Women who enhance their photographs on dating sites are considered to be catfish by males viewing their profiles. That term refers to a fake online profile, usually of a woman, created to attract virtual suitors, or one where the subject goes out of their way to make themself look better than they normally would.

Tinder is an online dating site that allows to users to select or reject potential matches with a simple swipe of a single photograph. For sites like these, the importance of having a "winning" profile photo is vital to attract dating partners. Some people do their best, therefore, to enhance a photograph with careful lighting, makeup, and styled hair, but a new study shows that idea may backfire.

A total of 305 subjects between the ages of 17 and 36 who self-identified as heterosexual were shown one of a series of images of members of the opposite sex. Pictures included enhanced photographs as well as images of those where lighting was adequate but unplanned, and whose hair was untreated and and makeup was absent. Researchers than quizzed participants about the subject's attractiveness, trustworthiness, how similar they believed they were to the person in the photo, as well as their desire to date the subject in the picture.

University of Connecticut investigators found that men rated enhanced pictures of women as more attractive, but also less trustworthy. Part of the apprehension of males was that really great-looking women may not be as good looking as their picture showed - or that they were in other ways untrustworthy.  

"Our research also found that males found the beautified profile as more attractive and had a higher desire to date the person in the picture despite the lower degree of trustworthiness they reported. This finding suggests that even when men suspect that a woman may not look exactly like she does in her profile picture, they are willing to take the risk and pursue a date with her," Rory McGloin of the University of Connecticut said.

Females, on the other hand, viewed the subjects of enhanced photos as both more attractive and more trustworthy than those seen in unaltered images.

Although profile photos are vitally important in attracting potential mates on dating Web sites, trust also plays an important role in who people - especially heterosexual women - choose to date, this new study reveals. Attractiveness appears to be more important than trust for men selecting potential female dating partners. This may be because males expect women not to look as good in person as they do in their photographs, researchers concluded.

The team will present its findings at the conference of the International Communication Association, which runs May 21-25.

Photo: Denis Bocquet | Flickr

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