The Mathematics Of Beauty

January 10th, 2011 by Christian Rudder

This post investigates female attractiveness, but without the usual photo analysis stuff. Instead, we look past a woman's picture, into the reaction she creates in the reptile mind of the human male.

Among the remarkable things we'll show:

Fair warning: we're about to objectify women, big-time. The whole purpose of this blog is to analyze OkCupid's data, and without a little bit of objectification that's impossible. Men will get their turn under the microscope soon enough. As usual, none of this (with the exception of the celebrity examples) is my opinion. All data is collected from actual user activity.

Let's start at the beginning.

All people, but especially guys, spend a disproportionate amount of energy searching for, browsing, and messaging our hottest users. As I've noted before, a hot woman receives roughly the messages an average-looking woman gets, and 25× as many as an ugly one. Getting swamped with messages drives users, especially women, away. So we have to analyze and redirect this tendency, lest OkCupid become sausageparty.com.

Every so often we run diagnostic plots like the one below, showing how many messages a sampling of 5,000 women, sorted by attractiveness, received over the last month.

These graphs are adjusted for race, location, age, profile completeness, login activity, and so on—the only meaningful difference between the people plotted is their looks. After running a bunch of these, we began to ask ourselves: what else accounts for the wide spread of the x's, particularly on the "above-average" half of the graph? Is it just randomness?

What is it about her:

that gets more attention than her:

...even though according to our users, they're both good-looking?

Not all 7s are the same

It turns out that the first step to understanding this phenomenon is to go deeper into the mathematically different ways you can be attractive.

For example, using the classic 10-point 'looks' scale, let's say a person's a 7. It could be that everyone who sees her thinks exactly that: she's pretty cute.

But something extreme like this could just as easily be going on:

If all we know is that she is a 7, there's no way to tell. Maybe for some guys our hypothetical woman is the cat's pajamas and for the rest she's the cat Garfield. Who knows?

As it turns out, this distribution of opinions is very important.

Celebrity photos: to titillate and inform

Let's look at what the ratings distribution might be for a couple famous people. I imagine that for, say, the actress Kristen Bell it would be roughly like this:

Ms. Bell is universally considered good-looking, but it's not like she's a supermodel or anything. She would probably get a few votes in the 'super hot' range, lots around 'very attractive', and almost none at the 'unattractive' end of the graph.

Compare her to Megan Fox, who might rate like this:

On the far right, you have the many dudes who think she's the sexiest thing ever. On the far left, you have the small number of people who have seen her movies.

Unlike Ms. Bell, Ms. Fox produces a strong reaction, even if it's sometimes negative.

Real People

Now let's look back at the two real users from before, this time with their own graphs. OkCupid uses a 1 to 5 star system for rating people, so the rest of our discussion will be in those terms. All the users pictured were generous and confident enough to allow us to dissect their experience on our site, and we appreciate it. Okay, so we have:

As you can see, though the average attractiveness for the two women above is very close, their vote patterns differ. On the left you have consensus, and on the right you have split opinion.

To put a fine point on it:

  • Ms. Left is, in an absolute sense, considered slightly more attractive
  • Ms. Right was also given the lowest rating 142% more often
  • yet Ms. Right gets as many messages

When we began pairing other people of similar looks and profiles, but different message outcomes, this pattern presented itself again and again. The less-messaged woman was usually considered consistently attractive, while the more-messaged woman often created variation in male opinion. Here are a couple more examples:

We felt like were on to something, so, being math nerds, we put on sweatpants. Then we did some work.

Our first result was to compare the standard deviation of a woman's votes to the messages she gets. The more men disagree about a woman's looks, the more they like her. We found that the more men disagree about a woman's looks, the more they like her. I've plotted the deviation vs. messages curve below, again including some examples.

The women along the graph are near the 80th percentile in overall attractiveness. You can click the tiny thumbnails to expand them.

As you can see, a woman gets a better response from men as men become less consistent in their opinions of her.

