Those of you who have tried online dating will appreciate the importance of a profile picture; it is one of the first things to catch your eye when searching for potential matches. But according to a new study, beautifying a profile picture may affect how trustworthy one is perceived to be.

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Despite men perceiving women with enhanced photos on dating sites to be less trustworthy, they are still willing to date them.

For their study, recently presented at the 65th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Rory McGloin, Amanda Denes and Olivia Kamisher – of the University of Connecticut – enrolled 305 heterosexual men and women aged 17-36.

Participants were asked to view two profile pictures of the opposite sex. While each picture showed the same person, one had been enhanced (for example, through lighting, hair styling or makeup) and one was relatively normal (no hairstyling, no makeup and satisfactory lighting).

The participants were then asked how they rated the physical attractiveness and trustworthiness of each participant, how closely they thought they would be a match and their desire to date them.

The study results revealed that women rated the enhanced profile picture of the man as both more attractive and more trustworthy than the nonenhanced picture of the same male.

Men also deemed the enhanced profile picture of the female to be more attractive than the nonenhanced picture of the same female.

However, the enhanced photo also reduced trustworthiness of the woman in men’s eyes. But despite this, men still reported a higher desire to date the woman in the enhanced photo.

The researchers say this finding is an interesting one. While trust plays an important role in a relationship and in forming new bonds, it appears to be less significant when it comes to identifying a potential date online. McGloin adds:

This finding suggests that even when men suspect that a woman may not look exactly like she does in her profile picture, they are willing to take the risk and pursue a date with her. In our sample, attraction seems to be more important than trust.”

The team says their findings support the “catfishing” theory when it comes to online dating – the idea that Internet users fabricate their identity to trick people into relationships. In the case of this study, it is by enhancing profile pictures.

“This finding provides an empirical highlight to the concept of catfishing and the larger phenomena surrounding online dating,” adds McGloin, “in which it is both normal and acceptable for individuals’ to mislead or deceive their potential suitors.”

In February, Medical News Today reported on a study by UK researchers claiming to provide tips on how to succeed in online dating.

In that study, the team found that people are more likely to generate interest on online dating sites by using a profile picture featuring a genuine smile that crinkles up the eyes. What is more, they found men are more attracted to women who wear red in their profile picture.