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trustworthiness, online dating, and photoshop: a 21st century phenomenon

Image: Santeri Viinamäki (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Image: Santeri Viinamäki (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Modern dating has become a complicated endeavor. While generations past were more likely to find their spouses in their general locale, the advancement of the internet allows people to connect in a variety of new ways.

Online dating applications are a phenomenon that have completely taken over today’s dating world, opening up the pool of potential partners that one could choose – and sometimes the process is more simplified than meeting people in real life.

‘Websites like eHarmony have promoted their use of algorithms to match people based on hobbies, interests, likes, and dislikes,’ notes a recent Report Linker survey. They also note that nearly 20% of single adults in the U.S. are registered with some sort of dating website or application.

As a result, many have spent significant amounts of time mulling over their biographies, interests, and perhaps most importantly, agonising over the photographs they choose to include in their profiles. It’s this aspect that makes some people skeptical about using the applications in the first place. As the aforementioned Report Linker survey argues, ‘it’s all too easy to misrepresent who you really are.’

As it turns out, photoshop and other editing apps play a significant role in how men and women view each other on their dating profiles. In fact, recent data from the University of Connecticut determined that men and women have very different reactions when it comes to edited photos.

The study involved 671 heterosexual participants between the ages of 17 and 36 who were randomly chosen to view one of four profiles of men and women with varying levels of photoshop enhancement. According to the findings, men are less likely to trust women who posted photos that featured individuals using flattering angles, good lighting, and makeup, believing them to be “untrustworthy.”

Although those women were deemed to be “untrustworthy” by the males participating in the study, Rory McGloin, who conducted the research, notes that men weren’t deterred from dating these women.

‘Trust is an important part of any relationship and it certainly plays an important role in the forging of new social bonds in the dating context,’ McGloin stated in a press release. ‘Yet, we found an interesting relationship between attractiveness and trust for males who were viewing female pictures. Specifically, men typically found the more beautified and therefore more attractive profile to also be less trustworthy.’

McGloin went on to say, ‘They thought she was more attractive, they wanted to go on a date with her . . . but they didn’t trust her,’ McGloin stated in a press release.

The same couldn’t be said for the female participants of the survey, however. In fact, women found men with enhanced photos to be more trustworthy.

‘Attractiveness of the male served as a halo,’ McGloin wrote. ‘Once they found him to be attractive, they assumed all the other traits were good as well.’

Though future studies are needed in order to further discover the impact of image retouching, it’s clear that catfishing has had an enormous impact on online dating. It also indicates, however, that many men are willing to take calculated risks in order to date women who they deem to be more attractive, regardless of their level of trustworthiness.

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