Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality

Initial Contact on Dating Websites: Results and Strategies from the L.U.R.E. Project

Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality

Initial Contact on Dating Websites: Results and Strategies from the L.U.R.E. Project

Article excerpt


The current research explored characteristics in online dating profiles that lead to initial contact. Dating websites have been a growth area since the onset of the Internet in the 1990's, with over 20 million people visiting dating websites monthly (Online Dating Magazine, 2011).

Research evaluating online dating interactions have provided findings similar to those in "live" dating settings (e.g., a preference for individuals who are more attractive than themselves with high-incomes, similar education levels/personalities, men's preference for younger mates, and women's preference for older mates; Hitsch, Hortascu, & Ariely, 2010).

What characteristics in an online profile lead or "lure" someone to initiate contact? We believe contact initiation is driven by a number of factors. These include:

(a) basic attraction characteristics from reflecting Social Exchange Theory (e.g., physical beauty, social status)

(b) males' role to pursue females (suggesting males will initiate contact) as supported through Evolutionary Psychology (e.g., Buss, 1994)

(c) profiles which are unique, reflecting Optimal Distinctiveness Theory (Timmor & Katz-Navon, 2008).

Method: The L.U.R.E. Project

The L.U.R.E. project (L.U.R.E.--Latent Unbosomed Relational Elements) began in 2011 to evaluate online dating and initial contact characteristics.

Data here were taken from 49 posted profiles on 6 online dating websites, with postings made in 10 large U.S. cities on a rolling basis.

Dating profiles were constructed with pictures from public domain resources, and varied by gender, picture attraction, personal demographics/characteristics, and sexual proclivity. Pictures were also repeated, altering profiles to investigate changes in initial contact based on various profile characteristics.

Profiles were posted for 7 days then removed, and counts were made of initial e-mail contacts (e-mails were never opened, nor were winks, views, flirts, or cybergifts). IRB approval was obtained for the study methods.


--The mean number of initial contact e-mails over the 7-day period was 30.08, with most received the first few days of posting.

--For gender, a large discrepancy in contacts was noted, with females receiving an average of 54.62 e-mails vs. males who received an average of 2.35 (t[47] = 3.13, p = .003).

--For both men/women, age had little diminishing effect on initial contacts.

--Female profiles noting cavalier sexual attitudes received more e-mails than those with more typical or mundane sexual interests.

--For Women: As profile attractiveness diminished, so did the number of initial contact e-mails (no changes were noted for males).

--For Women: An intense number of e-mails were received the first 3 days of postings, which then level through the remainder of days listed.

--For Men: Higher SES and/or high-end career (e.g., earning 150k per year; career in Finance) had no effect on contacts. However, more unique male profiles/career (e.g., an exotic job such as "rodeo clown") showed an increase in average e-mails compared to more standard or mundane profiles (mean average of 3.85 vs. 0.40 contacts).

--Casual vs. Long-Term Relationship preference: Using loglinear analysis, we investigated the effects of casual vs. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.