The Science Behind Your Actions On Tinder

by Kristine Fellizar

Single or attached, most of us know how Tinder works by now: You’re presented with an endless amount of potential singles nearby, you swipe right if you like and left if you don’t. If they like you too, it’s a match and a chat opens up. Once that happens, congratulations. You can then be on your way to happily-ever-after or maybe something more cringe-worthy.

Regardless of what you think about Tinder, it has definitely changed the way people find potential partners. According to Tinder, they’re responsible for creating 8 billion connections worldwide. Yeah, 8 BILLION. Whether those connections actually turn into something more than a few messages back and forth, a one-night stand, or what have you is constantly being studied. What's clear is that Tinder has made a great impact on the dating scene today. According to a sociologist, there is a certain science behind your actions on Tinder.

In an interview with the Pacific Standard, Jessica Carbino, an online dating sociologist at Tinder, explains the science behind why we do what we do when we log onto the dating app. Carbino, whose UCLA dissertation was focused on facial attractiveness in online dating, works at Tinder to help them understand the minds of its users in order to provide them with a better dating experience.

Here’s what she had to say about the science behind how you use Tinder:

1. People Care About Demographics

According to Carbino, “assortative mating,” in which people look for partners who are on the same level as them financially and educationally, is important on Tinder. While facial attractiveness is obviously important on Tinder, this shows that it's not the only thing people are taking into consideration as they swipe left or right.

2. A Majority Of Tinder Users Don’t Want To Stick Out

You hear a lot about how clothing color can affect how people perceive you. For instance, studies have found that men associate the color red with women’s sexual attractiveness. But as a recent Tinder study found, the most popular colors that people wear are black and white. In fact, neutrals are kind of the go-to thing.

As Carbino said, that’s actually very surprising, “I would have thought that intuitively, people would want to stand out in their photos, and wearing more muted colors in a photo doesn’t allow you to do that.”

3. "Must Love Dogs" Doesn’t Really Apply

As a 2014 Skout study found, posing with dogs on your profile can get you more attention from potential matches. In fact, many studies have found that owning a dog makes you more attractive. So, if you’re single, it seems like owning a dog is your best bet for upping your chance of finding love.

But according to Carbino, that doesn’t necessarily apply on Tinder. As she told the Pacific Standard, “People always talk about [online daters] having dogs in photos, but really the vast majority of photos do not include a dog.”

4. What We Say We Want May Not Be What We Really Want

For the longest time, Tinder had become known as the “hookup app.” But according to Tinder’s CEO, Sean Rad, over 80 percent of users are looking for a long-term relationship. Unlike other dating sites that directly give you the opportunity to state your dating preferences, Tinder provides you with a short bio where you have the option of writing whatever you want. If you want to include what it is you’re looking for, that’s totally up to you, but it’s not a requirement.

Some argue that’s one of the reasons why Tinder is geared more towards hookups than relationships. But as Carbino found in her research, “stated preferences for individuals aren’t necessarily consistent with their revealed preferences.”

5. Tinder Works Because We Have The Ability To Judge A Book By Its Cover

According to Carbino, Tinder works because of “thin-slicing,” which is our ability to make quick decisions with very little information.

“You can learn whether or not somebody seems kind, intense, upset, aggressive from photos—photographs provide you with a great deal of information,” Carbino told the Pacific Standard.

Unlike approaching someone at a bar, Tinder provides you with information that many want to know upfront, such as if a person is educated, if they have a job, or if they’re already in a relationship. Well, for the most part anyway.

6. We Associate Physical Attributes With A Character Attribute On Tinder

Going back to the idea of thin-slicing, people tend to link physical characteristics for personality. For instance, someone with a strong jawline could be seen as attractive and masculine. But according to Carbino, that may not necessarily be a good thing for classically good-looking men on Tinder. As she told the Pacific Standard, some women may associate attractiveness and masculinity with negative traits, i.e. he’s probably a player or a narcissist.

Because of that, women were actually less likely to respond to an attractive guy's first message. Carbino suggests for men to not use headshots on their Tinder profiles because it may make them look more selfish and arrogant.

Men, on the other hand, relied more on “evolutionary biology.” As in, if a woman messaged a man first, he would be more likely to respond to her if she was more conventionally attractive.

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