About 15 percent of American adults are on dating apps. While it seems like every single New Yorker is on a few of the zillion that keep getting pitched at us, the qualities that comprise the most right-swipeable profile remain mysterious — though a new study from the University of Iowa sheds some light. Basically, you want to look approachable and trustworthy. But not perfect.
The study — which was recently written up by Ana Swanson at the Washington Post — had a clever design, where the researchers created profiles that mixed two traits familiar to anyone whose swiped through a pile of potential dates: “warranting,” or providing Googleable details about yourself that would be hard to manipulate; and “selective self-presentation,” or how much you maximize your comely qualities and minimize the homely ones. The researchers recruited a nationally representative sample of 316 people (53 percent male, average age of 40, 81 percent white) to rate them. Each participant named the gender they usually date, then they looked at one profile, and rated that person on qualities like trust and social attraction and outcomes, like how much they wanted to date them and if they thought they’d make contact.
The authors — researchers Crystal D. Wotipka and Andrew C. High — found that the profiles with high selective self-presentation were judged as being less trustworthy and less socially attractive than people with low selective self-presentation. “Perhaps there is a threshold for [selective self-presentation], such that users generally appreciate flattering information but are less attracted to others who display an exclusively positive persona,” they write. “Doing so might be coded as bragging, which is associated with negative social consequences and reduced liking.” As well, someone who’s too cool on their profile might be read to be less likely to want to meet up IRL, thus making them less messageable on the app.
Warranting, the researchers say, is about the “the connection between a presented self and the true self, or the non-manipulability of a profile.” In other words, warranting is less concerned with putting your best foot forward than putting your actual foot forward. People were most attracted to the profiles that were low on the self-presentation stuff but high on the transparency. Most tellingly, the profiles that were high on both warranting and selective presentation were seen as arrogant — so making too strong a case for why you’re a high-value mate is definitely not a good call. Instead, the shabby-chic approach appears to be the most swipeable: worn-in, trustworthy, and approachable.