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No Need to Play Dumb: Smart Women Are Welcome on Tinder

A new study about Tinder shows that men do not reject more educated women.

Previous research indicates that smarter or more educated women may face penalties in the dating market.
Source: Pixabay/Pexels

Is smart sexy? Past studies have indicated that while brains boost men’s attractiveness, they can be detrimental to a woman’s allure. However, a new study indicates that on Tinder, men are not deterred by a woman’s intelligence.

Neyt, Vandenbulcke, and Baert conducted a field experiment in Belgium to better understand modern dating and the role of education on “dating market returns,” or gains in one’s dating success. The researchers used the popular dating app Tinder to examine actual (what people actually want) rather than stated (what people say they want) mate preferences. Based on gender norms that favor men as the breadwinner, they posited that education would boost a man’s dating success while dampening a woman’s dating success.

To test their research questions, the researchers created 24 Tinder profiles and randomly assigned each to one of four different education/pay levels: Master’s in Business Engineering, Master’s in Public Administration and Management, Bachelor’s in Business, and a Bachelor’s in Office Management. The photos used in the fake profiles were matched on attractiveness.

Based on 3,600 swipes and their responses (i.e., not being liked, being liked, being "super liked," or receiving a message), the researchers replicated past findings that women prefer more educated men. However, they failed to replicate the findings that men reject more educated women. Interestingly, they also did not replicate prior findings that people partner with those with a similar education level.

 Lucas França/Pexels
On Tinder, it's okay to be a smart woman.
Source: Lucas França/Pexels

Unlike past research that mostly relied on naturally existing data or hypothetical scenarios, this study involved the careful manipulation of education level in a true-to-life setting. The researchers suggest that their findings have “important, positive consequences for women in the labor market, who have been shown in the past to shy away from behavior that may improve their careers in order to avoid signaling undesirable traits on the dating market, such as ambition” (p. 24). In other words, women need not fear that their achievements will intimidate men.

As a cautionary note, this finding may not generalize outside of Tinder and similar dating apps. As the authors mention, the blow of rejection is softened on Tinder because users only receive positive feedback (matches) rather than being notified of rejections. Therefore, users may aim higher than in face-to-face interactions, swiping right even on those who would likely reject them.

Other limitations remain. The researchers only tested Bachelor’s versus Master’s degrees within the field of Economics and Business. It is unclear whether their findings would hold with more extreme variations in education (e.g., high school diploma, doctoral degrees) or in other fields. Finally, it is unknown whether the same patterns would be found once dating commences. Might men change their minds as reality sets in?

Facebook image: Vlad Teodor/Shutterstock