The Fascinating Psychology of Online Dating

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Have you ever wondered about the psychology of online dating? If so, you’ve come to the right place! Human match-making is typically a complicated process that likely dates back to the bible. However, the prevalence of online dating has arguably changed the landscape, as people may be better able to curate what they share and how they present themselves online.

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Not only that, but online dating has opened up a plethora of options that may not have existed when traditional dating was the norm. No longer do people have to go to bars, experience the trials and tribulations of dating someone they work with, or go through the agony of being set up with someone by friends!

How Does Evolutionary Psychology Factor In?

Tinder, a mobile dating app, has a reputation for facilitating hook-ups based primarily on appearance. This is likely because the app gives users very little information other than geographic proximity, name, age and—of course—photos. The fact that there is little to go on when deciding whether or not to pursue another user is where evolutionary psychology comes in.

Contrary to popular belief, many of the decisions that human beings make actually occur unconsciously, rather than logically. According to TechCrunch,2 Tinder users undergo a three-step decision-making process when evaluating whether or not to engage with another user. This involves:

  1. Rational-Controlled Process (users set age, gender, and geographic preferences)
  2. Emotion-Oriented Process (the app presents appropriate matches which users like or dislike based on emotional reactions to photos)
  3. The Waiting Process (users wait to see if their potential partners like them back and start a chat)

So how important are geographical distance and age in the rational stage? Research shows that how far apart two potential partners live is the best single predicator of whether they will become a couple.2 And, the closer that people are in age the more likely they will share more in common—such as backgrounds, life concerns and cultural references. If daters have shared interests and experiences, it’s more likely that they will be able to click on a personal and conversational level.

It’s no secret that humans have a tendency to attribute positive characteristics like intelligence or honesty to those whom they consider to be physically attractive. Evolutionary psychologists have argued that this may be because physical characteristics may be indicative of fertility and health, which are important to our survival and reproduction as a species. Research has also shown that couples tend to be similarly matched in attractiveness. In the majority of cases, people determine whether a potential partner is attractive, evaluate whether they would be categorized as more, less, or equally attractive and then decide whether to move forward based on this information.2

Interested in learning more about relationships and the psychology behind them? If so, you may want to consider pursuing a degree in psychology. An example of a career in psychology is marriage and family therapists, who help to treat couples and families who are going through emotional or behavioral problems. To qualify for such a position, you would need to earn a master’s degree in psychology and a license from the state that you practice in.3

Online dating was once considered by many to be for people who were desperate or undesirable. However, according to research from the Pew Research Center, three times as many people used dating sites or apps in 20221 as in 20134! And some suggest that internet daters are actually more likely to be sociable, have high self-esteem, and be low in dating anxiety.

Now let’s look at some stats on the prevalence of online dating….

According to the 2022 Pew study, 1 – 3 in 10 adults have ever used a dating site or app. These numbers vary by age: 53% of people aged 18–29 have used a dating site or app. That number is 37% for people 30–49, 20% for people 50–74, and 13% for people 65+.

Here are some more quick facts about online dating habits:1

  • Men are more likely to have used a dating app than women: 34% vs. 27%.
  • 52% of people who have never been married have used a dating app, compared to only 36% for people who are divorced/separated/widowed.
  • Tinder is the top dating site for people under 30. For those over 30, Match is the most popular dating site.
  • 20% of people under 30 met their significant other—meaning those who are married, living with a partner, or in a committed romantic relationship—through a dating site or app. For all ages, that number is 10%.
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What Are Some Drawbacks to Online Dating?

One very real problem with online dating is deception. Online dating gives people the unique opportunity to curate their public persona, whether that be with the use of outdated photos or by reporting inaccurate facts about themselves. Accordingly, the majority of online daters admitted to including untrue information on at least one of three characteristics of their profile—weight, height, and age.6

Another issue, more so for women than men, is experiencing unwanted behaviors on dating sites.1 56% of women under 50 reported that they had been sent a sexually explicit message or image they didn’t ask for, 43% have had someone continue to contact them when they indicated that they weren’t interested, 37% had been called an offensive name, and 11% have received threats of physical harm. The majority of women of all ages experienced at least one of these four things, and 40% of men over 50.

Online dating may also be a haven for scammers. You may have heard stories about people creating fake profiles in order to ask for money or get personal information. There are a number of warning signs to look for: The picture of the person is too good to be true; they lavish you with attention; they want to quickly leave the dating app and contact you by text, email, or phone; or they repeatedly arrange to meet but then cancel at the last minute. Take it slow, ask lots of questions, and be on the lookout for these signs.


Online dating may not be for everyone, but it’s clear that it a growing number of people are taking the plunge. Check out our infographic above to see more interesting stats about the Psychology of Online Dating!

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