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Rules of online dating: Catfishing can get you mixed reactions

Enhancing photos could make a woman seem too good to be true, yet men are willing to take the risk and pursue a date with her, says a research

sex and relationships Updated: May 12, 2015 18:42 IST
More-than-women-men-express-interest-in-dating-the-potentials-of-which-they-viewed-beautified-photos-Shutterstock
More-than-women-men-express-interest-in-dating-the-potentials-of-which-they-viewed-beautified-photos-Shutterstock

The stakes are high for choosing the right picture for your online dating profile, yet enhancing photos could make a woman seem too good to be true, according to a new study. On the flipside, women who viewed enhanced photos of men perceived them as being more trustworthy as well as more attractive, according to the research team who hails from the University of Connecticut.

Working with 305 heterosexual participants between the ages of 17 and 36, the researchers randomly assigned them to view one of four profile pictures of the same person — either a man or a woman, depending. They viewed either a typical amateur photo, which researchers describe as being satisfactory in terms of lighting where the model wore no makeup and his or her hair had not been professionally styled — or a doctored, professional photo.

Participants then responded to questions from the researchers who attempted to gauge how they felt as a group about enhanced versus natural photos. Each was asked to describe the attractiveness of the potential match, their physical similarities between each other, how trustworthy they seemed and whether or not they wanted to go out with the person in the photo. The results imply men are more wary than women of catfishing, the phenomenon of internet users who fabricate online identities and even entire social lives to lure others into relationships they would perhaps not desire if they knew the truth.

"Specifically, men typically found the more beautified and therefore more attractive profile to be less trustworthy," says Rory McGloin of UConn. "This finding provides an empirical highlight to the concept of catfishing and the larger phenomena surrounding online dating, in which it is both normal and acceptable for individuals to mislead or deceive their potential suitors."

Despite the men's lack of trust, they expressed more interest than the women in dating the potentials of which they viewed beautified photos. "This finding suggests even when men suspect a woman may not look exactly like she does in her profile picture, they are willing to take the risk and pursue a date with her, says McGloin. "In our sample, attraction seems to be more important than trust."

The research team will present their findings at the 65th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to take place from May 21 to 25.