Our next step was to analyze a woman's actual vote pattern of 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s, and 5s:

If You're Into Algebra

We did a regression on the votes for and messages to a sample of 43,000 women. To keep everything consistent, all the women were straight, between the ages of 20 and 27, and lived in the same city. The formula given in the body of the post was the best-fit we found on our second regression, after dropping the m3 term because its p-value was very near 1.

msgs are the number of messages the woman received during the observation period. The constant k reflects her overall level of site activity. For this equation, R2 = .28, which isn't great in a lab or on a problem set, but is actually very good in a real-world environment.

This required a bit more math and is harder to explain with a simple line-chart. Basically, we derived a formula to predict the amount of attention a woman gets, based on the curve of her votes. With this we can translate what guys think of a woman's looks into how much attention she actually gets.

The equation we arrived at might look opaque, but when we get into it, we'll see it says some funny things about guys and how they decide which women to hit on.

The most important thing to understand is that the ms are the men voting on her looks, making up her graph, like so:

And those ms with positive numbers in front contribute to messaging; the ones with negative numbers subtract from it. Here's what this formula is telling us:

The more men who say you're hot, the more messages you get.

How we know this—the .9 in front of m5 is the biggest positive number, meaning that the guys who think you're amazing (voting you a perfect '5') are the strongest contributors to your messaging income. This is certainly an expected result and gives us some indication our formula is making sense.

Men who think you're cute actually subtract from your message count.

How we know this—because the .1 coefficient in front of m4 is negative. This tells us that guys giving you a '4', who are actually rating you above average-looking, are taking away from the messages you get. Very surprising. In fact, when you combine this with the positive number in front of the m1 term, our formula says that, statistically speaking:

If someone doesn't think you're hot, the next best thing for them to think is that you're ugly.

This is a pretty crazy result, but every time we ran the numbers—changing the constraints, trying different data samples, and so on—it came back to stare us in the face.

What We Think Is Going On

So this is our paradox: when some men think you're ugly, other men are more likely to message you. And when some men think you're cute, other men become less interested. Why would this happen? Perhaps a little game theory can explain:

Suppose you're a man who's really into someone. If you suspect other men are uninterested, it means less competition. You therefore have an added incentive to send a message. You might start thinking: maybe she's lonely. . . maybe she's just waiting to find a guy who appreciates her. . . at least I won't get lost in the crowd. . . maybe these small thoughts, plus the fact that you really think she's hot, prod you to action. You send her the perfectly crafted opening message.

"sup"

On the other hand, a woman with a preponderance of '4' votes, someone conventionally cute, but not totally hot, might appear to be more in-demand than she actually is. To the typical man considering her, she's obviously attractive enough to create the impression that other guys are into her, too. But maybe she's not hot enough for him to throw caution (and grammar) to the wind and send her a message. It's the curse of being cute.

The overall picture looks something like this:

Finally: What This Could Mean To You

I don't assume every woman cares if guys notice her or not, but if you do, what does all the above analysis mean in practical terms?

Well, fundamentally, it's hard to change your overall attractiveness (the big single number we were talking about at the beginning). However, the variance you create is under your control, and it's simple to maximize:

Take whatever you think some guys don't like—and play it up.

As you've probably already noticed, women with tattoos and piercings seem to have an intuitive grasp of this principle. They show off what makes them different, and who cares if some people don't like it. And they get lots of attention from men.

But our advice can apply to anyone. Browsing OkCupid, I see so many photos that are clearly designed to minimize some supposedly unattractive trait—the close-cropped picture of a person who's probably overweight is the classic example. We now have mathematical evidence that minimizing your "flaws" is the opposite of what you should do. If you're a little chubby, play it up. If you have a big nose, play it up. If you have a weird snaggletooth, play it up: statistically, the guys who don't like it can only help you, and the ones who do like it will be all the more excited.

427 Responses to “The Mathematics Of Beauty”

  1. Adam says:

    There might be an overlooked bias toward giving a woman 4 starts. Because of the ‘One of these women gave you 4 or more stars, if you give that woman 4 or more stars, we will give you her user name’ deal, I find that even if I would normally give 3 stars, I am much more likely to go ahead and give her that 4th star just to find out if she is into me.

    I hope the mathematicians who worked on this study thought about that, or at least are reading the comments.

