How to Catch Your Valentine’s Eye: Online Dating Eye-Tracking Study Reveals That Men Look, Women Read

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ASHINGTON & SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 7, 2012 — Tobii Technology, the global market leader in eye-tracking and interactive gaze technology, in partnership with AnswerLab,a leading user experience research firm that supports many of the world's top brands, unveiled today the results of an eye-tracking study showing that men spend 65 percent more time reviewing photos in online dating profiles than women do. Alternatively, women spend 50 percent more time than men reading profile information about their prospective partner's background and interests.

"We easily intercepted people at Café Venue, a local San Francisco café, and by using the new Tobii X1 Light Eye Tracker on a laptop, we quickly saw how they visually processed online dating profiles on two popular websites," said Sal Becerra, research director at AnswerLab. "In just eight hours, we were able to track nearly 40 participants, and we walked away with some great insights to share with both those interested in online dating and the online dating industry itself. Because the system is so portable and easy to use, we can take it almost anywhere to do high-quality eye-tracking research in the field." 

The study included 39 participants, 18 female and 21 male, who each were interviewed before and after viewing dating profiles on both and From the gaze patterns collected, it was discovered that male subjects spend 65 percent more time viewing their potential partner's photo and 50 percent less time analyzing the profile overall, when compared with the gaze data of female subjects.

From analyzing study results, AnswerLab researchers reported the following conclusions:

  • Women are more careful consumers in online dating than their male counterparts.
    • Women spend more time evaluating a potential partner's profile information.
    • Women spent an average of 84 seconds evaluating a profile to assess if it was a match, while men spent an average of 58 seconds.
  • Men tend to focus on the profile photo.
    • Not only do they spend less time than women evaluating profiles, men spend more of their time assessing a potential partner's picture. 
    • In some instances, men spent as much as 65 percent more of their time than women looking at the profile photos.
    • The layout of the profile page affects viewer consumption and overall impressions of the page.
      • A profile that showcased personality at the top of the page was perceived as more personal.
      • A profile that prominently displayed a list of traits was perceived as more businesslike. 

Advice for singles posting a profile online:

  • Choose photos wisely:  Men and women noticed the photos early on and found them compelling.  Consider that the type of image you choose can significantly impact viewers' perceptions of you.  The type of image on a site has been shown to affect user perceptions across various AnswerLab studies.
  • Consider what information to emphasize when deciding what site to use:  Different website designs can showcase different aspects of a person. For example, eHarmony can place more emphasis on your written voice, and Match can better highlight core demographic data.
  • Regardless of site, be sure to fill out the open-ended questions:  Viewers will be better able to get a sense of your character, your voice and what you are looking for in a date. This, in turn, could help attract the interest of a better match.

Advice for dating sites:

  • Implement a streamlined navigation: Avoid too many calls-to-action in the top navigation that can confuse users and distract them from the main profile and its key interactive elements.
  • Highlight key profile information: Reduce clutter and streamline key profile information (name, location, etc.) to make it easily discoverable.
  • Carefully weigh your monetization strategies with the user experience: Minimize the disruptions your advertising and subscription models have upon profile viewing. Assess the placement, frequency and style of ads or up-sells to reduce distractions and enhance effectiveness.

"This fun project, which provides some valuable insight for online dating consumers and site owners, was completed in a short time frame and at a low cost. It's a great example of the value of having an eye-tracking device as portable and cost effective to use as the Tobii X1 Light Eye Tracker," said Barbara Barclay, general manager of Tobii Technology Inc., based in the Washington, D.C. area. "We look forward to working with the market research and usability communities to help them use this tool to discover new and exciting ways to bring more eye-tracking studies out of the lab and into field environments, where consumers are most comfortable and in their natural state."

Images & Video:

View images from the study (gazeplots and heatmaps that show the participants' collective view)

View a video of the study

Read more about the study at this web page

Learn more about the Tobii X1 Light Eye Tracker:

Sign up for our free webinar, featuring guest research experts from AnswerLab, on Feb. 28. Register here.