• People are more likely to rate one face as attractive and swipe right in the hope of a match if they thought the preceding face was also attractive. (The Feed)
Swiping left or right on dating apps like Tinder might have less to do with whether you find someone attractive and more to do with what you thought of the previous face, new research claims.
By
Yasmin Noone

21 Mar 2016 - 8:43 AM  UPDATED 21 Mar 2016 - 10:36 AM

Have you ever experienced a lucky streak of attractive faces on Tinder, pre-empting a decision to repeatedly swipe right for ‘yes’? Well your online dating habits might not be down to sheer attractiveness fortune.

New research from the University of Sydney shows that your Tinder swiping habits might be less to do with your personal taste and more to do with the link between your brain and vision, when using a fast-paced ‘yes’ or ‘no’ online dating app like Tinder.

According to the Australian study, published in Scientific Reports on March 18, people using online dating sites are more likely to rate one face as attractive and swipe right in the hope of a match if they thought the preceding face was also attractive.

On the flip side, app users are more likely to judge a potential suitor’s profile photo as ugly and swipe left for rejection if they thought the earlier image was unattractive.

“Our study investigated a well-established visual effect called sequential dependence,” says Dr Jessica Taubert, the study’s lead author and postdoctoral research associate at University of Sydney.

“This is the extent to which your visual system continues to see something you actually viewed in the immediate past.

Over 30 female participants were asked to rate 60 male profile pictures from a dating website as attractive or unattractive.

“The brain assumes you are still looking at an object and continues to see that image, for under a split second, even though you have already turned [your vision away]. The result is that the brain will think the second image is actually the same person as the previous suitor.”

Dr Taubert and her colleagues ran two sets of experiments mimicking the swipe left or right option posed by Tinder and other online dating sites.

Over 30 female participants were asked to rate 60 male profile pictures from a dating website as attractive or unattractive.

A profile picture was presented on a screen for 300 milliseconds in each test. The photo was then replaced with a white cross, which remained visible until the participant rated the picture as attractive or unattractive.

The authors found that pictures were more likely to be rated as attractive if participants also liked the look of the previous photo.

“This theory applies to other senses but with what other sense do you make judgements so fast? In this example of online dating, the Internet is driving you to make judgements in a very quick manner.

The brain is integrating those faces over time but making little mistakes. There are other cues present to tell the brain that this is not the case but it does not catch up.

“You are rapidly changing visual identities. And there’s a bit of a time lag there in terms of temporal resolution.

“The brain is integrating those faces over time but making little mistakes. There are other cues present to tell the brain that this is not the case but it does not catch up… That could mean you are losing out on key information.”

The neuroscientist says the visual effect is similar to the trickery posed by ‘the dress’ last year (also known as ‘Dressgate’) where an online photo of a blue-black dress went viral, generating heated online discussion about the true colour of the dress, revealing differences in human colour perception.

“Your brain might be telling you a beautiful lie about what you are looking at so you buy it 100 per cent. But what you see is just your brain’s interpretation of what it thinks is important in the scene. So we have to be conscious of that when making decisions about what we see.”

Based on the findings of this online dating app study, Dr Tabuert recommends that users take their time when looking at profile photos and making decisions about the true attractiveness of potential matches.

“This study serves as a nice cautionary tale…Your brain wasn’t made to deal with information rapidly as you swipe from one face to the next, so you might be missing information along the way. These dating apps don’t take that into account. So slow down.”

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