  2. Casey J says:

    The bottom line here is NOT to try to anticipate or guess that a girl is popular by her looks. If you read her profile and you like what you read – that is, something about what she said strikes a chord, as it were. Send her a message. What have you got to lose.

  3. beakmansworld says:

    Does this mean you will update mybestface to reflect this new data?

  4. irrelevant says:

    two responses: as a guy, i don’t need this information…i need information about how women respond to a man’s profile…well, patience, perhaps you’ve got this in the works… algebra and calculus aside, really guys, as someone who really does know he’s not god’s gift to women, in fact to anything. megan fox is going to open my email…get real!!! there’s some self-selection going on here….

  5. Logical says:

    Isn’t there something else going on with high standard deviations… Namely, people know more about you. Piercings, dyed hair, tattoos are the easy ones but I’d be curious whether this extends to riding a bike, eating granola, dressed in all pink…. All of these things are not necessarily flaws (like the snaggletooth example you use) but are likely to separate out some guys who rate you higher and message you and some who just hate pink.

    Harkens back to your post on the success of activity shots

  6. Liz says:

    @Charlie, you’re hilarious :D

    Btw, everyone, my weekly message average rose by about 50% when I posted mohawk pictures. Granted, some of those were men yelling at me for one thing or another which they thought must be directly related to getting a mohawk (???), but data-wise for this post’s relevance, the vast majority were men that had visceral reactions to my perceived confidence level, not my new level of overall attractiveness (based on their comments). So I’m wondering if self-confidence breeds polarized reactions and that’s actually what’s being responded to?

    I must also add, for the record, though slightly off-topic, men who get offended bc I don’t respond have a sort of clingy nonsense about them that shows through their word choices as being ‘owed’ a response, and it guarantees them never getting one. “You hot girls are all the same.” Oh yeah? You obnoxious, low self-esteem boys are all the same too. It all boils down to confidence in yourself and the response you can elicit from others, and a lack of that awesome internet creep factor, whether any of these email barrages will be responded to.

  7. Linda says:

    Regarding Jesse’s response below: That’s pretty sad. Looks like this guy is a little angry and somewhat of a psycho! Look out girls. Either that or he’s not good looking himself! LOL You simply can’t judge a woman’s politeness by her looks.

    Heads up guys, just because you message me, doesn’t mean I have to respond to everyone of you. Gee maybe he’s talking about me after all!
    LMFAO!

    jesse says:
    January 10, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Sometimes I give girls one star because they piss me off in some way. Matter of fact that might be the only reason I ever give a girl one star. In my experience, the more hot a woman is the less polite she is.

  8. Burge says:

    Fantastic article. As a guy who holds a BA in econ, great use of game theory. It will be interesting to see the results from men’s pictures. The main result you can take from this study is that men message logically and rationally… And beauty, even this day in age with supermodels and hollywood, is still in the eye of the beholder… Also… do you think you could have superimposed what the women thought of themselves, by the body type description?

  9. Michelle says:

    From day one I have felt like this entire site is an experiment. An avenue to study people the same way animal behaviourists study animal populations in nature. Being a scientist myself this “experiment” only makes me like this site more. While I believe that there very well could be more variables to this study than what was taken into account, I still think it was very enlightening and something to think about. Keep up the interesting work OKC.

  10. The Baron says:

    As someone who 1) is a girl that probably gets rated as “ugly” and “gorgeous” a lot, and 2) likes girls, I have some opinions on your theory.

    It’s true that some guys seem to think I’m easy pickings. They see the unshaven pits and instead of (correctly) thinking “feminist dyke,” they somehow think, “desperate straight girl I can totally get lucky with tonight.” Because if I was so desperate for male attention, I’d be spending my time shunning it, umright. And it isn’t just gross because they’re guys. (I’m homoflexible, I’m not opposed to all men ever, just most of them.) If a girl hit on me because she thought I was kind of a loser and desperate enough to put out right away, I wouldn’t be attracted to her because she clearly doesn’t respect me. That’s the vibe I get from these men. It’s really insulting.

    So these kinds of men? They can just go to hell. I can speak for my straight sisters that we’re not that hard up and we don’t want to hear from them.

