Gender Role Congruence and Attractiveness in Online Dating

By Megan Tan ’19

Figure 1. Research shows that gender incongruent profiles are rated more highly than gender congruent ones

Figure 1. Research shows that gender incongruent profiles are rated more highly than gender congruent ones

Online dating platforms are becoming more commonly used to meet and start a romantic relationship. A previous study has indicated that more than one-third of marriages in America began online. However, little research has been done on the effect of gender roles and attractiveness in the online dating scenario.

Kelsey C. Chappeta and Dr. Joan M. Barth from the Institute for Social Science Research at the University of Alabama studied how gender role stereotypes affect attraction in an online dating scenario. They conducted an online survey with 416 college students, the majority white, half male and half female, through a Psychology Subject Pool. In this survey, participants were first asked to fill in their demographic background. They were then shown four different online profiles, each demonstrating one of the following combinations: gender role congruent/high attractiveness, gender role congruent/average attractiveness, gender role incongruent/high attractiveness, and gender role incongruent/average attractiveness. Furthermore, these students were then asked to rate the profile on a seven-point scale and answer five questions like “How attractive do you find this person” to measure the participants’ attraction to the online profile. The pictures from the profile were taken from a public online source and were rated by at least 1000 people. Pictures with ratings of 6-6.99 were used for average attractive profiles and pictures with ratings of 7-7.99 were used for very attractive profiles. Within each of the four conditions, the pictures and profiles were paired in a random manner.

Similar to the results of previous research, both men and women in this study preferred attractive profiles to average profiles. However, contrary to the researchers’ hypothesis, this difference was greater for women than men. Counter intuitively, both men and women preferred gender incongruent profiles to gender congruent profiles. Overall, men rated gender congruent/attractive profiles the highest while women rate gender congruent/attractive and gender incongruent/attractive profiles similarly.

The researcher hypothesized that this may be because gender roles have been changing over time and participants were not asked to think of establishing a long-term relationship while viewing the profiles. Thus, further research can be done through specifying the predicted relationship length and including negative gendered traits instead of just positive ones. Also, the participant pool can be expanded beyond college-aged students and be more inclusive of other ethnicities.

 

References:

  1. K.C. Chapetta and J.M. Barth, How gender role stereotypes affect attraction in an online dating scenario. Computers in Human Behavior 63, 738-746 (2016). doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2016.06.006.
  2. Image retrieved from: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1850748/images/o-ONLINE-DATING-facebook.jpg
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