The Psychology of Online Dating

Have you ever wondered about the psychology of online dating? If so, you’ve come to the right place!  Human match-making is a complicated process that likely dates back to the bible. However, the prevalence of online dating has arguably changed the landscape, as people are better able to curate what they share and how they present themselves online.

psychology of online dating

Not only that, but online dating has also opened up a plethora of options that may not have existed when traditional dating was the norm – in fact, a recent study found that 53% of internet users agreed online dating makes it easier for people to find a better match because they have more men and women  to choose from. [1]

How Does Evolutionary Psychology Factor In?

Tinder, a mobile dating app, has a reputation for facilitating hook-ups based primarily on appearance. This is likely because the app gives users very little information other than geographic proximity, name, age and – of course – photos. The fact that there is little to go on when deciding whether or not to pursue another user is where evolutionary psychology comes in.

Contrary to popular belief, many of the decisions that human beings make actually occur unconsciously, rather than logically. According to TechCrunch , Tinder users undergo a three-step decision-making process when evaluating whether or not to engage with another user. This involves:

  1. Rational-Controlled Process (users set age, gender and geographic preferences)
  2. Emotion-Oriented Process (the app presents appropriate matches which users like or dislike based on emotional reactions to photos)  
  3. The Waiting Process (users wait to see if their potential partners like them back and start a chat) [2]

So how important are geographical distance and age in the rational stage? Research shows that how far apart two potential partners live is the best single predicator of whether they will become a couple. [2] And, the closer that people are in age the more likely they will share more in common – such as backgrounds, life concerns and cultural references. If daters have shared interests and experiences, it’s more likely that they will be able to click on a personal and conversational level.

It’s no secret that humans have a tendency to attribute positive characteristics like intelligence or honesty to those whom they consider to be physically attractive. Evolutionary psychologists have argued that this may be because physical characteristics can be indicative of fertility and health, which are important to our survival and reproduction as a species.  Research has also shown that couples tend to be similarly matched in attractiveness.  In most cases, people determine whether a potential partner is attractive, evaluate whether they would be categorized as more, less or equally attractive and then decide whether to move forward based on this information. [2]

Interested in learning more about relationships and the psychology behind them? If so, you may want to consider pursuing a degree in psychology. An example of a career in psychology is marriage and family therapists, who help to treat couples and families who are going through emotional or behavioral problems. To qualify for such a position, you would need to earn a master’s degree in psychology and a license from the state that you practice in. [3] 

How Popular is Online Dating?

According to a recent Pew study, online dating has lost much of its stigma – so much so that a majority of Americans now think that it’s a good way to meet people. [1] Though they may have been viewed as desperate  or  unseemly in the past, internet daters are actually more likely to be sociable, have high self-esteem and be low in dating anxiety. [4]

Now let’s look at some stats on the prevalence of online dating….

 In 2011, reported that one in five relationships start online. [5] According to the Pew study, one in five adults aged 25-34 years old have participated in online dating – but it’s popular with older singles too. Online dating peaks among those in their mid-twenties through mid-forties, with 22% of 25-34 year olds and 17% of 35-44 year olds reporting they used an online dating site or mobile dating app. Not only that, but 45-54 year olds are just as likely to date online as 18-24 year olds! [1]

Here are some more quick facts about online dating habits:

  • One in 10 Americans has used an online dating site or mobile dating app.
  • 66% of online daters have gone on a date with someone they met by dating online.
  • 23% of online daters have met a spouse or long-term partner through online dating.
  • 42% of all Americans know an online dater and 29% know someone who used online dating to successfully find a relationship. [1]

What Are Some Draw-Backs to Online Dating?

You may or may not be familiar with documentary and TV show Catfish, which chronicles the very real problem (and devastating consequences) of deception in online dating. In fact, although 94% of online daters deny that their internet profiles contain any lies, [4] 54% of online daters reported feeling someone seriously misrepresented themselves in their profile. More disturbingly, 28% of online daters have been contacted by someone who made them feel harassed or uncomfortable. [1]

Online dating gives people the unique opportunity to curate their public persona, whether that be with the use of outdated photos or by reporting inaccurate facts about themselves. Accordingly, 81% of online daters admitted to including untrue information on at least one of three characteristics of their profile – 60% lied about weight, 48% about their height and 19% about their age. [5]

Online dating may not be for everyone, but it’s clear that it is working for a growing number of people. Check out our infographic above to see more interesting stats on the Psychology of Online Dating! | | | |