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Yes, photos ARE important when it comes to online dating...

OK Cupid put the ‘love is blind’ theory to the test.

Image: Online dating via Shutterstock

BEAUTY MAY ALLEGEDLY be in the eyes of the beholder, but what happens when a dating site removes all photos?

OkCupid decided to do just that… and discovered that when love is blind, some interesting things happen.

OkCupid admits that it “doesn’t really know what it’s doing”, which might be a dart in the heart for anyone who has placed their future happiness in its paws.

But it IS able to run experiments on its users, and illuminate us about fickle humans are, so that’s good.

The test

OkCupid removed all pictures from OkCupid for part of one day – the day they launched a blind dating app, so it didn’t seem too bizarre – earlier this year.

Looking at the seven photo-less hours, OkCupid discovered that:

  • People responded to first messages 44% more often
  • Conversations went deeper
  • Numbers and email address were exchanged more quickly

So, were looks important to those who chatted ‘blind’ to would-be dates?

Er, yes.

Says OkCupid:

When the photos were restored at 4PM, 2,200 people were in the middle of conversations that had started “blind”. Those conversations melted away. The goodness was gone, in fact worse than gone. It was like we’d turned on the bright lights at the bar at midnight.


okcupid 5 Source: OkCupid

When they looked at the findings from their blind date app, they saw that their findings were also backed up here.

[We] found a similar thing: once they got to the date, they had a good time more or less regardless of how good-looking their partner was…Oddly, it appears that having a better-looking blind date made women slightly less happy—my operating theory is that hotter guys were a****** more often. Anyhow, the fascinating thing is the online reaction of those exact same women was just as judgmental as everyone else’s

Looking at other data, they also found that “according to our users, “looks” and “personality” were the same thing”, as people given high votes for their personality also had high votes for their looks.

Each dot is a person:

okcupid personality Source: OkCupid

Looks vs personality

They then ran a direct experiment to confirm their “hunch” that people just look at the picture on dating profiles…

We took a small sample of users and half the time we showed them, we hid their profile text. That generated two independent sets of scores for each profile, one score for “the picture and the text together” and one for “the picture alone.”

okcupid text Source: OkCupid

“Essentially, the text is less than 10% of what people think of you,” said OkCupid.

Right so.

Looks like “GSOH, likes long walks on the beach and days ending in ‘y’” should see you sorted for your next dating profile.

Power of suggestion

The third experiment they ran was about suggestion.

They took pairs of bad matches and told them “they were exceptionally good for each other”.

The findings?

Not surprisingly, the users sent more first messages when we said they were compatible. After all, that’s what the site teaches you to do.

But then, they discovered:

When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are. Even when they should be wrong for each other.


okcupid match Source: OkCupid

Worried that this might mean the algorithm behind their site was a load of muck, they tested it the opposite way: by telling people who were good for each other that they were actually bad for each other.

This is what they found:

okcupid matches Source: OkCupid

The site’s conclusion?

As you can see, the ideal situation is the lower right: to both be told you’re a good match, and at the same time actually be one. OkCupid definitely works, but that’s not the whole story.

What do you make of their findings?

Read: 7 dating apps that prove there really is someone for everyone>

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