The Psychology of Online Dating: The Psychologist’s Viewpoint

Psychologists interested in dating and attraction have learned a great deal by reading and examining the personal advertisements and ‘lonely hearts’ pages of local and national newspapers. Since we psychologists have benefited from the people who use these services it seems only right that some of the things we’ve found should be given back. In this series of articles I will outline some of the more practically useful findings that have come from this research and provide a summary of the results reported in academic psychology journals, written for those who probably have the greatest interest in this knowledge: the daters themselves.

There is quite a bit of material to cover so I have organised it into a series of six articles:

The Psychologist’s Viewpoint

This article gives an idea of the scope of research using personal advertisements, the way personal profiles are used in research, and the kind of things psychologists can find out when they put their minds to it.

He wants and she is

This outlines research into the things that men say they are looking for in a partner. Alongside this we look at how women describe themselves. Combining these we can assess how accurately women understand what men want and use the right kind of language to attract a man’s interest. This one is particularly useful for the girls and should help you write something for the ‘in your own words’ bit of your profile.

She wants and he is

This article gives the opposite perspective to the previous one, looking at the things that women say they want in a partner and the way that men describe themselves. Do these match up? Have men got it right or are they missing the point completely? This one might help the boys rethink the content of their ‘own words’ parts of their dating profiles.

Like for Like or Opposites Attract?

This article summarises the results in the previous two and uses these to outline the current psychological theories of attraction. It explains how ‘like attracts like’ and ‘opposites attract’ can both be true and how this can help you when you are first making contact with someone after reading their profile.

Blitzers, Boasters and Being Choosy

This article looks at research into general approaches to dating including the results found by researchers who experimentally placed different versions of personal advertisements and then sat back to see how many and what kind of responses they got.

Summary and Practical Uses

The final article of this series summarises all that has gone before and places this new knowledge firmly in the context of online dating, describing how these results can be constructively used to make fewer mistakes and to improve your chances of attracting responses to your profile and getting a positive response to your first approach to someone.

Before getting into the results of the research we need to take a brief tour around the ways in which research psychologists use personal advertisements and the kinds of things they can find, so we have some idea of the sort of things that psychologists can and cannot say about personal advertisements and internet dating profiles.

Content Analysis

Personal advertisements have been a rich source of information for social scientists investigating dating behaviours. To give an idea of the scale of this enterprise, my own research in this area is based on the analysis of nearly five thousand advertisements collected from UK local newspapers. Apart from this I have copies of more than sixty research reports published by colleagues in Brazil, Canada, Hungary, Japan, Poland, UK and USA. This adds up to about thirty thousand individual profiles that have been analysed by psychologists, sociologists and other professional researchers. Most of this research has used printed personal ads extracted from newspapers and magazines as these are more useful to us (as explained below) but the information and insights gained can be applied to any situation where first impressions come from written descriptions, so these results are directly relevant and useful to people using internet dating sites.

Creating a profile for an internet dating site usually involves describing yourself on a whole host of listed options such as eye colour (blue, green etc.), smoking habit, attractiveness, salary etc. This information is usually entered into the site using a form. Within this form each person makes their own choices from the options available but because it is a form, everyone has to mention the same kinds of things. In a sense, the dating site has already decided what the important features are and you simply tick the correct boxes when describing yourself and describing the sort of person you want to meet.

With printed personal advertisements there is no detailed form to fill in and you can write whatever you want. The only restriction is on the number of words with an escalating charge per word up to a maximum limit. As a result these advertisements are quite short, averaging about 22 words. This is typically enough space to mention about nine things, whether these are your own attributes (age, hair and eye colour, looks) or things you are looking for in a partner (sense of humour, marital status, age range, personality, height). Given these restrictions we can reasonably expect that people mention the most important things as they see it, so the content of these advertisements tell us what characteristics the writers think are important to the other sex, and what key things they are looking for themselves. For example, a personal advertisement that says “Stunning, curvy and adventurous 22 year old blonde female is looking for a financially secure older man, ideally with own hair and teeth, who will spoil her rotten.” gives a pretty clear indication of what matters to this person and what she is offering in return.

Researchers have taken thousands of personal advertisements and analysed them to look for general patterns. From this, they have identified some very clear differences between the kinds of things that are important to men and women when looking for a partner. They have also looked at how well the self descriptions of each sex matches the features that the other sex says they want, giving an indication of how much each sex understands about what the other sex is looking for. Results from this kind of research are discussed in the articles He wants and she is, and She wants and he is.

Apart from the specific attributes and features mentioned, there are also more general differences in how people write these descriptions. For example women tend to give more detailed information about the sort of person they are looking for than men, while men are more focussed on describing themselves. Looking at a profile from this perspective tells us quite a lot about the approach people take to dating, including whether they are looking for a few high quality matches or just want as many dates as they can possibly get. This research is summarised in the article Blitzers, Boasters and Being Choosy.

