Online dating is a great way to find a partner.

People can describe themselves and what they want in a relationship, sometimes less honestly than truthfully. However, most people don’t lie. They use minor deceptions and slight exaggerations.

Filters are a popular way to enhance one’s physical appearance. Online dating sites have taken a firm stance and have banned posting photos that have been altered or filtered, as the vast majority of daters consider filters misleading. Online daters should therefore provide accurate photos that reflect their interests and intentions.

Looking for commitment?

Mackenzie Zinck, Laura Weir and I looked at online dating photos between July and August 2020 in Nova Scotia. We examined 250 long-term relationships and 250 short-term relationships for 250 women. Because there were only 46 women in the province advertising short-term relationships, we didn’t include them. We also did not know their photos, so they were not included in the main study.

We predicted that men looking for long-term relationships would be more interested in images of their dependents (children, dogs, or cats) than those seeking short-term relationships. This is more than what we saw with women. Cross-sex mind-reading, which allows you to see what the other sex is thinking about mating, would make men want to advertise their ability to care for a dependent over the long term when looking for a long-term relationship.

We found that men looking for a long-term relationship were more likely than those seeking short-term ones to include photos of their children and dogs in their profiles.

a woman holding a phone sits on a boardwalk with a man and a dog
Men who included dogs in their online dating profile photos were more likely to be interested in a long-term relationship.
(Shutterstock)

We were surprised by the women, however.

We predicted that women would not show their dependents as they want to avoid being seen as a burden or because another man’s child will need care and attention. We predicted that women would feel the need to protect their children or not show them in public places among strangers.

We found that both men as well as women looking for long-term relationships were equally likely to have dependents. However, women were more likely than men to show a dog and men to show a child.

Photographic research

It is not a new idea to study photos of online daters. My students and I looked at 300 online dating profiles to determine the relationship that men and women wanted. This was a decade ago. No matter what type of relationship they were seeking, women smile more than men and wear less clothing.

Men were more likely to have gray hair. They also tend to use an upward-facing camera angle (potentially making them appear taller and wider-chested), flex and use outdoor settings. Eyeglasses were more popular among men looking for long-term relationships than any other group, particularly when compared to those seeking intimate connections. People looking for long-term relationships or dates rarely include other people in their photos than those seeking sexual relationships.

A woman's hand holds a phone showing a photograph of a man wearing glasses and a black muscle tee
Men were more likely to flex their muscles in photos uploaded to their dating profiles.
(Shutterstock)

Why dogs?

It is not a new idea to study photos of online daters. My students and I looked at 300 online dating profiles to determine the relationship between men and women. This was a decade ago. No matter what type of relationship they were seeking, women smile more than men and wear less clothing.

Men were more likely to have gray hair. They also tend to use an upward-facing camera angle (potentially making them appear taller and wider-chested), flex and use outdoor settings. Eyeglasses were more popular among men looking for long-term relationships than any other group, particularly those seeking intimate connections. People looking for long-term relationships or dates rarely include other people in their photos than those seeking sexual relationships.

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