    On the other hand, I can say that an unusual face is definitely more memorable. For an example of this, google up vintage pictures of British actress Carole Ann Ford. I rhapsodize about her stunning visage, but I know she isn’t everyone’s type. I think it’s that unconventional beauty is more striking, it makes you take notice more. Conventionally beautiful people are everywhere these days, and there’s almost a plainness to their uniformity. I can’t even tell a lot of Hollywood actresses apart. Straight guys might feel the same way, kind of bored with standard beauty, but then they see someone really unusual and striking and say, “Wow!” And it’s not that I think I have less competition for these girls, because if I think they’re amazing, obviously other people will too, even if not *everyone* does. Just a few other people thinking they’re amazing could give you some steep competition. I also vividly remember a girl with unusual good looks that I crushed on, while knowing that pretty much everyone in the workplace was into this girl.

    So I think it’s the difference between the guys rating the girl a 10 coming after her because they think she’s incredible, and the guys rating the same girl a 0 coming after her because they think she’s easy and desperate and has no self-esteem. Trust me, girls can tell the difference between these two approaches. Don’t message any girl you personally think is less than a 7. (Doesn’t just have to be in looks. Depends on what you value.) “Ugly” girls are not your cumdumpsters, and deserve someone who thinks highly of them, which clearly isn’t you.

  11. Trevor says:

    The conclusion doesn’t surprise me. Classic marketing theory states that the way to get attention is to differentiate yourself, which usually entails making a set of tradeoffs to polarize people into either loving you or hating you.

    If you did the same analysis on some of the most popular products, Macs, Mini Coopers, VW Beatles, you’d find the same polarized distribution. This doesn’t mean these products are “ugly” or “beautiful”, it’s they’ve tweaked their attributes so they have strong strengths and equally strong deficiencies, allowing them to make an impression. Decent but unremarkable products can sell, but struggle to become great.

    An excellent book on the subject to read is Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by Youngme Moon. I suspect many of the lessons in the book could be applied to dating.

    Where this article falls short is in the language it uses and its negative perspective.

    Rather than saying it’s having people view you as ugly that increases your attention, it should be that when people have strong opinions about you, it increases your attention. I doubt it’s the men rating women a 1 who are creating the increase in messages; it’s more likely the men rating women a 5, because the characteristics that others hate, they love.

    Rather than saying to take whatever people don’t like and accentuate it, the positive way to say it would be to take what defines you the most and accentuate that. Take what makes you different and highlight that. That differentiation drives the right people toward you and the others away. Which likely results in not only more messages, but better targeted messages.

    I suspect you’ll find the same thing for men, just as you’ll find it holding true for products, businesses, music and most things we pay attention to in life.

  12. ZZTup says:

    Take my pictures and you will find big gaps in your research. Otherwise, very well written, proved some interesting points, and well organized.

    One thing I will disagree, the finding of beauty girl getting less messages etc, is a result of “beauty girls” act like a fence to can chat with them because they do not respond to most people, they feel like their beauty makes them elite. I am talking even to people who write to them nice emails.

    Man do not want to waste their time ‘on not finding girls’ so they quickly turn to the normal girls.

  13. HamOnWry says:

    i detect an inherent problem with this study. the integrity of the user-generated rating data is compromised.

    if someone assigns you a rank of 4 or 5 stars, you receive an alert and a list of photos, one of which is the rater in question. the only way for a user to learn the identity of the person who thought they were hot is to rate that party highly as well, ostensibly by coincidence. that’s not a reasonable expectation.

    in an attempt to learn the identity of the party who gave one a high rating, one has an impetus to rate people one finds reasonably 4′s or 5′s, even if that’s not the user’s true opinion. i know this because i do it all the time.

  14. Brita says:

    Another interesting factor would be to take into consideration what the men doing the messaging for seeking– that is, men looking for short- or long-term dating vs. those interested in casual sex. I hypothesize that the consistently attractive women, while receiving less messages, receive both better quality messages and ones more apt to be seeking a relationship, whereas the variation women receive more one liners and casual sex inquires. Just a theory. Care to prove or disprove me, OKC?

