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Online dating advice

If you want to take a break from the relentlessly depressing news out of Washington, I highly recommend this OK Cupid analysis of how well different types of photographs did for members of their site. If you're looking for a date, it turns out that showing your face doesn't matter, showing your abs might help, taking your picture by holding the camera out and up from your face might be a good idea, and you probably shouldn't smile. What's even better about the post is how appalled the OK Cupid number-crunchers are by their results. It basically confirms that the world lives by "Jersey Shore" rules.

The one problem is that it's hard to solve the correlation/causation issue here: People who take ab photographs probably have great abs, and people who eschew their face are probably proud of their body, and so on. So these results could simply mean that people are fairly aware of their best attributes.

(Via Tyler Cowen)

By Ezra Klein  |  January 21, 2010; 2:14 PM ET
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"It basically confirms that the world lives by "Jersey Shore" rules."

Correction: It basically confirms that the online dating world lives by "Jersey Shore" rules.

Posted by: Castorp1 | January 21, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Are pictures of abs and bodies an indicator that the people know what their best attributes are, or are they indicators of what the posters are interested in--presumably something hot and sweaty, and lots of it--so tend to get a better response than ambiguous, pouty headshots that are tinted and soft-focused in Photoshop?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 21, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Huh. I did online dating on and off for a few years, and met my husband that way. I always avoided any ad that had a picture of a shirtless guy. It just screamed "Massive ego! Very impressed with own looks!" to me.

I also avoided anyone whose ad contained the phrase "Hello, ladies ..."

The moral is, your online ad should reflect your personality -- it'll determine the type of person who contacts you. If you're trying to find someone whose company you enjoy, it might not be the best idea to start tailoring your ad for volume instead of compatibility.

Posted by: tracy2 | January 21, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

It's actually way more interesting than that. They were able to dig down into which profile pics led to real exchanges, and found that a photo of "doing something interesting" was the best way to have a meaningful exchange with someone.

Also, there's a fun correlation between age and ab pics--basically, the older you get, the less effective ab pics become for men. But for women, shots that include cleavage are MORE effective as you get older!

My instinct is that we're looking more at the dating patterns of 20 year olds (more likely to be looking for Mr. Right now) as opposed to those of 30 year olds (more likely to be looking for Mr. Right).

Posted by: member8 | January 21, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

I think the effect of cleavage vs. age might be a combination of self selection with other factors. That is, if you're older and still showing cleavage, you presumably still have a good body. Which, the older you get, the more unusual it is. Looking good at 22 is nice, but lots of women look good at 22. Still looking good at 32 makes you more of an outlier.

Also, as their analysis showed, women tended to shift to outside pics and other pics that they showed were less effective. So being part of a decreasing minority continuing to pursue the best strategy while your competitors are shifting to less effective ones.

And, as member8 mentioned, I think the male/female difference is easily explained. I think men continue to put a high premium on good looks even as they get older, while women might start valuaing non-physical aspects much more when they're 30 than when they're 20.

Posted by: dt4211 | January 21, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Generally, online daters are worried that a profile's pictures will be carefully selected for the purpose of hiding flaws in one's physique. Taking "body pics" gives the viewer a guarantee that prospective date isn't hiding anything. It's one of those "minimizing losses" strategies.

Posted by: constans | January 21, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I thought their analysis from a month or so ago on race was even better.

Posted by: staticvars | January 21, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

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