Dating site OKCupid analyzes effectiveness of profile pictures

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The data nerds at OKCupid cataloged over 7,000 photographs to find out what kinds of profile photos generated the most interest from its members. As expected, men and women should employ different strategies. For instance, it's good for young men with good abs to show off their stomachs, but its creepy for older men to flash their six-pack. For women, cleavage shots are always good, but they're even better for older women than younger women.

There are differences when it comes to smiling and looking at the camera, too:

Now, you're always told to look happy and make eye contact in social situations, but at least for your online dating photo, that's just not optimal advice. For women, a smile isn't strictly better: she actually gets the most messages by flirting directly into the camera, like the center and right-hand subjects above.

Notice that, however, that flirting away from the camera is the single worst attitude a woman can take. Certain social etiquettes apply even online: if you're going to be making eyes at someone, it should be with the person looking at your picture. Men's photos are most effective when they look away from the camera and don't smile.

The 4 Big Myths of Profile Pictures


  1. Excellent! I now have an excuse to never look at the camera or smile ever again. Boingboing, I salute you!

  2. I was shocked by the ‘MySpace-style pic’ beating all other pics for women in popularity. I immediately wondered if it was a blatant indication of why such people would still be single… Then I saw the clarification on how ‘You doing interesting stuff’ pics garnered many more fruitful conversations. Common sense, really.

    The best policy would be to post pictures most likely to attract the type of person you wish to connect with. It might take longer to get responses, but you’re after a special someone after all, not dozens of guys looking for bewbs or chicks who want a designer bad boy (unless you are looking for that, of course).

    1. “Then I saw the clarification on how ‘You doing interesting stuff’ pics garnered many more fruitful conversations. Common sense, really.”

      Yeah, I was thinking about that too when I read it. And then I think I saw some girl’z pic on facebook or myspace and thought “doing shots is pretty interesting.”

  3. Changed my profile picture based on this right after this came out. Immediately I got a barrage of girls looking at my profile, winking, etc.

    It couldn’t be explained by me simply showing up in the “recently changed their profile” section, as this never happened any previous time I changed my profile/picture.

    1. Interestingly, they deliberately restricted their research to people who fell inside ~1 SD (at a guess, looking at the bell curve) of the median attractiveness. So these “cute” girls are just average. You think they’re cute because they took effective pics. :-)

  4. “We would never suggest to a Fitzgerald or a Dave Eggers to limit his profile to 100 words, and so why should guys with great bodies keep their best asset under wraps?”

    I sort of feel bad for the guy out there somewhere, listening to Elgar, reading Jules Verne and taking hott pixx (with the mandatory double t and x) of his awesome bod; only wishing to find someone who would appreciate him for his mind.

    Then it makes me giggle with some sort of geeky glee.

  5. Point of clarification, as one ages the bare abs shots get only less better, never actually progressing to detrimental(for ages they have data on).

  6. I hope the boingboing effect from this post leads to an influx of geek-blog reading women to my favorite dating site.

  7. That’s all quite interesting except for one thing: why try to look something you’re not and attract people who won’t like the real you in the end? I always assumed that for each person only a small proportion of the population are a match. Who then wants to please everybody when it is obvious that they can’t possibly like all these people themselves or even that many of them?

    1. Well along the same lines then why do women wear makeup? Or nice clothes, perfume, ect… Why do men shave, or have nice clothes?

      Sure some situations require the use of a nice pair of slacks and a tie, but most people who are going on a date try and look at least as good as they can. Not like they rolled out of bed at 10 and it’s now 1 and they are still in their PJ’s…

      But at the same time, once you are in that long term relationship/marriage then you will probably love the way that person looks in their PJ’s in the middle of the afternoon. Not that you would have given them a chance if you had seem that way the first time you met…

      I also think age/mentality plays a part in what type of profile picture people put up and what kind of response they want back. It’s quite possible that people who put up normal looking pictures with them smiling want back quality communications, not just hookups. And it’s very possible that the young 20 year olds that put up the obligatory Myspace Angle/camwhore shot really do want a hot guy hookup.

      1. Well along the same lines then why do women wear makeup? Or nice clothes, perfume, etc… Why do men shave, or have nice clothes?

        You may be speaking a foreign language here.

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