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Dark Triad

What Makes Tinder Users Tick?

New research finds an inverse correlation between Tinder and moral values.

Source: 99mimimi/Pixabay

While Tinder reinvented the online dating scene, there is also a well-known downside to the popular app. Tinder users seem to be more likely than other digital daters to be deceptive and manipulative and to treat each other as disposable. But what is the reason for such bad behavior? Does Tinder draw out the worst in us by offering easy access to millions of dating options and compelling us to judge a person’s worthiness of romantic pursuit on the basis of outer appearance? Or is the app simply attracting the worst segment of the dating population?

A new study conducted by psychologists Sevi & Doğruyol offers insight into this question. The researchers used the so-called Light Triad to measure the personality of three groups of participants who either actively used Tinder, no longer used Tinder, or had never used the app. The Light Triad of personality, which was introduced by Kaufman et al. (2019), is the positive counterpart of the Dark Triad, which goes back to Paulhus & Williams' seminal 2002 article "The Dark Triad of Personality."

The Dark Triad comprises the three personality traits: Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy. “Machiavellianism” refers to a duplicitous interpersonal style characterized by dispositions to deceive, manipulate, and exploit others to realize their own ends; “Narcissism” refers to an inflated or grandiose sense of self-importance, a lack in empathy for others, and an excessive need for admiration; “Psychopathy” refers to an unusually high need for excitement and thrills, a lack in empathy, and a diminished ability to experience arousal.

The Light Triad is the constellation of the corresponding positive personality traits: Kantianism, Humanism, and Faith in Humanity. Whereas people with high levels of Machiavellianism are motivated to manipulate and deceive others as means to pursue their own goals, individuals with high levels of Kantianism are motivated to treat others as ends in themselves and not as mere means to an end. People with high levels of Humanism value the inherent dignity and inner worth of all humans. Finally, people with a high Faith in Humanity believe in the fundamental goodness of everyone.

The Dark and Light Triads can be used to make predictions about what sort of relationship a person is likely to be seeking (Kaufman et al., 2019). People with a high total score on the Dark Triad are much more likely than individuals with a low total score to be seeking purely sexual short-term relationships. Conversely, people with a high total score on the Light Triad are much more likely than individuals with a low total score to be seeking long-term committed romantic relationships and partnerships.

As Tinder has a reputation for being densely populated with active users seeking short-term relationships, Sevi & Doğruyol hypothesized that active Tinder users would score significantly lower on the Light Triad traits compared to individuals who no longer used Tinder or who had never used the app.

This prediction was partially borne out. While there was no statistical significance for the light traits Humanism and Faith in Humanity, participants who had never used Tinder or who no longer used the app scored significantly higher than active Tinder users on Kantianism. This indicates that having a Kantian personality and refusing to manipulate and deceive others as a means to one's own selfish ends could be motivating people to avoid or stop using Tinder.

These results are consistent with previous findings showing that active Tinder users with higher scores on the Dark Triad traits are more likely to engage in antisocial behavior on Tinder and that Tinder users with higher levels of dark traits, particularly Machiavellianism and Psychopathy, are more likely to use Tinder as a tool for obtaining sex (Timmermans et al., 2018; Duncan & March, 2019; Sevi, 2019).

The common complaint that Tinder users use deceptive or manipulative tactics to satisfy their own ends thus seems to be firmly grounded in reality. However, this is not because the Tinder platform brings the worst out in otherwise nice people, but rather because the app attracts people with higher levels of the Dark Triad traits and lower levels of the Light Triad traits.


Duncan Z., March E. (2019). "Using Tinder to start a fire: Predicting antisocial use of Tinder with gender and the Dark Tetrad." Personality and Individual Differences, 145, 9–14.

Kaufman S. B., Yaden D. B., Hyde E., Tsukayama E. (2019). "The light vs. dark triad of personality: Contrasting two very different profiles of human nature." Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 467.

Paulhus D. L., Williams K. M. (2002). "The dark triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy." Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 556–563.

Sevi B. (2019). "The dark side of Tinder: The dark triad of personality as correlates of Tinder use." Journal of Individual Differences, 1–5.

Sevi B., Doğruyol B. (2020). "Looking from the bright side: The Light Triad predicts Tinder use for love," Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 7, 37.

Timmermans E., De Caluwé E., Alexopoulos C. (2018). "Why are you cheating on Tinder? Exploring users’ motives and (dark) personality traits." Computers in Human Behavior, 89, 129–139.

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