These days, it’s common for dating websites and match-making apps to offer a simple yes or no choice – users can choose between attractive or unattractive when presented with an image of a potential partner with a swipe of the screen.
But a study published in Scientific Reports suggests a bias in the way we rate people’s attractiveness when quickly flipping through image after image. Whether we’re drawn to someone at first glance may depend on how attractive we found the person before them.
Psychologists Jessica Taubert and David Alais, both from the University of Sydney, and Erik Van der Burg from VU University Amsterdam gauged responses of participants as a binary of attractiveness – swipe left for no, swipe right for yes.
Their participants – 16 female undergraduates from University of Sydney – were shown actual profile photos of 60 men, consensually lifted from website Hot or Not.
During the trial, each participant was shown a man’s face, randomly selected from the pool, on a screen for 300 milliseconds. Once the participant swiped left or right, they progressed to the next face.
Those with more left swipes than the average were considered “unattractive”, while those with more right swipes rated as “attractive”.
The researchers then analysed the order in which the faces appeared, dividing the faces into two groups – those that were preceded by an “attractive” face, and those that were preceded by an “unattractive” face.
They found faces appear more attractive when viewed after an attractive predecessor. Conversely, a face will appear less attractive if the participant didn’t fancy the one before.
The findings, according to the researchers, reflect a shift in the way humans rate each other as potential mates.
“For people sorting through faces in search of an attractive mate, it is a case of love at second sight: their final choice of desirable mate is likely to be one face too late,” they write.