Men view beautified women on dating sites to be less trustworthy, study finds

A beautified profile picture on a dating website could make others judge you to be less trustworthy — at least if you’re a woman.

A study of 305 participants found that men who viewed enhanced photos of women judged them to be more attractive but less trustworthy, compared to a natural photo of the same woman. Enhanced photos of men both increased attractiveness and increased trustworthiness among women.

PsyPost interviewed the study’s corresponding author, Rory McGloin of the University of Connecticut. Read his responses below:

PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?

McGloin: I found it fascinating that online dating profile pictures were such a significant piece of the matchmaking process. In particular, in conversations I would have with people who were using apps such as Tinder were basing their assessment of the other person primarily just using the information provided in their picture. In addition to this, I would hear anecdotal stories about people thinking someone’s picture was “too hot” to be on a dating website. So, as a result of these phenomena I thought it would be interesting to examine how this process might actually be working, to see if we could empirically capture the phenomena and to determine how the online dating experience might be different for men and women in this way.

What should the average person take away from your study?

I think there are a number of key take-aways for people who might be using online dating websites or apps. The most important might be to consider “what” you believe your profile picture is communicating about your trustworthiness. In our results, we found that the women’s profile picture that had been beautified led to lower levels of trustworthiness. On the other hand, women found the more beatified male profile picture as also being more trustworthy. Therefore, the process seems to be different for men and women and as a result, different considerations should be made when selecting a profile picture.

If you want to attract people based on your looks, then our results show that a beatified picture can certainly help increase your attractiveness and other individual’s desire to date you. On the other hand, if you want people to perceive you as being trustworthy, then for women, selecting what might be a slightly more authentic or natural photo could help increase your perceived trustworthiness.

Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?

As with any scientific study, there are always limitations. This study provides only one empirical examination into this phenomena, but with a different sample or with different audiences the results could differ. The study only showed one picture and one profile to each participant. As we know, today’s sites and apps allow users to post more than one picture, so it would be interesting to see how a combination of photos could impact the processes that we uncovered here, that is a goal for a follow up study. Also, we did not have enough power in the sample to determine how this process may work for members of the LGBTQ community and therefore, future investigations that focused on this group would also provide important information for all members of the online dating community.

The study, “Too hot to trust: Examining the relationship between attractiveness, trustworthiness, and desire to date in online dating,” was published in the journal New Media & Society. It was also co-authored by Amanda Denes.