Insights on love with UBC Psychology postdoctoral researcher Alec Beall

In advance of Valentine’s Day, UBC’s Faculty of Arts asked scholars from Economics, Psychology, English and Philosophy to share their insights on how to think about love, what it means to say “I love you,” and the best way to improve one’s love life. Alec Beall is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow who studies romantic relationships and sexual attraction from an evolutionary theoretical perspective. In this excerpt, he shares his ideas on how to improve your love life in the ‘swipe-right generation.’

“An overlooked feature relevant to first-impression sexual attraction might just be the emotion you display in your [online dating] profile photo.”

Alec T. Beall

Since 2013, the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds who participate in online dating (e.g., use dating apps) has roughly tripled; similar substantial increases in online dating use have been seen among other age groups as well. Given the ubiquity and increased reliance on online dating apps for relationship development in contemporary society, first-impression sexual attraction is now—perhaps more than ever—of paramount importance. Indeed, for better or worse, enhancing the sexiness of your online profile picture might be one of the most impactful ways to improve your love life in the “swipe-right generation.”

Now, in an ideal world, we would prefer potential romantic partners to peer beyond the superficial and be attracted to our personalities—but whatever; when in Rome, try to match with the Romans, I guess. What’ll get those Romans swiping right? Well, according to a study Dr. Jessica Tracy and I ran in 2011, an overlooked feature relevant to first-impression sexual attraction might just be the emotion you display in your profile photo.

To see whether the sexual attractiveness of men and women varied depending on which emotion they expressed in a photograph we conducted four empirical investigations. We had 1,041 people rate the attractiveness of over 480 targets in either a happy, shameful, proud, or neutral pose and found that emotion expression did indeed have a direct impact on sexual attractiveness. We found happiness was consistently rated as the most attractive emotion for women to express and that female pride was the least attractive. Pride was consistently rated as the most attractive emotion for men to express with shame close behind; perhaps the most surprising finding from this work was that happiness was consistently rated as the least attractive male emotion to express. Happy swiping! (Unless you’re a guy).

This was originally posted on the Faculty of Arts website. Read the full Arts Insights on Love article.