In online dating, it is a profile owner’s photos displaying their physical appearance and manner that viewers generally use to form an impression of the profile owner. However, some dating sites blur out the profile photo until a match has occurred, and therefore in the absence of such visual information, it is perhaps the dating profile bio to which viewers refer in order to form an impression of the profile owner. It is, therefore, important that profile bios are constructed carefully and do not contain language errors, such as flaws in typing, grammar, or spelling. Such errors may influence impressions of intelligence, which is important because intelligent people are often judged as more attractive compared to their less intelligent counterparts.
Tess Van der Zanden and colleagues from Tilburg University in the Netherlands sought to assess the effects of language errors in dating profile bios. Participants in their study were divided into two groups, with one group shown a blurred photo and the other group shown a non-blurred photo. Following this, each group was further subdivided and was shown either a written dating profile bio which contained language errors or one which contained no language errors.
To check on the extent to which the participants had actually read the profiles, they were asked to answer two questions about the profile content before being asked to rate it. The profile photos used in the study were prejudged to be of average physical attractiveness and were paired with four written profiles which differed in some relatively neutral content. The texts presented were identical for men and women participants except for one gender-specific word (his/her) (Van der Zanden, Schouten, Mos, & Krahmer, 2020).
Bios containing language errors, which were evenly dispersed throughout the text, included the following examples:
- “I just feel like I want to fall love again” (typographical error)
- “That you laugh Together about the things you experienced” (capital letter error).
Attractiveness ratings for each profile were assessed in four ways, which were:
- Physical attraction: “I think this person is good-looking.”
- Social attraction: “I think I could be friends with this person.”
- Romantic attraction: “I would want to have a relationship with this person.”
- Dating intention: “I would like to know more about this person.”
Language Errors and Attractiveness
Firstly, it is worth reporting that only 33.5 percent of participants reported noticing any language errors in the profiles with which they had been presented. Therefore, some 66 percent reported not noticing any language errors or were unsure.
However, participants who had noted language errors rated the owners of these bios as less socially and romantically attractive than profiles owners whose bios featured no language errors. In other words, they didn’t feel they could have a romantic relationship or even be friends with them. However, there were no differences between the owners of bios featuring errors and bios featuring no errors on participants’ ratings of physical attractiveness or dating intention: that is, they didn’t rate them as less physically attractive or weren’t less curious about them.
Furthermore, profiles which featured visible unblurred pictures were judged as more physically attractive than pictures which were blurred. However, there were no differences in ratings between blurred and non-blurred pictures for ratings of social attractiveness, romantic attractiveness and dating intention. So, the blurred images did not make participants feel that they couldn’t be friends with or have a relationship with and weren’t less curious about the profile owners.
Overall, however, the findings show that language errors and picture clarity appear to influence judgements of different elements of attractiveness.
The researchers also expected that any adverse effects of poor language might be magnified for the blurred profile pictures compared to the non-blurred pictures. However, this was not the case, meaning that the absence of visual cues did not cause an increase in the importance attached to the textual information. Furthermore, when the researchers compared the effects of language errors compared to no language errors in the blurred and then in the non-blurred photo conditions, they found no effect on the various measures of attractiveness.
While the take home message for online daters is to take care and not make language errors in their dating bio, it also be recognized that this study used a broad range of language errors, and it is entirely possible that certain specific types of error may influence different elements of attraction. The researchers did examine this in a second study, which will be featured in another article.