Online dating: Young couple sending messages on dating app

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🔑 Key Findings:

  • Increased Romantic Attraction: Individuals with a clear sense of purpose in life are perceived as more romantically attractive compared to those without a defined purpose.
  • Alignment of Purpose: Profiles that demonstrated a specific sense of purpose (prosocial, relationship, financial, or creative orientation) were rated higher in attractiveness, especially when the viewer shared the same purpose orientation. However, profiles focused on financial goals were generally viewed as less attractive unless the viewer also prioritized financial objectives.
  • Implications for Dating Apps: The research suggests that incorporating elements that highlight a user’s sense of purpose could enhance the quality of interactions on dating platforms, indicating a shift towards more meaningful connections beyond physical attractiveness and superficial interests.

ST. LOUIS — If you’ve been struggling in the dating scene recently, recent research suggests taking a break from swiping and focusing on personal growth might be beneficial. A study out of Washington University reveals that possessing a clear sense of purpose in life can lead to increased romantic attraction. In essence, the direction of your love life may be closely linked to your overall direction in life.

Having a defined purpose in life offers no shortage of benefits in general. Previous studies connect feeling meaning in one’s existence to living longer, having better sleep, and even a stronger memory. Now we can add a better romantic life to the list.

The research explored whether a sense of purpose affects perceptions of attractiveness on dating apps. Study co-authors Isabella D’Ottone and Gabrielle Pfund discovered that profiles clearly showing one’s drive and ambition were rated significantly higher compared to those that don’t. “In general we found people with a higher purpose were considered to be more romantically attractive,” D’Ottone explains in a media release.

D’Ottone and Pfund, who graduated from Washington University in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D., respectively, designed an experiment involving 119 participants who evaluated various fabricated dating profiles. These were categorized by different types of purpose: prosocial, relationship, financial, and creative orientations, as well as five control profiles lacking a sense of purpose. Prosocial refers to someone with goals related to helping others; relationship orientation means goals centered around family and/or finding a romantic partner; financial orientation goals relate to financial security; and creative orientation goals focus on creativity and originality.

Man daydreaming at work desk, happy
People who clearly demonstrate purpose in life on their dating profiles are considered to be more attractive. (© fizkes –

The findings revealed that not only were purpose-driven profiles rated higher in attractiveness, but participants also showed a preference for profiles that aligned with their own sense of purpose. For instance, those with a creative purpose appreciate others with creative focus. One exception to the appeal of purpose, however, was that financially focused profiles did not rate as high in comparison with other types of purpose — except among others who were also financially motivated.

In other words, if your focus is making money, that could be a turn-off for people unless they too find purpose in purely financial goals.

Patrick Hill, an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Wash U, notes that this study was a “phenomenal” project for an undergraduate to take on, as it builds on his lab’s prior work centered on sense of purpose and better relationships. Physical attraction isn’t the end all be all; recognizing that someone has direction in life makes a big difference.

“When it comes to attraction, knowing someone has a direction matters,” says Hill.

D’Ottone’s work, meanwhile, speaks to how people pick up on purpose and factor that into attraction, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. “We actually seek out people with a purpose,” he comments.

Researchers posit this work may be helpful for the development of new dating apps. Most of the popular apps today include prompts and ice breakers to get conversations started, but such sites could include a purpose-driven component to prompts in the future.

D’Ottone notes this work shouldn’t inspire anyone to fake a passion for something. But, perhaps we should all be more open to finding love in unexpected places. Chasing a special someone may end with a mismatch, “but chasing your passions, you might find that person along the way,” she concludes.

The study is published in the International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology.

What’s your purpose in life? (Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels)

About John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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1 Comment

  1. Mark Ward says:

    I always thought finding purpose in life leads to more figs. 🤔 You learn something new every day