Women Don’t Want To Date Jerks, Even When They’re Hot

Study suggests women prefer emotionally-available men, even when they're less attractive, to assholes

Tinder: there's science behind every swipe right. — (REUTERS)
Mar 03, 2016 at 11:57 AM ET

Your latest emotional rebound is the subject of a new scientific study, which effectively confirms what you already sort of suspected—women prefer men who aren’t assholes.

The study focused on online dating, and found that women were more interested in emotionally-available men, and they cared less about how attractive they were, when they saw their profiles immediately after swiping past a very attractive, but less responsive, man. “Decisions about who to date are increasingly being made while viewing a large pool of dating prospects simultaneously or sequentially (e.g., online dating),” the authors write. “These results highlight the importance of the context in which dating decisions are made.”

More Your Scientific, Data-Driven Guide To Online Dating

Online dating is no longer a fringe industry. Roughly five percent of Americans who are married or in a long-term relationship claim that they met their partners online, and some liberal estimates suggest that up to 40 million Americans may be using online dating services. The trend has so captured the imaginations of some researchers that there’s even one scientific study out there that calculates every detail of the ideal online dating profile.

But online dating has also changed how quickly we are expected to rebound. In fact, the authors of this new study claim that we experience a sort of “micro-rebound” every time we swipe left. That is, whenever we look at a dating profile we become somewhat emotionally invested, and then when we choose to pass, that fleeting experience affects how perceive the next profile. And, if the previous profile was awful, we’re more likely to view the next one charitably.

To demonstrate this point, researchers recruited 88 female college students, and presented them with several male dating profiles. Each profile consisted of a photo that had been independently rated for attractiveness, along with descriptions that indicated either emotional responsiveness or lack thereof. For instance, one profile presented a man rated “very attractive,” but with a profile that read “I get bored talking about feelings and stuff.” Another profile depicted a man who had been rated as unattractive, but with the tagline “I like to make sure my girlfriend feels understood and that I get who she is and what she needs.”

All things being equal, the results suggest that women are more interested in emotionally responsive men than jerks (go figure). But the surprise came when researchers found that women were even more likely to choose a less attractive man immediately after seeing an emotionally unresponsive profile, even when that profile belonged to a very attractive jerk. Further, women considered responsive but less attractive men significantly more attractive if they saw their profiles immediately after seeing an unresponsive, attractive man.

Nice guys, then, do succeed in online dating, regardless of how attractive they are. And they’re even more likely to snag a swipe to the right when women see them after seeing an attractive jerk. Admittedly, the study was small (a second experiment, which confirmed the results from the first 88 women, included 267 participants) and only indicative of how college students use online dating.

But the scientists do have one (fairly hilarious) suggestion, based on the data. “Nice guys looking to finish first may want to avoid paying for options that offer to bump their profile for premium viewing,” the authors write. Because if you’re less attractive but have a great personality, the worst case scenario is that women see you at the top of the page—before they’ve had a chance to swipe past the jerks.