Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. With an estimated 50 million or more users worldwide, Tinder has become one of the most popular mobile dating applications. With the aim of adding empirical support for this proposition, we critically review the most striking findings about first impressions extracted from faces, moral character in person perception, creepiness, and the uncanny valley, as they apply to Tinder behavior. Drawing on this research and the evolutionary theory of biological markets, we formulate several hypotheses that offer directions for future studies of Tinder and other dating apps.
Swiping right: face perception in the age of tinder
We conclude that research on face perception of novel targets supports the plausibility of moral character as a potential factor affecting the swiping decisions and subsequent behavior of Tinder users. How people meet potential dating partners has changed due to the increasing usage of online dating.
With an estimated 50 million users in more than countries, 10 million daily active users and over 30 billion matches to date, Tinder has become one of the most popular mobile dating apps in the world Tinder, Therefore, the fact that several different types of potential dating partners, looking for either short-term or long-term partnerships, might initiate contact through Tinder is relevant for investigating the psychological drivers underlying swiping decisions.
In this article, we apply the evolutionary framework of biological markets to discuss one evaluative dimension that may play an important role in swiping decisions: judgments of moral character. The goals of this article are: a to discuss research on moral character and face perception in the context of behavior on Tinder; b to propose moral character as an evaluative dimension driving swiping decisions; and c to advance testable hypotheses that can guide future psychological research on Tinder.
As a result, we intend to contribute to reaching a better understanding of the psychological mechanisms involved in decision-making on the Tinder platform and related online dating and social networking apps. First, in order to contextualize our proposal, we briefly review some studies on the psychology of Tinder use and motives. Second, we introduce some relevant evolutionary psychological theories and explain why Tinder may be a particularly pure form of a biological market.
Next, we discuss the most striking findings on the relationship between facial perception which is a key feature of the Tinder formatmoral character, and first impressions. It is worth mentioning, however, that this manuscript is intended as a research catalyst rather than a summative review for a review on trait inferences from faces, see Olivola and Todorov,and hence these hypotheses remain open to further empirical testing.
In order to better understand the factors that affect Tinder use, we start with a brief description of how Tinder works. Once downloaded, users have the possibility to synchronize their with other social networks e. Although the basic version of Tinder is free, there are premium, subscription-based versions that enable new opportunities for the user Tinder, hookups Rosa AL, and which could profoundly affect its use, perhaps turning it into something more like a traditional subscription-based dating site.
In all cases, nonetheless, Tinder uses the location and the age of users as filters to offer them a particular dating pool, displayed one at a time as a sequence of profile photos associated with first names. In the last years, Tinder's increasing popularity has attracted the attention of psychologists. For instance, casual sex, love, friendship, self-esteem enhancement, ease of communication, boredom and trendiness have been identified as particular motivational factors behind Tinder use Orosz hookups Rosa AL al.
Some from an online survey suggest that, compared to women, men are more likely to use the app for casual sex and relationships Sumter et al. Women also appear to be more selective in their right-swiping decisions compared to men Timmermans and Courtois, These are in line with showing that men are more likely to use social networks to form new relationships and find potential mates than women are Muscanell and Guadagno, ; Mazman and Usluel, ; Raacke and Bonds-Raacke, ; see Section 3 for an evolutionary explanation of these findings.
Recently, it was found that unrestrictive sociosexuality i. Other research suggests that Tinder use could be associated with a variety of negative perceptions about body and self; for example, Tinder users may show lower levels of satisfaction with face and body and higher levels of appearance comparisons than non-users Strubel and Petrie, Given the features of Tinder and its users described in the section, we believe there are four main reasons that justify the application of an evolutionary perspective to the study of moral perception within Tinder users.
First, from a hookups Rosa AL point of view, assessing the morality of a potential dating partner seems to be highly relevant in an ambiguous social context such as Tinder. Second, empirical and anecdotal evidence suggest that the simple fact of being on Tinder may have some immoral connotations, which makes it essential to study the moral psychology of Tinder use compared to other social media.
For example, there is evidence that Tinder can be used for infidelity Weiser et al. We believe that these facts make it especially relevant to study whether Tinder users are judging others according to moral character, and seeking to influence the judgments that others make of them.
Third, although the importance of attractiveness judgments in Tinder decision-making is widely assumed, some authors have claimed that sexual attractiveness may explain several aspects of moral psychology. Specifically, it has been claimed that the perception of desirable moral traits hookups Rosa AL be sexually attractive because these traits evolved to advertise mental fitness Miller,suggesting that judgments of moral character may increase judgments of attractiveness in Tinder users.
Finally, we believe that theoretical and empirical research on social networks encourages the application of an evolutionary framework to the study of emerging technologies, especially when they rely on fundamental motives humans have such as mating and social relationships Piazza and Ingram, ; Sevi et al. Firstly, competition in a biological market is based on relative rather than absolute value. Finally, market value tends to change over an individual's lifespan, and curves of change differ between the sexes, with females tending to lose value due to declining physical attractiveness in early middle age, when males may still be gaining value due to enhanced prestige Buss, As a result, we argue that, in addition to judgments of attractiveness, moral character is a good candidate for an evaluative dimension underlying rapid judgments of social desirability, especially for mate selection, and therefore a key part of the swiping and post-match decision processes.