  15. Dextral says:

    The game theory analysis is interesting, and it might explain the negative coefficient for four star ratings (though it may also be an artifact), but I think there’s a much simpler explanation for the overall pattern. Suppose, reasonably I think, that guys who give high ratings account for the majority of messages a girl receives. Now compare two people with roughly equal averages but one with a consensus distribution and one with a split distribution. If they’re getting rated with approximately the same frequency, then in order to average out the same as the consensus girl, the split girl *must* have more higher ratings than the other. Your charts seem to support this. It’s not counter-intuitive at all that a girl getting more five star votes gets more attention.

  16. Erik says:

    Seriously, out of every girl shown as an example I think that one with the pouty lips in the first pic is absolutely stunning and out of every example is honestly the most attractive. But I don’t think I’d contact her as freely as other girls, just given that I couldn’t be the only one. When I looked at all the images I figured she’d put up the most resistance somehow because she looks like she’s more confident or somewhat more serious. The one with the flower in her hair, however, looks a little bit insecure, given the amount of makeup she’s wearing and how much attention has gone into her look. So out of the two I’d be more likely to contact the one I’m not as interested in, due in part to that reading of cues in the photo, but also in contrast to what I actually desire. The main reason for this I believe is that the potential for rejection is the deterrent. It’s worse to be shot down by someone you actually are attracted to than one who you have a less pronounced interest in.

  17. André says:

    Actually the answer to the puzzle is a simple case o Jensen’s inequality. As you’ve stated in the beginning, men are disproportionately more likely to message a girl he thinks is hot than one he thinks is average. This creates a convex response function of the number of messages to perceived attractiveness. The expected value of a convex function of a random variable increases with that variable’s variance (this is Jensen’s inequality). Thus, it pays off for a girl to post a more risky (or risqué) picture than a consensually average one. QED. Your game-theoretic interpretation is counterfactual, as no man with a respectable reptile brain, as you noted, will hold back at taking a chance in capturing the top prize.

  18. Scott says:

    Doesn’t the presence of quickmatch skew the results? There’s an added incentive to rate girls four or five stars simply to see what they think of you? As a result, more messages may be sent to four or five starred girls. At least, that’s my own personal experience.

  19. Alex says:

    I think is a perfect example of what I’m dubbing “The Striking Effect”

    This is when upon seeing someone you get the feeling of being struck in the face, perhaps even with a physical reaction, most commonly, I would guess, is a double take.

    The difference is that whatever it what was struck, was either a turn off or a turn on, and if it was a turn on, your immediate response would be, “I’ve got to talk to her” (or him, we’ll see how the male data turns out.)

    So, if you see something you REALLY like, and thus a five star girl, you message them just because you can’t pass them up.
    If you don’t like what you saw, you rate them a one and keep moving.

    I’d imagine this would also apply to profiles but we haven’t seen any analysis of that sort of thing. Well, I haven’t, at least.

  20. Jackie Aldridge says:

    Can you run the same analysis for fifties women? And while you are at it, can you run the same for men?

    I’d like to see your coefficients for four sets, the twenties and the fifties, males and females..

    Having done it once, it should be pretty easy for you to run the others :-)

  21. Ben says:

    Nice analysis, but the obvious problem with the regression formula is that a woman with only 1s would get more messages than a woman with only 4s. This is flatly absurd; there’s an interaction term between 1s and 5s that is likely missing.

    Of course, multiple regression is as tricky thing and you’re not aiming to publish this in one of the big academic journals. And I’m not exactly the world’s most brilliant statistician. Aaaand explaining the meaning of the interaction term is difficult to people whose lives don’t revolve around doing these things…and it wouldn’t add anything to the point of your blog post. So lots of caveats to my critique.

    Basically, the statistical nit-picker in me has to criticize what is an awesome post. Can’t wait to see what you turn up for the guys!

  22. Kyrna says:

    I think a large number of men who send messages are sending them to the women they think will have sex with them, not always to the women they think are more attractive. That men think they can tell which women will sleep with them primarily from their photos and not from the woman’s profile is a bit of an error in judgment, but it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.

