Good news for people who are plain-looking — who also have sparkling personalities.
Judging someone by their photo is not a reliable way of finding a partner, according to research published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Communication Studies. Online daters usually make choices based on a person’s physical attractiveness, but they rarely (if ever) take into consideration how their perception of that person changes after they interact, says Jeffrey Hall, associate professor of communications studies at University of Kansas and co-author of the study. “But judging a person by their photo tells you nothing about their likability.”
In his experiment, conducted with Benjamin Compton, a graduate of the Master’s Degree program in communication studies from University of Kansas, 65 pairs of heterosexual strangers were randomly assigned to one of three scenarios: rated 10 photos, had a 10-minute “date” with one of the people featured that they rated and then rated the photos again. Another group evaluated 10 photos of people without ever meeting them (to see how they rated each person). And each person from a third group had a 10-minute date with one person and only rated their photos afterwards.
The results? After rating their conversation partners for attractiveness, social attractiveness, fun, humor and charisma, the dates with the best personalities had the biggest bump post-meeting in their overall attractiveness as potential partners. It also gives support to another recent study that some 29% of young Americans were looking for friendship on Tinder, while only 22% said they were looking for sex (and 44% admitted to swiping for “confidence-boosting procrastination), which seems counter-intuitive given that the app is location- and photo-based.
Since online dating has evolved from complex algorithms to location-based apps, singletons are accustomed to choosing dates based on photos — not unlike the board game “Guess Who?” or, when the same people pop up on other dating apps, the arcade game Whac-a-Mole. Could you be friends with this person? Likability is more of a game-changer than sexual attractiveness, Hall says. What’s more, prejudging people based on physical attractiveness also diminishes the quality of impressions and conversation itself, the study found.
Apps like Tinder
aside, it’s not the first time attractive people get a head-start in life. Daniel Hamermesh, author of the 2011 book, “Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful,” found that attractive people are more likely to earn 3% to 4% more than those who are not deemed by society to be as attractive, which adds up to $230,000 over a lifetime, The Wall Street Journal reported. Paying better-looking workers more is still a form of discrimination, “but their attractiveness also tends to raise their productivity,” he told the paper.
Job interviews and dates may work the same way. However, the “beauty premium” doesn’t hold when other factors such as health, intelligence and personality are taken into account, a study published in the February 2017 edition of the Journal of Business and Psychology found. Very unattractive respondents always earned significantly more than unattractive respondents, sometimes more than average-looking or attractive respondents,” the study said. “Unattractive workers have extremely high earnings and earn more than physically more attractive workers.”
That, judging by Hall’s latest research, is also good news for less photogenic Tinder daters.
Get a daily roundup of the top reads in personal finance delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free Personal Finance Daily newsletter. Sign up here.