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Jennifer Sedgewick (BA'14, BA'15).

Profile pictures worth a thousand words

For most people, using Tinder at work is a no-no.

For Jennifer Sedgewick (BA'14, BA'15), a master's student in the Department of Psychology at the U of S, it was a summer research project that yielded some interesting results in how men and women portray themselves on dating sites.

Sedgewick works in Lorin Elias' human neuropsychology lab, which examines how differences between brain hemispheres contribute to lateral biases in perception and attention. She was curious as to how people perceived men and women as attractive on dating apps such as Tinder.

Her research, she explained, is grounded in a psychological theory called conceptual metaphors, which denotes that how people understand metaphors is how they act in real life.

"For example, if you are trying to convey power, you would try to convey yourself to be taller or show other people as subordinate," she said.

Sedgewick found this theme prevalent in how men and women vertically represented themselves in selfie-style photos. She collected her data last summer, analyzing over 900 profile photos from the app. After parsing the selfies from the non-selfies, she found some distinct gender differences in the selfie pile.

"Men tended to hold (the phone) from below whereas women were more likely to orient it from above," she said.

For men, not only does holding the phone from below give the impression of being bigger, but it also pronounces features associated with masculinity, like a bigger jawline and smaller eyes. Women, on the other hand, tended to orient their selfies from above, which makes them appear smaller and manipulates other features associated with femininity, such as bigger eyes.

This pattern is consistent with what the literature would suggest is attractive for men versus women, she explained, as well as with other dating sites where men tend to over-report their height and women under-report their weight.

Additionally, selfies accounted for 90 per cent of women's profile photos—versus 54 per cent of men's photos—which would suggest that women are taking and sharing more selfies than men.

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