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The 4 Myths of Online Profile Pictures

Mon, Jan 25, 2010

News, Research

OkCupid.com is a free online dating site (with, btw, a weirdly all-male staff, save for the one woman on their about page whose title is, even more disturbingly, “office chick”). They cataloged over 7000 photographs (with average attraction ratings and aged 18 to 32) on their site, analyzing 1) facial attitude (Is the person smiling? Staring straight ahead? Doing that flirty lip-pursing thing?), 2) photo context (Is there alcohol? Is there a pet? Is the photo outdoors? Is it in a bedroom?) and 3) skin (How much skin is the person showing? How much face? How much breasts? How much ripped abs?) — and they found some interesting, myth-busting things. It’s actually a fascinating article with cool charts and graphs that’s worth a look, but here’s the quick gist of the data:

  • Women with photos flirting directly at the camera get more messages than those smiling
  • But flirting away from the camera is the worst thing a woman can do for generating responses (same goes for men)
  • Men’s photos are most effective when they look away from the camera and don’t smile
  • Surprisingly, self-shot pics (e.g. with phone or web cam) are more successful than average for both men and women (but especially women)
  • If young guys have hot bodies they do well with responses if they show them off, i.e. go shirtless (they don’t do so well if they are dressed up in the photo)
  • Women’s cleavage shots get a lot more responses than average, especially if they’re older (i.e. A 32 year-old woman showing her body gets only 1 less message a month than the equivalent 18 year-old; an older woman not showing off gets 4 messages less)
  • But pictures that involve the subject engaged in something interesting result in many more “conversations” (back and forth exchanges)
  • You don’t have to show your face, as long as you “substitute in something unusual, sexy, or mysterious enough to make people want to talk to you.”

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