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Scientists tackle issue of how to get a first date in a digital world

An online profile name beginning with letters A-M is as important as an attractive photo and fluent headline when it comes to being successful in the world of online dating, according to scientists.

Friday 13 February 2015


Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have taken an evidence-based approach to the ancient pursuit of dating, by carrying out a systematic review on converting online contact into a first date.

Published in the journal Evidence Based Medicine, the study analysed published research on the art of attraction and persuasion – in the fields of psychology and sociology, as well as computer, behavioural, and neurocognitive science – in order to reveal the most effective approaches between men and women in converting online contact into a first date.

Out of almost 4000 studies, 86 met their inclusion criteria. The study findings were pooled and synthesised to come up with a list of dos and don’ts for online dating, from creating a profile to making online contact.

The researchers found that a person’s chosen online profile name chosen is particularly important. Men are more drawn to names that indicate physical attractiveness, such as ’Blondie’ or ‘Cutie’ while women go for names that signal intelligence, such as ‘Cultured.’
In addition, names with negative associations such as ‘Little’ or ‘Bug’ should be avoided in favour of something more playful such as ‘Fun2bwith’, as the latter is more universally attractive.

Professor Khalid Khan, who led the research at Queen Mary University of London, comments: “Several factors make a difference when looking for love in a digital setting. Starting a screen name with a letter in the top half of the alphabet is surprisingly important – because several measures of success, such as educational attainment and income, are linked to names higher up the alphabet. Add to this the fact that search engines sort names alphabetically.

“People are also attracted to those similar to themselves. So before setting up your profile, look at the profiles of people you find attractive and choose a name with a likeness. It seems obvious to say an attractive photo is best, but try and include features such as a genuine smile that crinkles up the eyes, and possibly a tilt of the head. Women seeking men should wear red to boost the level of interest.

The researchers add that people setting up an online profile shouldn’t limit themselves to selfies. Group photos showing other people having a good time in your company, preferably with you right in the middle of the action and touching someone else – but only on the upper arm – will help to convey your friendliness, importance, and status. Incidentally, women find a man more attractive when they see other women smiling at him.

The study found complex language in a headline message (perhaps included in the belief it makes a person look more intelligent) is a universal turn off. People are naturally drawn to words that are easy to remember and pronounce, and ease of information processing increases likeability, the analysis shows.

Professor Khan continues: “If you can get the potential date to stop and think about your headline message, increasing the exposure time to your primary photo, this will increase their liking of you. Steer clear of fiction in your profile: written information could come back to bite you. And provide a 70:30 mix of who you are, and what you are looking for. Bear in mind that likeability is more attractive than academic achievement, and that a profile that appears genuine is more likely to generate interest.”

What traits are most attractive?  Men seeking women are drawn to physical fitness while women prefer bravery and risk-taking rather than kindness and altruism in men.

When it comes to the all-important sense of humour, showing it rather than describing it is the advice from researchers. A wittily written profile is likely to be far more successful than just saying that you are funny.

Once interest has been sparked:
• Do personalise any email invitations to correspond
• Do make it short and sweet
• Don’t be afraid to use rhyming poetry

Once contact has been made:
• Do ask open questions
• Do respond promptly: eagerness is not turn-off
• Don’t write screeds, but moderate length responses indicate generosity with time
• Do introduce humour
• Do disclose some personal information
• Don’t sell yourself as a rare commodity that is worth having

If on a webcam:
• Do smile
• Do mimic body language
• Don’t slouch
• Do pay genuine compliments, but don’t flatter
• Don’t portray yourself as perfect: it arouses suspicion
• Do end every conversation on a positive note/with a positive revelation about yourself
• Don’t leave it too long before arranging a face to face meeting

For media information, contact:

Rupert Marquand
Public Relations Officer
Queen Mary University of London
email: r.marquand@qmul.ac.uk

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