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Study finds low sexual disgust predicts motivation to use Tinder for casual sex

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Researchers from Turkey have found that our sense of disgust influences how we use the online dating app Tinder.

“Social networks and applications have been attracting a lot of attention in social psychology research recently. Although Tinder is a widely used matchmaking platform, there were not many studies done on it. It was a research gap, which was hard to miss, and we believe that it should definitely be filled,” said Barış Sevi of Koç University, the study’s corresponding author.

“It is hard to know where to start about a topic like Tinder because there are so many possible research questions about our behavior on it,” Sevi explained to PsyPost. “Tinder is known as the ‘hook-up app’, therefore we wanted to start with casual sex — a feature it’s mostly known for. Sexual behavior is a widely studied topic in evolutionary psychology and we were interested if we could see if motivations to use such an app in the 21st century could be predicted by our evolutionary background.”

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Personality and Individual Differences, examined 163 Tinder users from the United States. The researchers found that Tinder users with a lower sexual disgust sensitivity and higher sociosexuality were more motivated to use the app for casual sex.

People with a lower sensitivity to sexual digest said things such as “hearing two people having sex” did not perturb them. Meanwhile, people with a higher sociosexuality score have a more positive view of uncommitted and unrestrictive sexual activity. In other words, they are more likely to agree with statements such as “sex without love is OK.”

“Our main finding is that people’s sexual disgust levels and their orientation towards casual sex predict their motivation to use Tinder for casual sex. But I believe the takeaway message from our research is that disgust — one of the six primary emotions that have evolved billions of years ago — can still affect our motivations to use a smartphone application. This is a very compelling finding to show that the evolutionary theories have explanatory power even in today’s technological lifestyle.”

The emotion of disgust originally evolved to help people avoid contaminants and impurities that could lead to sickness or even death. But research has shown disgust is also closely associated with our sense of morality — we feel revulsion towards immoral acts.

Sevi acknowledged his study had some caveats and limitations.

“The two potential caveats are generalizability and causality issues,” he told PsyPost. “We included an American only sample even though Tinder is used all over the world. Future studies should investigate if there are any cross-cultural differences. Secondly, our results are only correlational therefore it’s not possible to speak of any causal relationships. We need experimental work to to explore the causal relations that underlie motivations to use Tinder.”

The study, “Exploring the hook-up app: Low sexual disgust and high sociosexuality predict motivation to use Tinder for casual sex“, was also co-authored by Tuğçe Aral and Terry Eskenazi.

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