Knowing how people describe themselves and the sort of thing they are looking for also allows us to look at broader questions such as whether people are looking for others who are similar to themselves or would prefer a partner who is different but, in some sense, complementary. This is discussed in the article Like for Like or Opposites Attract where we find that both are true once we understand a more basic and useful theory of attraction.

Experimental Research

Apart from examining the advertisements that real people have written in the hope of finding a partner, psychologists have occasionally become active researchers and have placed experimental personal advertisements to see how many and what type of response they get. For example, if two almost identical advertisements are placed and one receives twice as many responses as the other, this tells us that the difference between these ads (which may be as small as one word) has a big effect on the chances of attracting a date.

Some psychologists have also used this type of research to investigate the sort of things that men and women write when responding to an advertisement. This has given researchers another way to classify the different approaches to dating and to identify groups such as the ‘blitzers’ who send responses to everyone in the hope that some of them will score a hit. Results from this experimental research are presented in the article Blitzers, Boasters and Being Choosy.

This article has outlined the organisation and content of this series, has introduced the ways in which psychologists approach dating research, and has indicated the sort of things they may be able to see from their viewpoint as researchers.

In the next article we move on to looking at some actual findings. He wants and she is looks at the features that women tend to emphasis when advertising themselves, the things that men are actually looking for, and whether or not womens’ self descriptions suggest they are marketing themselves well and have an accurate insight into what men want.

The Pros and the Cons of the Online Dating Business

The online dating business has become one of the biggest business in the world. Apart from it being very lucrative, it ensures that you provide a vital service for people who are looking for love. Going into this business is not exactly an easy task. You are required to undertake several steps which will ensure that you know exactly what to do. There are no shortcuts and, you must undertake a lot of research. Many individuals and agencies who are in the business have stated that they have gone into the business for passion. It really does not matter what your reason for venturing into the business was, as long as you deliver the right service. An online dating business helps hundreds of people meet their desired mates for long term and short term relationship. If you wish to go with the online option, there are a lot of things that you should know so that you can make the best decision. The best thing about an online dating business is that there are a lot of choices. You do not have to settle for less.

The are various ways in which an online dating business can attract more clients. The first thing has to do with the issue of cost. Many clients want a service that is free. Therefore, you must come up with different sources of income to facilitate this. Some of the options you might have is to use advertising. Other ways will be revealed when you search on the Internet. When you provide the free service, make sure you are very clear on this. Let the client differentiate between joining or registering for free and having a free online dating service. For a long time clients have complained that the display of information on various online sites is not very clear. This is because there is a lot of unnecessary information which they have to navigate through. Simplicity is always a major plus. Let the client feel confident with your online dating business. You can do this by ensuring that the language you use will be helpful and friendly. Your service must reflect a lot of professionalism. The client must feel safe.

One way to ensure this, is to assure them that their information will be protected. This is the personal information given in form of profiles. Your data bank must be full of real people who want to actually find mates. This is because there are many fake profiles created to attract people. If you are finding a soul mate, you might not know whether you have joined an agency that operates with fake profiles. It is therefore up to an online dating business to uphold all the necessary moral ethics. Honesty and trust are the two major things that a client expects from a good agency. All in all, it can be a lot of fun to run an online business for dating. The fact that people from all cultures are able to converge together because of your service is pretty exciting. You are bound to have so much fun not only when you are searching for that special someone but, when you are bringing people together.

Online Dating Guide For Newbies – Keep it Safe All the Time

How often have you heard of stories of love relationships that started and blossomed through the internet? As the world becomes smaller with advances in internet technology, so do online dating sites prosper with more and more new sign ups daily from people who desire to connect with others who have the same interests as they do. There are numerous websites that aim to help you find your perfect match who may soon turn out to be your life partner. However, if you want to try using these online dating sites, you should never put your own safety at risk and follow this simple online dating guide:

Trust No One With Your Financial Data

The most important online dating guide tip that you should remember is that you should never speak about your financial status nor release confidential financial information on your profile. You may use your credit card to pay for your membership, but never display your credit card information on your profile, for every one to see.

You may be innocently inviting scammers and dangerous men or women who are out searching for vulnerable people on the net. It may seem ridiculous to others why anyone would put their credit card information online, but believe it or not, there are first time users of the internet who may not know the importance of online security.

Do Not Disclose Personal Information On Your Profile

Another online dating guide tip that should remind you of online safety all the time, is that you should not put your home address, email address or phone number on your profile. Almost all dating online sites have a way for you to get in touch with another person, using the site’s email interface, without giving all these information up front. There are online predators out there who will try to “harvest” these personal data and either sell them for others to use, or worse, use to scam or put you in danger.

Meet Only in a Public Place

No matter how comfortable you are already with someone you met on these online dating sites, it is still safe to meet in a public place for the first time, as a smart way to keep it safe. Do not give your address and ask your date to pick you up from your home on your first dates. You need to know the person better before you disclose private information or before you meet in a private place.

Online dating guide tips are easy to find on the internet, and sometimes the online dating site you go to have them posted for the members’ security. Whatever you do, keep in mind one thing – dating online or offline follow the same principles of safety and common sense.