Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Swiping for the Right Reasons: Approach and Avoidance Goals Are Associated with Actual and Perceived Dating Success on Tinder

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Swiping for the Right Reasons: Approach and Avoidance Goals Are Associated with Actual and Perceived Dating Success on Tinder

Article excerpt

Tinder, the mobile dating app, is widely used for meeting potential dating partners, but little research has investigated the dating experiences of users. In two studies, we applied the approach-avoidance theory of social motivation to understand the association between people's goals for Tinder use and their perceived and actual dating success. In Study 1 we found that higher approach goals for using Tinder, such as to develop intimate relationships, were associated with more positive beliefs about people on Tinder, and in turn, associated with reporting greater perceived dating success, initiating more conversations on Tinder, and going on more second dates with people from Tinder. In contrast, people who had higher avoidance goals when using Tinder, such as aiming to avoid embarrassment, reported feeling more anxious when using Tinder and in turn, perceived less dating success and reported fewer second dates. In Study 2--a preregistered replication of Study 1--we largely replicated the effects from Study 1. Additional analyses in both studies revealed that the results were not accounted for by attractiveness of the user and were consistent between men and women, but differed based on the age of the user. The associations between approach goals and dating success were stronger for younger, compared to older users and the association between avoidance goals and dating success were stronger for older, compared to younger, users. The findings have implications for understanding the role of motivation in dating success on Tinder and reveal novel mechanisms for the associations between dating goals and dating success.

KEYWORDS: Approach avoidance goals, online dating, relationship initiation, social motivation, Tinder


The widespread use of smart-phones and online dating applications have changed the dating landscape. Today, 44% of single people have dated someone that they met online or through a mobile dating app (Fisher & Garcia, 2017). Tinder, a mobile dating application where people can swipe through each other's profiles and initiate a conversation if both parties show interest, has increased in popularity in recent years and is now a common way that dating partners connect, especially among young people. In fact, recent studies show that 14% of people in a nationally representative study in the U.S. reported using Tinder, with most users being between the ages of 18 to 24 years (Flint, 2018). Despite Tinder's growing popularity, limited empirical research has investigated who is more likely to have positive dating experiences on Tinder. In the current research, we apply approach and avoidance social motivation theory to understand the perceived and actual dating success of Tinder users.


Tinder is a mobile dating application that launched in 2012 where individuals create profiles that include up to six photos and 500 characters to describe themselves. Tinder users are able to look at other people's profiles and decide to swipe right if they would like to be connected with that person, or swipe left if they are not interested. If both users swipe right on each other's profiles, they are considered to be a match and will be able to send messages over the application. Tinder has become a widely used tool for finding romantic and sexual partners since its launch in 2012. In recent years, there has been more than a 4-fold increase in the number of people using mobile dating applications like Tinder, increasing from 5% in 2013 to 22% in 2016 for people ages 18 to 24 years (Smith & Anderson, 2016). One common perception about Tinder is that it is primarily used to pursue casual "hook ups" rather than long-term relationships. Many popular media articles reinforce the idea that most people on Tinder are specifically seeking short-term partners. The media claims vary from simply stating that people on Tinder are looking for short-term relationships (Bulman, 2016), to comparing the increased reliance on Tinder for dating to the "dating apocalypse," suggesting that Tinder use is leading young people to no longer desire committed relationships (Sales, 2015). …

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