Apparently, how glammed up you are in your picture can be an indicator of how trustworthy you seem. (Illustration: Erik Mace for Yahoo Health)
They say a picture speaks a thousand words — and for better or for worse, that is exceptionally true in the world of online dating.
While it may seem like picking a profile picture where you look your absolute hottest would only be a good thing for attracting potential suitors, that may not actually be the case. Apparently, others’ perceptions of your trustworthiness can actually be affected by how glammed up you are in your photo, according to a new study from University of Connecticut researchers.
For the study, 305 men and women between ages 17 and 36 were randomly assigned to view one of four profile pictures of the same male and female. These profile shots offered two different versions of a single guy and gal — one was beautified (i.e. amped-up lighting, makeup, and hair) and the other was non-beautified (satisfactory lighting, no makeup, no hair primping). The study volunteers were then asked questions about the person’s attractiveness, potential trustworthiness, and desirability.
One of the profiles used in the study: The top profile photo is pre-beautification, while the bottom photo is post-beautification. (Photo courtesy of www.elitemakeupdesigns.com)
The men perceived the lady in the glam shot as being more attractive, yet less trustworthy, than in the non-dolled-up photo. However, the females found the “enhanced” photo of the men to be more attractive and trustworthy.
While it’s hard to say the exact cause of this association, study researcher Rory McGloin tells Yahoo Health that he thinks men “have become expectant that the females are going to do everything they can to get their attention. I think it’s a byproduct of the fact that they know women have more tools available to them—and by that, I mean makeup and hair style, etc.”
Another profile used in the study: The top photo is pre-beautification and the bottom photo is post-beautification. (Photo courtesy of Rory McGloin)
Plus, “in a world where catfishing exists and Photoshop exists, men are most likely thinking, ‘Well, I doubt you look that great in the real world. But if you look kind of close to what you look like, that’s good enough for me,’” he adds.
The guys may also perceive the ultra-glammed-up girl as someone who is trying too hard. “This could raise some red flags,” says McGloin. “He may be thinking, ‘Is there something you’re hiding, covering up, or literally masking — like some sort of imperfection?’”
As for the females’ response, he believes it has something to do a “halo effect,” which is “where the benefits of [a man’s] attractiveness and the female’s desire to go on a date with him just prompted them to say, ‘Of course he’s trustworthy — there’s no way that my instincts would tell me I want to go on a date with someone that I couldn’t really trust,’” he explains.
These findings may leave you feeling confused about what sort of impression you’re making — or inadvertently making — on your online dating profile. Indeed, “building an online dating profile can be really, really stressful,” Lisa Hoehn, founder of Profile Polish, an online dating profile makeover site, tells Yahoo Health. “People spend countless hours staring at their computer screen, not sure what to write or what pictures really make them look the best — and the longer they sit there staring, the more impossible the task starts to feel.”
Fortunately, Hoehn shared some suggestions that take some of the guessing away when it comes to choosing your profile shot:
DO: Look directly into the camera and smile.
DO: Avoid the cleavage selfie taken from above if you’re looking for substantive conversation.
DO: Look away from the camera and avoid the smile. Why? “Because not looking directly into the camera makes you more mysterious and intriguing — so women are more likely to click,” Hoehn says.
DO: Dress casually and avoid the tux shot for your main photo.
For men and women…
DO: Be the only person in your primary photo.
DO: Try to be doing something interesting in your main photo. “Something that shows one of your interests or experiences and could spark a conversation,” Hoehn says.
DO: Keep group shots to four people or fewer and try to be at the center of the group in those pictures.
DO: Change up your facial expression. “The same smile, the same arm on the hip, etc. — it gets repetitive and boring,” she says.
DON’T: Use a work headshot as your primary image.
DON’T: Post a photo with just you and someone of the opposite sex, if you’re a heterosexual. “Could it be your ex? Maybe not, but people will assume it is,” she says.
DON’T: Include photos where you’re visibly drunk. “But if you’re a big party animal, limit it to just one,” she says.
DON’T: Go with any car selfies or bathroom mirror selfies.
Overall, Hoehn says to keep in mind that your photos are not just showcasing your looks, but also your personality. “By looking at your images, you want a potential match to be able to get a sense of who you are and what types of things you’re into,” she says. For example, if you’re a runner, post a picture of yourself crossing the finish line in your latest race. If you’re an amateur cook, upload an image of yourself working the grill. “Not only will this be helpful in starting meaningful conversations, but by skipping the jumping bikini pictures at the beach and the shirtless bathroom selfies, you’ll convey that there’s more to you than your looks.”
McGloin adds that people keep asking him what they should take from his latest research. “My response has been to just enjoy the information for what it is. It’s great food for thought.”
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