  23. becky says:

    Too lazy to read through all the comments to see if anyone’s already said this – but I don’t think women with a higher variance get more messages because men think that there are less people interested in her. Like someone else said, men don’t think that hard when they see a woman.

    Rather, I think what’s going on in those pictures you chose, consensus vs. higher variance, is that the consensus pictures are boring. Kristen Bell is pretty, but there is no personality in that picture. Whereas Megan Fox elicits extremes like ‘hot!’ or ‘slut.’ Same with the other women you’ve chosen. The girls with consensus have playing-it-safe pictures. The girls with variance have way more attitude in them – whether it be through stance, tattoos, or general style.

    The advice should be for women to display their personality in their picture, not hype up their flaws just because they’re flaws.

  24. steve says:

    I’ve never used the star system just for looks. I’m agnostic so if I see a hard-core religious type, she get’s an automatic 2 unless she looks really bad, then she gets a 1. Then if I come on their profile again, I know to skip them. If I see a “dateable” woman who is neutral on religion or agnostic/atheist, she gets a 3-5 star rating. Generally I only email 4s and 5s. So I guess I’m an anomaly.

  25. Dave says:

    The problem is the article assumes that guys know what other guys think of a woman when in reality we have no idea what other guys think.

  26. jessica says:

    I think this study is quite accurate. A female (or male for that matter) who is too sexy will be more intimidating, and therefore messaged less. They will be less approachable both in real life and online, and often get negative attention that is unprovoked. Very much like the “alpha” dogs in a wolf pack, it is a behavioral response to a perceived threat. Great study..

  27. zasu12 says:

    > Why dont we see our own ratings. What people think of us. There should be a rating based per picture.

    @drewex, they do. OkCupid doesn’t promote it much, but http://www.okcupid.com/mybestface lets you upload pictures for users to evaluate. The ratings come back broken down by raters’ demographics: liberal/conservative, christian/athiest, introverts/extroverts, deviants, divas, dorks, geeks, jocks, stoners, overachievers, etc. It’s also broken down by raters’ age groups.

  28. Jonk says:

    The other day I realised that my own messaging pattern fit the some sort of model as your game theory observations … interesting that you guys have noticed the same things.

  29. Ben says:

    I love these articles!

    Assuming the same data applies to men it would fit with what I have seen with my stupid hairstyles. Once I had very “trendy gareth gates” hair doo and other time an awful ginger dye as a result of voluntering for my friends hair dressing exam… Both times I was slated for the hair doo (and rightfully so) but both times I was also doing amazing with the women….. most interesting!

    Bring on the mens analysis!

    Ben

  30. John says:

    I met my current girlfriend on OK Cupid. We been seeing each other for 6 months and I have moved to her state.

  31. Jason says:

    To the people who think the attractiveness number is based on quickmatch: go back and read some of the older OKtrends articles and you will see that is not the case.

  32. Lady says:

    Great article…

    However, I wonder if it was taken into consideration that when many of us are rating, we are not rating just attractiveness in a photo… but also whether or not we want this person to contact us (since a message is sent to them if we rate them a 4 or 5). There are many that I rate 3, when they are in fact a 4 or 5, just because I didnt gel with something in their profile, and didnt want them to contact me.

    food for thought

  33. Ahmed says:

    It could be that guys are messaging the gilrs that seem like they are easier to have sex with. The cute ones dont look like they have sex and the hot ones do. So if anything, you may wanna do a research that looks at the corelation between “looks like I can have sex with her” and “messaging”

  34. JR says:

    Where are you getting all the data points? The “QuickMatch” feature provides more information than mere pictures. Somebody like me rates women on a combination of photos and what they’ve written in their profiles – which would muddy the correlation between score and “hotness”.

  35. Quirina says:

    Interesting!

    Under the section “Real People” you show three pairs of photos to explain to the reader how this rating works. What I am seeing is a snapshot of an expression. The photos on the right are all close-ups. Does this bias the results?

    I am willing to bet that you can use different photographs of the same person and get entirely different results. Otherwise the idea is definitely interesting and the game theory interpretation definitely seems feasible.

