Study finds link between psychopathy and using Tinder while in a committed relationship

People who use the dating app Tinder despite being in a committed relationship tend to be more psychopathic, according to new research published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior. The new research represents the first investigation of how motivations and personality traits influence dating app infidelity.

“We noticed that several academic studies on dating apps consistently reported that a subsample of their participants were in a committed relationship while using Tinder or another dating app (in between 18 and 25% to be precise),” explained study author Elisabeth Timmermans of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

“We thought this was quite surprising, as dating apps – or hookup apps – are mostly aimed at attracting singles. Therefore, we were mainly interested in why people in a committed relationship would use Tinder and whether these motives differed from single Tinder users.”

“For instance, are users who reported to be in a committed relationship more or less likely to look for a committed relationship on Tinder compared to single users? In addition, we wondered whether their personality differed from single Tinder users and people in a committed relationship who did not use a dating app.”

The researchers surveyed 1,486 Tinder users regarding their motives for using the app and their experiences with it. More than 300 of these participants (22.4%) reported using the app despite being in a committed relationship, and more than half of the Tinder users who were in a relationship reported they had used the app to meet someone.

Timmermans and her colleagues found that non-single and single Tinder users differed significantly on their motivations for using the dating app.

“For instance, partnered Tinder users report significantly higher scores on using Tinder out of curiosity and because everyone uses a dating app nowadays compared to single users,” she told PsyPost.

“They reported significantly lower scores on using Tinder to find a romantic partner (probably because they are already in a relationship), using Tinder to find new friends or broaden the social circle, using Tinder while travelling, using Tinder to forget about the ex-partner, to increase their social and flirting skills, and out of peer pressure, compared to single users.”

“Interestingly, no differences were found for using Tinder as an ego-boost, entertainment, or to find casual sex. Such findings indicate that partnered Tinder users are as likely as single Tinder users to use a dating app to boost their ego and look for casual sex!” Timmermans explained.

The study also revealed some personality differences between non-single Tinder users and single users. Timmermans and her colleagues also compared partnered Tinder users to partnered individuals who didn’t use the app.

“Partnered Tinder users reported lower scores on agreeableness and conscientiousness and higher scores on neuroticism and psychopathy compared to people in a committed relationship who did not use a dating app,” Timmermans said. “Interestingly, partnered Tinder users with a higher score on psychopathy were also more likely to use Tinder for casual sex and reported a higher number of one night stands with other dating app users.”

Non-single Tinder users with a higher score on psychopathy also reported significantly more one night stands.

But the study — like all research — includes some limitations.

“We also looked into whether partnered Tinder users differ on their Tinder outcomes compared to single Tinder users. Our findings show that partnered Tinder users report significantly more one night stands, casual sexual relationships, and committed relationships with other users compared to single Tinder users,” Timmermans explained to PsyPost.

“However, one major limitation here is that we did not specifically asked these users whether they reported on these outcomes while in a committed relationship. It thus might be possible that they are also reporting on these behaviors while being single. As we did not measure this and did not have information on relationship length either, we are a bit cautious about claiming that partnered Tinder users are more likely to cheat on their partner.

“Yet, we are currently working on follow-up research to address these issues and provide a better answer to this question. Especially as dating apps are relatively new it is important to better estimate their influence on committed relationships and infidelity,” Timmermans said.

“Our findings leave me wondering whether dating apps might be a threat to romantic relationships. Of course our findings are too preliminary to make such conclusions, but they already suggest that some people (i.e., with certain personality traits) might be more susceptible to using dating apps for infidelity purposes than others,” she added.

“The question is: are those the people that would cheat anyway (but now have a platform to do it even more easily) or are such platforms designed in such a way (e.g., the game element of the swiping; the large dating pool that creates a choice overload effect and makes it harder to select a partner, potentially resulting in people wanting to reverse their choice) that they are more likely to lead to infidelity – even for those who might not have cheated if it wasn’t for dating apps?”

The study, “Why are you cheating on tinder? Exploring users’ motives and (dark) personality traits“, was authored by Elisabeth Timmermans, Elien De Caluwé, and Cassandra Alexopoulos.