Edward Royzman, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, asks me to list four qualities on a piece of paper: physical attractiveness, income, kindness, and fidelity.Then he gives me 200 virtual “date points” that I’m to distribute among the four traits.I think for a second, and then I write equal amounts (70) next to both hotness and kindness, then 40 next to income and 20 next to fidelity.“Oh wow,” he says.“What? Usually women allocate more to fidelity and less to physical attractiveness.Maybe you think fidelity is something people can cultivate over time?This more superficial breed of dating sites is capitalizing on a clear trend.Only 36 percent of adults say marriage is one of the most important things in life, according to a 2010 Pew study, and only 28 percent say there is one true love for every person (men are more likely to say so than women).So perhaps you should make that Tinder tagline all about how you volunteer at an animal shelter every weekend.
Physiognomy, or the bogus theory that we can predict a person’s character from their features, was once a widespread doctrine.It seems people might only be able to determine the extremes of a personality from a photo, rather than its nuances.(One study found that the owner of an "honest" face is not any more likely to be trustworthy, for example.)It’s true that attractive people generally are treated more nicely by others, and they might have better-adjusted personalities as a result. In relationships, personality eventually overtakes attractiveness—or at the very least, we tend to find people more attractive when we think they have good personalities.Rather than attempting to hitch people for life based on a complex array of intrinsic qualities, why not just offer daters a gaggle of visually appealing admirers?Recent research has examined what makes people desire each other digitally, as well as whether our first impressions of online photos ultimately matter.As one columnist who used the service put it, “There’s a short bio, age, and mutual friends listed, but who’s really paying attention to that stuff when your Tinder flame is wearing next to nothing on the beach?