Online Dating: Less Is More

Online profiles with a broad portrait, and less info, garner more romantic prospects.

By Marissa Kristal, published May 1, 2007 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Looking to find a date online? If you want to cast a wide net, keep your profile vague. You're often much more appealing when people get to fill in the blanks with what they hope to find, imagining their ideal mate.

But we tend to like people similar to ourselves, and more often than not, the dissimilarities begin to pile up as two people get cozy, according to research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. When we don't find the traits we were expecting, we feel let down. Our affections wane, and we're less likely to give the relationship a chance.

Further, when we detect dissimilarities early on, we interpret later signals as evidence of further disparity. So if you're listing your traits or favorite bands, name the ones people can identify with most easily first, and the later ones will seem less off-putting.

Although high hopes may lead to disappointment, there's an upside to staying (sensibly) optimistic: It keeps us motivated to meet new people. "The takeaway is not to give up, or even lower your standards drastically, but to be more realistic with what you expect out of a first date," says lead researcher Michael Norton of Harvard. "You'll be less likely to be disappointed and more likely to give each other a chance."