The second page that participants saw had multiple purposes: 1) to reinforce the farce that this was a real online dating website by having them create a username (though no passwords were created for privacy purposes), 2) to again prompt participants to pay attention to the operational sex ratio of the site, and 3) to provide participants with a slideshow of images that supposedly consisted of member profile photos. This slideshow (which only appears as one image of a young man in this static image), further reinforced the sex ratio. For the site with 70% men and 30% women, seven photos of men and three photos of women were shown in the slideshow. These photos were taken from, with the express permission of their marketing team, and were controlled for attractiveness. 

After creating their usernames, participants went on to complete a series of survey measures, including the Sociosexual Orientation Inventory-Revised (SOI-R; Penke & Asendorpf, 2008), questions regarding preferred partner attributes and preferred relationship types (long-term vs. short-term), followed by two open-ended questions that would ostensibly be shown on their profile page. 

Summary of Findings:

  • There was a significant interaction between sex ratio condition and participant gender on desired partner qualities. Specifically, women assigned to the male-biased condition (i.e., 70% men and 30% women) tended to stress the importance of a greater number of partner qualities than women in the other conditions, or than men in any of the conditions. This suggests that when women are a scarce resource, they may become pickier in the qualities they look for in a partner. 

  • As supported by previous research, men tended to be more unrestricted in their sociosexuality than women, regardless of sex ratio condition. That is to say that men tend to be more willing to engage in casual sex than women. 

  • Interestingly, men in the male-biased condition (70% men and 30% women) were more likely to include information in their profiles about wanting a long-term relationship and detailing their employment (or expectations for future employment). 

  • Taken together, these findings largely support psychological research regarding the impact of skewed sex ratios on sexual strategies. 

Visit Megs' site for a downloadable copy of her Master's Thesis. 

The last part of the experiment asked participants to write a blurb about themselves that they would like potential partners to know, and a second blurb about what qualities they are seeking in a romantic partner. This information was then coded using a thematic analysis and compared between conditions.

My Master's Thesis investigated the role of operational sex ratios (i.e., the proportion of sexually available men to sexually available women) on the sexual strategies used when creating an online dating profile. For the purpose of this experiment, I developed a faux online dating website, (pictured below), and asked participants to beta test the website by creating their own dating profiles and answering the survey questions purportedly designed to match participants to potential partners. The sex ratio of the websites was manipulated such that participants were shown a website with 70% of the members identifying as men, 30% identifying as women; 30% identifying as men, 70% identifying as women; or 50% identifying as men and 50% identifying as women. In order to make sure that participants attended to these details, they were asked to provide feedback about the website itself under the guise that their comments would be used to update the site prior to its official launch date online. Included in this feedback was a question regarding whether this member demographic information was useful to the participants. 

Social Psychologist

Megs Carpenter, PhD.

The first webpage participants viewed when starting the experiment included a brief overview of the website's purpose, as well as the operational sex ratio manipulation (in bold at the end of the first paragraph). As mentioned above, participants were either told they were joining a site that had more men than women (70% vs. 30%), less men than women (30% vs. 70%), or an approximately even distribution of men and women.