08 Aprile 2008

ATTRACTIVENESS ON-LINE. Interview with Andrew Fiore (Univ. California Berkeley)

What does it make an on-line user profile attractive to members of the opposite sex? Andrew T. Fiore and his colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley have selected 50 user profiles on the Yahoo! Personals web site and studied the perception of these profiles on a sample of users in the 19-25 age range. They will present the results at CHI 2008 today in the late afternoon, and I’ve asked Andrew the following quick questions about their work:

Why did you decide to study attractiveness on-line?
“Attractiveness face to face has been studied extensively, but with so many people now conducting their social lives online - especially important parts, like searching for a marriage partner - we wanted to understand how attraction works online. In future work, we'll be examining how online attraction is similar to and different from face-to-face attraction, since the transition from online interaction to face-to-face is a crucial part of meeting someone through online dating with the intent of establishing an offline relationship.”

Based on your  research, what are the key factors that determine attractiveness in on-line profiles?
”The attractiveness of the photos in online dating profiles was the most important factor associated with judgments of overall attractiveness. However, the attractiveness of the text people used to describe themselves in online dating profiles was also strongly associated with overall attractiveness.  In addition, women's profiles appeared more attractive on the whole when the women's photos seemed to show higher self-esteem and more femininity. Men's profiles were rated more attractive when their photos appeared more genuine and trustworthy and less warm and kind (qualities which might be associated with being too feminine).”

How did you reach these findings with users? Did you find any surprising behavior?

“We brought members of the Berkeley community into the lab and had them rate whole profiles and pieces of profiles (photos, textual descriptions, and various demographics) in terms of attractiveness and other qualities, like extraversion, warmth and kindness, and masculinity and femininity.  We then built linear models to examine the relationship between attractiveness of the whole profiles and the qualities of the pieces of profiles.  We were not surprised to find that photos played an important role, but we were interested to see how strong was the association between the attractiveness of the textual description and the attractiveness of the whole profile.”

How do you think on-line profiles should be improved to maximize the probability
that on-line attractiveness is a good predictor of real-world attractiveness?

“We're undertaking a new study right now that will help us answer that question. The study presented at CHI doesn't give us the data to address that, because we don't know how attractive the people in the profiles would be considered face-to-face.  Examining that link between online self-presentation and attractiveness and these same qualities offline should give us insight into how to improve online dating.”

© 2008, Il Sole 24 Ore. Web report from CHI 2008.