- Different language errors influence different elements of perceived attraction.
- Mechanical errors in profiles were judged as a signal of low attentiveness, and less attractive.
- Profiles with informal errors were perceived as less warm.
In a previous study, Tess Van der Zanden, and colleagues from Tilburg University in the Netherlands, sought to assess the effects of language errors in dating profile bios (Van der Zanden, Schouten, Mos, and Krahmer, 2020), finding that language errors and picture clarity influenced judgments of the attractiveness of dating profiles. However, in this initial study, they used a broad range of language errors and did not determine which types of language errors influenced which elements of perceived attraction.
In the study described here, the researchers utilised different types of errors seeking to investigate the effects of each type of error on potential daters’ dating intention (how likely they were to date the profile owner) and their judgments of the profile owner's attractiveness. More specifically they investigated three types of errors, mechanical errors, rule-based errors, and informal language errors.
Mechanical errors are made because of a degree of carelessness in the typing process. For example, typing teh instead of the. Such errors may be seen as clumsiness rather than an inability to spell, and the profile owner may be judged low in attractiveness due to making little effort to properly proofread their profile.
These errors are made when the writer breaches a grammatical or spelling rule, for example using Less instead of Fewer, “There are less people out tonight.” Or using Their instead of They’re (They are). Not being conversant with the correct rule, may result in an unfavourable judgment of the writer’s intellect, and we know that intelligence is an important factor when it comes to assessing the attractiveness of a potential partner.
Informal language errors
These types of errors are not necessarily judged as being incorrect in online written language but would nevertheless be seen as wrong when made in the context of formal written language. Examples are the use of emoticons such as ;O, abbreviations such as B4, or overly expressive punctuation such as Oh No!! This form of language is often used to compensate for the lack of expression and nuance in written text and supplement the meaning. However, such informal language conveys information regarding the writer’s mood and personality, ultimately influencing judgments of their attractiveness.
The researchers constructed different versions of several dating profiles, each of which varied in the types of error they contained (as described above). Participants were invited to view the profiles and rate them on the following criteria:
- Physical attraction: “I think this person is good-looking”
- Social attraction: “I think I could be friends with this person”
- Romantic attraction: “I would want to have a relationship with this person”
- Dating intention: “I would like to know more about this person”
Participants also rated the perceived attentiveness, perceived intelligence, and perceived warmth of the profile owners.
As predicted, the researchers found that mechanical errors in the profiles were judged as a signal of low attentiveness. Lower attentiveness scores meant lower scores on perceived social, romantic, and physical attraction and a lower intention on the part of the participants to say that they would date the profile owner.
Similarly, the occurrence of rule-based errors also caused lower scores on perceived intelligence, which consequently resulted in lower judgments by participants in attractiveness and intention to date the profile owner.
Finally, the researchers predicted that the presence of informal errors (unlike mechanical and rule-based errors) would have a positive effect on the profile owner’s attraction, due to these types of errors indicating that the profile owner possessed warm personality characteristics. However, the findings indicated quite the opposite, profiles where informal errors were present, were perceived as less warm compared with profiles with no such errors present, and this had a detrimental effect on the attractiveness ratings of the profile owner.
Overall, the study illustrates that language errors in dating profiles can influence judgments of the attractiveness of the profile owner and the intention of dating site users to meet with them. Therefore, the simple take-home is, if you want success from online dating, construct your dating site profile bio with care.
Van der Zanden, T., Schouten, A. P., Mos, M. B. J. & Krahmer, E, J. (2020). Impression formation on online dating sites: Effects of language errors in profile texts on perceptions of profile owners’ attractiveness. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 37(3). 758–778.