No filters: how we make decisions on online dating profiles

Dating  |  September 13, 2020

eharmony’s relationship experts teamed up with researchers and cognitive psychologists at the universities of Lincoln and Swansea in a study that sought to determine how long on average UK daters considered a dating profile before making a ‘swiping’ decision. It also sought to discover the major ‘red lines’ for both sexes when determining whether a potential partner’s profile was worth considering. Its major finding was that users of online dating platforms spent as little as one second on average when deciding whether to look deeper into a profile. There was no significant difference between the sexes in this.

The experiments asked 898 participants – split into groups of 200 – to view mocked-up eharmony profiles with basic information visible – photo, age and name. Their behaviour indicated that when viewing time was limited to less than one second, they were less likely to respond with a ‘match’ to a prospective partner. At least one full second of viewing the profiles was needed to make a fully considered decision.

However, deciding on a second date after meeting a match in the flesh is a longer process – with singles taking 42 minutes on average to come to a conclusion.

In the second part of the experiment, cognitive psychologists looked at deal-breakers and the effect these had on decision-making.

Initially, participants were shown a mocked-up eharmony profile with a relevant deal-breaker visible: for example, a woman’s smoking status or a man’s location, and then participants were shown another eharmony profile with this information removed.

Interestingly, findings show that the more information a single has on a prospective partner, the more likely they are to match to them, which shows the importance of writing an informative profile.

1 second

The average time UK daters take to
make a yes-or-no decision on a dating profile.
Our researchers have called this the
‘swipeout point’

Factors influencing decision-making

The biggest considerations for singles choosing a date are, typically, appearance-based factors such as age (65%), weight (54%), and height (46%). Lifestyle considerations such as location (65%), being a non-smoker (65%), and family set-up (45%) are also influential factors in choice of partner. Men’s biggest consideration is whether or not their prospective partner smokes, with 65% opting for non-smokers. For around two-thirds of women (67%) the location of their match remains a key priority.







Family set-up

Desire to have children

Desire to have pets



Currently have children

Social status

Being teetotal

Hair colour

Eye colour

n = 2,000; Percentages rounded; supported


Giving people more time to make a decision rarely alters result

When the study severely limited respondents time to make a decision – to roughly 0.7sec – it found that the likelihood of a match decreased significantly. However, when people had unlimited time to decide, there was little difference in the decisions they had made after approximately one second

3 X

Men were three times more likely to click ‘match’ on any given profile than women

Study information
  • Study typeStudy groups and survey
  • ApproachOnline survey and eharmony user group
  • Sample Size898 users and 2,000 online panel
  • Reference Period2020
  • InstituteUniversites of Lincoln and Swansea
  • Region/City/CountryUK
  • LanguageEnglish