“We found some evidence to suggest the origin of this effect is in the visual system, implying that the current face 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.”
The paper, “Love at second sight: Sequential dependence of facial attractiveness in an on-line dating paradigm”, was published in Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports at 1am AEDT on 18 March 2016.