Feedback plays an important role in the link between dating app use and intentions to cheat

New research suggests dating apps like Tinder can make people feel more romantically desirable, and subsequently more likely to pursue other romantic or sexual opportunities outside of their current relationship. The findings have been published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

“I became interested in this topic because I stumbled across a couple of study findings that linked social media use with extradyadic behavior,” said study author Cassandra Alexopoulos, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

“Although convenience is the most obvious reason for this relationship, I thought that there must be something more going on. What about being in this online environment is so conducive to searching for alternative partners?”

The study of 395 dating app users found that self-perceived desirability mediated the relationship between perceived dating app success and willingness to be unfaithful to a partner. In other words, participants who reported receiving more matches and having more people start conversations with them tended to perceive themselves being as a more desirable partner, which in turn was associated with heightened intentions to commit infidelity.

“As we expected, people who received positive feedback and attention from other dating app users reported greater intentions to commit infidelity, as this kind of experience can boost one’s confidence in themselves as a potential mate,” Alexopoulos told PsyPost.

“However, it’s also possible for people to feel overwhelmed by dating app responses: those who reported an increase in their number of available dating partners reported lower intentions to commit infidelity.”

Most of the participants (36.5%) indicated they were single, but 23% said they were casually dating and 18.5% said they were seriously dating. About 14 percent of the participants were using a dating app while married.

A previous study of 550 college students found that 12.5 percent had spent time with someone they met on Tinder, 17.1 percent had messaged someone on Tinder, 8.9 percent had been physically intimate and 7.2 percent reported having sexual relations with someone they met on Tinder while in an exclusive relationship.

But the new study, like all research, includes some limitations.

“The major caveat of interpreting these findings is that this is cross-sectional data, and longitudinal data is needed to further support these findings,” Alexopoulos said. “In addition, although the link between intention to commit infidelity and actually committing infidelity has been supported, there is indeed a difference between a person’s intentions and a person’s behavior — we hope to one day measure this in follow-up studies.”

The study, “Swiping more, committing less: Unraveling the links among dating app use, dating app success, and intention to commit infidelity“, was authored by Cassandra Alexopoulos, Elisabeth Timmermans, and Jenna McNallie.