You have an app on your smartphone for the weather, the news, where to eat, and one just for crushing candy. So why not an app for dating? Finding people on your own at a bar probably hasn’t been terribly successful, so it may be time to let your phone help you find a little love (or perhaps lust). Let’s see how they stack up compared to the scientific literature…
1) Snapchat (iTunes)
What the App Does: Allows users to take a picture and send it to someone else. The interesting aspect of Snapchat, however, is that it allows you to set how long others are able to see your photo. Only want the other person to see the picture for 3 seconds? 10 seconds? Then you can set the timer accordingly. So why is this a dating app? Well, it has become the social media sexting app of choice because the pictures “self destruct,” leaving behind no evidence (that is, unless someone is quick enough to take a screen shot!).
What Science Says: A few seconds to view a picture (innocent or otherwise) may not seem like enough time to form an accurate judgment. However, it turns out that we assess attractiveness within milliseconds.1 One potential issue with using Snapchat as a dating app is that it bases relationship formation entirely on physical attractiveness. Sure, people may do that all the time, but since research shows that passionate love (i.e., feelings of lust and sexual attraction) decreases over time,2 basing a relationship on initial reactions to looks is not the best basis for a long-term relationship.
2) Tinder (iTunes)
What the App Does: Tinder uses your Facebook profile to help match you with potential dates who are similar to you and nearby. It is extremely simple to use. When presented with potential matches (a picture and some very basic details), users anonymously indicate their interest with a simple swipe of their thumb on a heart or an X. If both people “heart” or “like” each other’s profile, they are a “match” and then can proceed to personal message each other.
What Science Says: Tinder seems to suggest matches based on similarity between individuals’ profiles. There is a great deal of science behind the notion that similarity plays a large role in attraction.3 The other feature of Tinder that’s interesting is that it provides suggestions based on physical proximity. Again, the available research suggests that we are more attracted to those who live nearby.4 Matches on Tinder also benefit from the principle of reciprocity (i.e., liking those who like you), which research suggests also increases attraction.5 Really, what’s not to like about someone who has already liked you?
3) CrazyBlindDate (iTunes)
What the App Does: This app, created by OKCupid, allows users to say where they’d like to go on a date. The app then uses this information to find you a date who wants to go to the same place. Once matched, users can message each other to make sure they can identify each other: “I’m the one sitting by the window with the nervous look, hoping that you aren’t a creeper.”
What Science Says: The premise of this app may sound a little “crazy” or exciting depending on your frame of reference. In either case, this type of dating experience would likely generate a sense of physiological arousal, which can promote attraction between strangers.6 Blind dates may also seem like a bad idea because you aren’t picking the partner yourself, but people are not very good at predicting what they find attractive in potential partners.7
In sum, each app has its scientific merits. However, it is important to point out that science has yet to identify a surefire way to create or predict attraction between two people. But you can’t win if you don’t play.
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1van Hooff, J. C., Crawford, H., & van Vugt, M. (2011). The wandering mind of men: ERP evidence for gender differences in attention bias towards attractive opposite sex faces. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 6(4), 477-485.
2Acker, M., & Davis, M. H. (1992). Intimacy, passion and commitment in adult romantic relationships: A test of the triangular theory of love. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 9(1), 21-50.
3Byrne, D. (1971). The attraction paradigm. New York: Academic Press.
4Festinger, L., Schachter, S., & Back, K. (1950). Social pressures in informal groups: A study of human factors in housing. Palo Alto, California: Stanford University Press.
5Luo, S., & Zhang, G. (2009). What leads to romantic attraction: Similarity, reciprocity, security, or beauty? Evidence from a speed-dating study. Journal of Personality, 77(4), 933-964.
6Dutton, D. G., & Aron, A. P. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30(4), 510-517.
7Eastwick, P. W., & Finkel, E. J. (2008). Sex differences in mate preferences revisited: Do people know what they initially desire in a romantic partner? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(2), 245-264.
Dr. Gary Lewandowski – Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Lewandowski’s research explores the self’s role in romantic relationships focusing on attraction, relationship initiation, love, infidelity, relationship maintenance, and break-up. Recognized as one of the Princeton Review’s Top 300 Professors, he has also authored dozens of publications for both academic and non-academic audiences.