We are not saying, however, that moral character is more relevant than attractiveness in the Tinder context. Our claim is that, along with attractiveness, moral character plays a crucial role in swiping decisions, and an even more crucial role in post-match interactions. Future empirical research should address the relative importance of each dimension hookups Rosa AL swiping and post-swiping decisions. In the rest of this article, we build hypotheses to guide such research based on two related lines of investigation showing that a people draw multiple social inferences from minimal facial cues about a person, and b judgments of hookups Rosa AL character are at the core of person perception.
The Tinder interface heavily emphasizes photos and rapid judgments based on limited cues mainly related to physical attractiveness to make swiping decisions Ranzini and Lutz, Typically, Tinder users try to display the most attractive, but still authentic, version of themselves in their profile pictures Ward,using several tricks e. Therefore, whether a person is perceived as desirable or not desirable in Tinder largely depends on facial and bodily displays.
Although we acknowledge that there is a large body of research on trait inferences from faces in social psychology for a review, see Olivola and Todorov,in this section we only focus on studies on face perception and moral inferences because we believe that this research applies best to H1. Although it is widely assumed that first impressions matter, the study of how these evaluations work in the age of social networking software, and what dimensions of evaluation are most important, requires further attention, especially if we consider how easily first impressions are formed and how inaccurate they can be.
The state of the art suggests that the formation of first impressions is an automatic, extremely rapid process based on whatever evaluative information is available Bar et al. Research on thin slicing i. On what evaluative dimensions are first impressions formed? Studies on how people gain first impressions of social targets have traditionally identified warmth i. Still, other authors have proposed a three-dimensional model of first impressions in which youthfulness-attractiveness constitutes a third dimension, related to cues of sexual selection Sutherland et al.
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In addition to these dimensions, over the last few years moral character has been proposed as a separate source of information that plays a crucial role in driving overall impressions of social targets Goodwin et al. Although moral character information was ly considered as a sub-component of warmth Cuddy et al. Some authors claim that evaluations of moral character can be better understood in the context of a person-centered approach to moral judgments, which focuses on persons rather than actions as the unit of analysis for moral judgments Uhlmann et al.
Supporting this view, it has been found that moral character information may be more important in impression formation than is warmth information, and that moral character may be the most important dependent variable in person perception research Goodwin et al. In this vein, recent research showed that warmth and trustworthiness two traits that are related with moral character; Goodwin et al. Furthermore, it has been proposed that moral hookups Rosa AL plays a fundamental part in what it means to be human, and that moral traits are the most essential part of identity, the self and the soul Strohminger and Nichols, For instance, moral behaviors Uhlmann et al.
Indeed, morality is so central to person perception that it makes sense to postulate an automatic pathway of moral inference. Research suggests that the perception of facial expressions showing deviant affective displays i. The need to rapidly infer another person's harmful intentions, in particular, justifies a fast and automatic but not necessarily completely accurate 3 mechanism of moral judgments from faces Oosterhof and Todorov, The face is a central source of social information.
As a result, a distinctive feature of social judgments based on facial appearance is that these judgments occur very rapidly and sometimes extend to preconscious stages of hookups Rosa AL Stewart et al. For instance, studies on trustworthiness judgments from unfamiliar faces found that these judgments are made after as little as 33— milliseconds Willis and Todorov, ; Todorov et al. Bar, Neta, and Linz documented a similar processing threshold for threat judgments but not intelligence judgments made on unfamiliar faces.
Indeed, the fact that intelligence judgments were less consistent at this processing times suggest that, when social traits are somewhat related with survival, those traits may be inferred from faces more quickly. Supporting these findings, there is evidence that untrustworthy-looking faces evoke a stronger response from the amygdala than trustworthy-looking faces, and that the more untrustworthy the face, the stronger the amygdala's response to the face, which supports the claim that unfamiliar faces are automatically evaluated on trustworthiness Engell et al.
A crucial feature of personality inferences extracted from facial appearance is that these judgments are especially sensitive to attractiveness. The formation of attractiveness impressions from faces occurs regardless of one's intentions and they are difficult to inhibit once formed Ritchie et al. Although the discussion of the mechanism of facial preferences exceeds the scope of this review, the state of the art suggests that attractiveness evaluation might reflect a social-evolutionary adaptation Bzdok et al.
Supporting this view, evidence from a meta-analysis showed that preference for facial beauty emerges early in development and is built on judgments of averageness, symmetry and sexual dimorphism Rhodes, Further, Langlois et al. Crucially, they found that attractiveness may functions as an implicit marker of prosocial traits: attractive people are perceived to possess more positive behaviors and traits than unattractive people e.
This Beautiful-is-Good stereotype is pervasive in social cognition and has been shown to bias social judgments in several domains Eagly et al.
Of special relevance to this review is the finding that physical attractiveness influences moral inferences, specifically, by increasing the perception of socially desirable personalities and higher moral standards e. Interestingly, some research on the direction of attractiveness stereotyping suggests that most often, unattractiveness is a disadvantage more than attractiveness is an advantage in various domains of social judgment e.
Further, the ubiquitous exercise of social inferences from physical attractiveness finds support in neuroscientific research which shows that the valuation of moral and aesthetic attributes relies on partially overlapping neural and cognitive mechanisms e. Still, face-based social attributions may go beyond perceptions of physical attractiveness. Although several studies on the relationship between facial attractiveness and trustworthiness suggest that both evaluative dimensions may be closely interlinked Bzdok et al.
This effect may depend on the particular cultural context: a cross-cultural study found that different cultures e.