Are Dating Apps a Breeding Ground for Dark Personalities?
New research suggests that the answer is likely yes.
Posted Sep 08, 2020
How might these dark personality traits apply to the world of online dating? A team of scientists at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria addressed this question in a new paper appearing in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. They found that the dark personality traits of narcissism and Machiavellianism (but not psychopathy) are indicative of a person's dating app usage, much more than innocuous or neutral personality traits such as conscientiousness, openness, or extraversion.
“Predicting [online dating app behavior] on combined questionnaire and behavioral data showed dark personality traits superior to bright ones as predictors in the dating app context,” state the researchers. “Narcissism, and the motives love and sex were the most relevant predictors for any usage, and Machiavellianism was the only relevant predictor for usage time.”
To come to this conclusion, the psychologists recruited 555 German adults to participate in a 3-week tracking study. Some participants installed software on their phone that monitored their daily usage of three of Germany’s most popular dating apps while others self-reported their app usage. Furthermore, the researchers asked respondents to fill out two well-known personality scales: the Big Five and the Naughty Nine. The Big Five includes measures of neutral personality traits such as extraversion, emotional stability, and conscientiousness while the Naughty Nine measures negative personality traits such as narcissism (e.g., “I tend to strive for prestige and status”), Machiavellianism (“I have used flattery to impose my will”), and psychopathy (“I tend not to care about the moral of my actions”).
The psychologists found that the negative traits were much better predictors of online dating usage than the neutral/positive traits. Specifically, narcissism was the strongest predictor of whether someone used an online dating app while Machiavellianism was the best predictor of average daily usage. Among the neutral traits examined by the researchers, emotional stability was the only trait associated with dating app usage, but in the reverse direction (that is, less emotionally stable people were more likely to use online dating apps).
None of this paints a particularly attractive picture of the people who are active on dating apps. From this research, it can be surmised that dating app users are more likely to be self-obsessed, superior, manipulative, sneaky, and/or ingratiating than the general public.
If it’s any consolation, the researchers also tested whether love or sex was the stronger motive for using dating apps. They found love to be the stronger motivating force, though sex was a close second.
The authors state, “The current study contributes to our understanding of the complex interaction of personality and actual behavior in the concrete field of dating apps and dark personality.” Future research would do well to address which dating sites have the highest proportion of dark personalities and what types of online behaviors might reveal a dark personality from a bright one.
Freyth, L., & Batinic, B. How bright and dark personality traits predict dating app behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, 168, 110316.