  36. Dave says:

    The perception of promiscuity plays a huge part in response rates. A good follow-on study would be an analysis of the delta in the response rate for women with the only variable being the “sexiness” of the picture. Take a picture of a woman wearing conservative clothing and then photoshop that picture so she is now wearing a sexier outfit or showing cleavage. Did the original study control for the sexy attire variable? Perhaps the 2s dressed/posed in a more suggestive manner to garner attention whereas the 4s and 5s dressed/posed more conservatively?

  37. emmy says:

    maybe it’s a supply-demand thing. a woman who is unusual but still attractive seems more rare, making her also seem more valuable to the men who like her. separately, it also seems more likely that an unusual but attractive woman would generate more divided opinions on her looks.

  38. Rudimental Human says:

    I think the more attractive a person is, the more critical we become. So a minor distinction becomes a major point of contention. This is why you often hear people saing, “I think XYZ movie star is ugly” even though objectively that celebrity is much more attractive than anyone the hater could personally hope to date. I’ve observed a huge difference between the way people rate the attractiveness of celebrities VS real world men/women. And I think there is a similar difference between the way dating site users rate women they can relate to and women they perceive as unattainable. So the findings in the article are consistent with people removing themselves from the competition as a matter of efficiency. It is not that they wouldn’t want the classic beauty, but that they would not want the work, stress, and rejection assciated with impressing the likes of him/her. It would be interesting to see similar data that takes into consideration the perceivedx attractiveness or confidence of the person doing the rating. In other words, are people that believe they are a 10 more likely to give high marks to other tens and are they more likely to follow through with contacting other tens. Intuition tells me yes.

  39. Lea says:

    I’m listed as bisexual, but frankly couldn’t care less about what the men think. I’d like to know whether other women are interested in me. Let’s see some analysis into what women think of other women they might like to date.

  40. Jamie says:

    Seems to me when men think a woman who is considered hot but is unavailable/seeing too much competition as ‘not my type’ is just going through the standard ropes of cognitive dissonace. Instead of saying, “I have no realistic chance with her, so don’t bother”, he’ll say, “She’s not my type”, if only to save self-image face and move on without much pessimism.

    Looking forward to the female interpretations though, and great work to the math geeks as always.

  41. irrelevant says:

    This is great and all, but it doesnt factor in that even on quickmatch there is a (small) written profile attached and some will rate (partly) based on how much they like what they read.

  42. engineninjano9 says:

    i use my ratings stars differently. the numbers are used to categorize instead of rate. i wonder if others do the same.

  43. InventiveNFun says:

    I’m wondering: how does this study account for the CONTENT of the messages? Are they assuming that the messages are all positive and express genuine interest in the subject? What if some/many/most of the messages sent to “1′s” are along the lines of, “If my dog were as ugly as you are, I’d bag its head and make it walk backwards”? Alternatively, what if some (maybe not many?) of the messages sent to “5′s” go something like, “You’re hot but you’re high-maintenance and you think you’re all that”? Unless the results are corrected to account for negative messages, I question whether they’re really valid.

  44. fritz says:

    excellent piece of work here.. i enjoy seeing the practical, real-life application of math.

    it seems apparent to me, that there is nearly no difference between trying to pick up women on OKC, and in real life.. the exception of course being the volume of dick being thrown at them.. obviously, it isn’t possible for a woman to be hit on 24 hours a day in the physical world, whereas online, that’s completely possible, as described in this brief concerning messages. so, hot women pretty much have their pick of the litter. i would put money on it that the ones getting mailbombed by every dude in America, don’t take the time to read each of their profiles, potentially missing excellent opportunities to meet men who actually have things in common with them, and don’t just “look good”… which makes writing out a bunch of rabble in profiles about as useless as tits on a bull.

    personally, i’m sick of being the initiator, here, there, everywhere.. to only be ignored.. i’m sick of reading a woman’s profile to learn something about her, then writing out an email with something in it to show her that i read her crap, to have it go unnoticed, or laughed at, or whatever it is they do besides reply.. that ladies and gentlemen, is the exact reason for the “sup” email… proving to me, that i am not alone in this opinion.

