An analysis of 308 dating profiles revealed that people who show originality in their bios are seen as more intelligent and more funny, and in turn, more attractive. Original profile bios tended to contain more self-disclosure and more stylistic features like metaphors. These findings were published in the journal PLOS One.
Originality is often touted as an attractive quality in a romantic partner, although this may be a fine line to tread. Originality can communicate intelligence and sense of humor, but being too different can violate social norms and come across as inappropriate and odd. Researchers Tess van der Zanden and her colleagues opted to explore this dynamic within the context of online dating profiles.
Online dating profiles typically include a bio section where a hopeful describes themselves in their own words. These texts tend to include clichés and generic statements, and people are often advised to write something unique to stand out from others.
“When looking at existing dating profiles on dating platforms, we noticed that a lot of profiles were highly similar in terms of content and language,” explained van der Zanden, an assistant professor of communication and cognition at Tilburg University. “We we somewhat surprised by this as quite a few dating platforms recommend their users to creative unique and original profiles.”
“At the same time, no scientific research actually demonstrated that original and unique profiles are valued more than mundane and ‘boring’ ones. We believed it would be very interesting – and complex – to further investigate creativity and originality as these concepts are highly context- and person-dependent.”
Van der Zanden and her team conducted two studies to explore the literary components that make these profile texts more original, and whether the originality of these texts leads to a more favorable perception of the profile owner.
First, the researchers obtained data from 31,163 dating profiles from two Dutch dating sites. They then selected 308 profile bios that varied in their perceived originality based on their use of uncommon words. Half of the texts were written by men, and half were written by women.
Next, a sample of 1,234 participants with an average age of 63 was shown a random selection of five of the dating profiles. Participants were shown profiles that corresponded with their indicated sexual preference. The subjects were asked to rate the originality of the profile and their perceptions of the profile owner’s intelligence, sense of humor, and oddness. They also rated the profile owner’s physical, social, and romantic attractiveness and indicated whether or not they would like to go on a date with them.
The results revealed that participants perceived the profile owners with more original texts to be more intelligent. In turn, they rated them higher in physical and romantic attractiveness and were more willing to date them. Participants also perceived the profile owners with more original texts to have a higher sense of humor, and in turn, they rated them higher in physical, social, and romantic attractiveness and were more willing to date them. Mediation analysis revealed that higher intelligence, higher sense of humor, and lower oddness fully mediated the relationship between perceived profile text originality and attractiveness.
“In general, original profiles are valued as owners of profiles that are perceived as more original are also rated as more attractive. This might be partially explained by the fact that owners of original profiles are perceived as more intelligent and funny, which are generally personality traits we consider attractive in a potential romantic partner,” van der Zanden told PsyPost.
In a second study, the researchers conducted a content analysis to determine which specific features contributed to perceptions of originality. They coded the texts for stylistic features, self-disclosure, and perspective-taking. “As there were no specific studies yet on what constitutes creativity in online dating profiles, we decided to content analyse the profiles that the participants evaluated to see what what text characteristics predicted perceived profile text originality,” van der Zanden explained.
This analysis revealed that profile texts that were deemed more original had more metaphors and were less likely to be entirely written from the profile owner’s own perspective. The more original profiles also tended to contain more self-disclosing statements and self-disclosure that was concrete and evoked clear imagery.
“Our results showed that two main types of text characteristics predicted the text originality scores: stylistic and self-disclosure features boosted perceived text originality scores,” van der Zanden said.
“With regard to stylistic features, our findings show that profiles that score higher on perceived profile text originality are more likely to contain one or more fixed or novel metaphors (e.g., “I’m colourful as the rainbow”). Considering self-disclosure, we found that both features that looked at the quantity (i.e., total number of words and total amount of shared personal information) as well as quality of the self-disclosure (i.e., the occurrence of concrete personal information shared) predicted text originality scores. Thus, these might be characteristics one might want to include in their dating profile.”
Overall, the study findings suggest that the originality of a dating profile positively influences impressions of the profile owner’s personality, and in turn, their attractiveness. Certain characteristics can make profile texts appear more original, such as disclosing more concrete personal information and using more stylistic features like metaphors. Interestingly, profile texts that were perceived as odd scored lower on originality and lower on perceived social and romantic attractiveness.
“We initially hypothesised that we expected that owners of profiles that scored higher on originality would also be perceived as more odd/strange/peculiar, as this profile text originality might well spillover into perceptions about this person’s behavior or social skills in other situations, that might also be more strange and less predictable,” van der Zanden told PsyPost. “Our study did not confirm this expectation, as we found that if profiles scored higher on perceived text originality, their writers were considered less odd. This aligns with the general positive impact of originality on impression formation.”
“Another findings we considered interesting – and somewhat surprising – is the fact that also various features related to self-disclosure seemed to be predictors of perceived text originality. These features seemed to be more related to content, suggesting that one can be both original in what information is presented (self-disclosure) and how this information is presented (stylistic features).”
The authors note that their study sample was comprised of older adults, who tend to use dating platforms that rely heavily on textual components. They say it would be insightful to explore how other demographics perceive dating profile originality, such as younger daters who tend to use dating apps that are more image-focused.
“Our sample consisted of members of online dating platforms,” van der Zanden explained. “While this is a strength of the study, it should at the same time be mentioned that the average age of the respondents was around 65 years. This is because we collaborated with the dating platform 50PlusMatch, which is a specific platform for active people of 50 years or older. Given this sample, we can thus not generalize our findings and draw any conclusions about general effects of perceived profile text originality on impression formation across all ages.”
“Moreover, on some platforms, such as 50PlusMatch, the textual component of the profile also plays a more prominent role compared to more picture-prominent platforms, such as Tinder and Happn. As we were specifically interested in the effects of perceived originality in the profile texts on impression formation in this study, I believe it is a strength of the study that we have included participants who are actually familiar with these kind of text-prominent dating profiles.”
“Nevertheless, further research should be done do investigate how different dating demographics appreciate originality in dating profile texts, for example by conducting a comparable study among younger samples as younger adults are often more inclined to use dating applications with more picture-based dating profiles,” van der Zanden continued.
“Secondly, the current study focused only on general perceptions of text originality and profile owner perceptions. However, creativity is generally seen as a construct that consists of two dimensions: novelty (something being distinct, different) and appropriate (something being appropriate/meaningful for the context for which it is produced). We are currently further exploring how these two dimensions of creativity interact and affect impression formation, but these studies have not yet been published.”
The study, “Originality in online dating profile texts: How does perceived originality affect impression formation and what makes a text original?”, was authored by Tess van der Zanden, Alexander P. Schouten, Maria B. J. Mos, and Emiel J. Krahmer.