- Online dating may be unlikely to facilitate a partner selection based on less obvious factors.
- People tend to prefer dating profiles that are judged as more introverted.
- There appears to be no preference for levels of openness in the dating profiles.
- Online daters do take note of profile descriptions, even when presented alongside photographs.
There is an abundance of research suggesting that we are more likely to form sustainable long-term romantic relationships with those who are similar to us. For example, similarity in things such as attractiveness level, age, or interests. However, online dating may be less likely to facilitate a partner selection process based on less immediately obvious factors, such as similarity in educational level, religion, age, or personality, as these may not be directly evident from online dating profiles or pictures.
In a study carried out at the University of Stirling in the UK, researchers Jessica De La Mare and Anthony Lee sought to investigate firstly whether online daters were more likely to choose dating profiles featuring particular personality traits and secondly, whether they chose dating profiles featuring personality descriptions which were similar to their own personality descriptions (De La Mare & Lee, 2023). The personality traits they investigated were openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability, which can be measured by a test known as the Big Five Personality Inventory.
Their participants looked at 100 simulated dating profiles, which depicted images of faces along with gender-neutral personality descriptions. Each description had been rated earlier for personality type as categorized in the Big Five Inventory. Participants were then asked to respond indicating “yes” or “no” as to whether they would like to choose that profile, thereby simulating what would typically be found on a dating app. Following this, participants were given the Big Five Personality Inventory to complete to assess their own personality traits.
Profile personality description and matching
Overall, the participants in this study preferred profiles that had been pre-judged as being agreeable and emotionally stable. Furthermore, participants tended to prefer profiles that had been judged as being more introverted. However, levels of conscientiousness and openness did not affect the number of choices made by participants.
The researchers found that participants showed a preference for dating profiles described as agreeable despite their own measured levels of agreeableness. However, those participants who measured high on agreeableness themselves also indicated that they valued this trait in dating profiles. Agreeableness is associated with trust, generosity, and helpfulness, all of which are related to being cooperative, which reasonably would be likely to be selected as traits rated as desirable by most people.
Participants did not show a preference for levels of openness in the dating profiles. This is slightly perplexing in that openness tends to be associated with creativity, which has consistently been rated as a desirable trait in a romantic partner. However, the researchers did find that participants illustrated a preference for profiles that advertised similar levels of openness to themselves.
The researchers found no matching between participants’ measures of emotional stability and levels of emotional stability described in profile descriptions; however, they did find that profile descriptions judged as emotionally stable were generally preferred. Previous research has found that, maybe unsurprisingly, we prefer the company of those who display a degree of emotional stability compared to romantic partners who are neurotic. Furthermore, it seems to make sense that we would choose to be with partners who are emotionally stable despite our own level of this trait.
No match was found between the conscientiousness levels of participants and those outlined in the dating profiles. The researchers speculate that maybe conscientiousness is not something that is initially sought at the start of a relationship but rather is something in which couples may find a similarity over time.
Finally, it was found that overall, participants indicated a preference for extraversion. One reason that might explain this finding is that the data were collected during the pandemic when extraverted behavior was probably perceived as being more risky (e.g., socializing in a bar or interacting with others). Therefore, participants may, in reality, have been illustrating a preference for risk-taking as opposed to extraversion.
Further research could perhaps consider various combinations of the personality trait descriptors used in this study, for example, extraverted and conscientious or open and agreeable, rather than just one descriptor as used in the current study. This would certainly be more typical of real-life online dating. Furthermore, as previous research has indicated that in same-sex relationships, different partner preferences exist, an investigation of same-sex dating in the context of the current study design may be a consideration for future investigation.
One important overall finding from the current study is that it seems online daters do take note of profile descriptions even when presented alongside profile photographs, illustrating the importance of these.
De La Mare, J. K. & Lee, A. J. (2023) Assortative preferences for personality and online dating apps: Individuals prefer profiles similar to themselves on agreeableness, openness, and extraversion. Personality and Individual Differences. 208.