  45. Sherri says:

    I dunno. I’m pretty close to deleting my account and it is mainly because of the type of attention I receive from my messages. Ugh. I’m not here for quick sex or to discuss a man’s size or lewd preferences. I enjoy reading these blogs but they are not giving me a reason to stay with OK Cupid.

  46. SB says:

    I think one factor missing here is the desirability of the men messaging these women. If the “cute” girl gets half as many messages, but she is interested in all the men messaging her, that would be better than getting tons of messages from guys she’s not interested in. In other words, how do we know that the “variable” girl is getting the outcome she wants from the messages?

  47. Bertolt says:

    Well, one thing that this whole thing doesn’t account for is, that usually I do my ratings not only after seeing her picture, but after reading her profile. So if I think she’s a looker but not really all that interesting in her profile, I might give her a 3 or a 4. If she’s a looker and in her profile she appears stupid or arrogant, I rate with 1 or 2. If I’m not at all attracted, the range of 1-4 is possible, depending on her profile. To get a 5 she will have to have the perfect profile, and at least look somewhat decently. But other people will judge differently, of course.
    But since what you discovered is a mere correlation, with third factors being possible, I am tempted to assume, that the third factor here might be the perceived character of the person, i.e. she may be a looker but she comes off as arrogant => 1, but others will judge by looks only and rate with 5 and write their messages anyways.

  48. Eric says:

    I have to agree that game theory doesn’t really apply here. I would say the difference between messaging or not depending on flaws visibly evident in photos (or profiles) gives a person a small measure of confidence of whom they are messaging. Nobody’s perfect and everybody knows it, so if men can see the imperfections of the woman we are addressing and the self confidence of the person in the profile we feel more comfortable initiating contact.

    Note on the inverse. Most men know from experience that all women are “cute” during very short periods of time or under specific circumstances and that cuteness doesn’t accurately portray their personality or likeness. Therefore, when I see someone who is “cute” I have to assume that the photos have been carefully selected to only show that very limited circumstance and I have very little confidence in whom I might be contacting.

    Though I do generally agree on the point regarding extremely hot women and just giving it a shot. Although some variation in photos to show that she is real still helps.

    Thanks

  49. shanon says:

    While, I would agree with the hypothesis that more attractive women get more messages, this analysis has omitted some major variables (other than attractiveness) that effect the number messages a user receives.

    1) The amount of time the user spends on OKcupid per day, per week and per month.

    I’ve noticed that the more time I spend on OKcupid, the more messages I receive. I believe this has to do with the fact the people can search for people online only to chat. Plus, it’s much less intimidating to IM someone “Hi,” than to actually compose a message. I don’t know what my attractive rating is, but I’ve gone from 30 to well over 100/messages per month by just logging on and using the site more often. This might explain some of the outliers (i.e. really hot girls who get no messages, don’t spend very much time on OKcupid).

    2) Use of QuickMatch

    I think QuickMatch might be OKcupid’s most efficient tool. If you spend a great deal of time rating people and you rate more people 4 or 5 stars, you are creating more opps for message generation. In this case, I would look at number of people rated each month and the average scores a user rates people. I would guess that the more people rated and the higher the average score, the more messages a user will receive.

    3) The user’s level of selectivity (green, yellow and red).

    Also, a user’s displayed selectivity may effect the number of messages they receive. You could make two arguments. First, men might be intimidated by women you reply very selectivity and figure they don’t stand a chance. Or other selective male users could take a high level of selectivity and associate that with the girl being a bigger “prize” and feel like they should message them. On a side note, it might be interesting to look at selectivity ratings and messages exclusively.

    4) The number of messages a user writes per month (In other words, how large their net is cast).

    Like my QuickMatch theory, I think it is safe to assume that the more people you contact, the more people will contact you back.

    Although, I think attractiveness is still the driving factor in message generation, these other variables need t be explred in order to give OKCupid users a better understanding on how to meet more people online.

    I’m curious to see what OKtrends explores next.

  50. dancingfluter says:

    I am at a disadvantage. I am pretty, but I think my greatest “people” gift is that I am a good listener. That does not come across very well in e-mails. The man I guess I most adored told me once that I was his greatest audience. Maybe for that he adored me too.