Cheaters on dating apps exhibit more 'psychopathic' personality traits, study finds

They have more casual sex, too.

Movie still from American Psycho starring Christian Bale
  • Between 18 and 25 percent of Tinder users is in a committed relationship while on Tinder.
  • Non-single Tinder users are more likely to report casual sexual behavior.
  • Personality distinctions were found between non-single users and other groups.

Swiping left or right has now been engrained into the cultural vernacular. Across the world with approximately 50 million people swiping on the daily, Tinder has become one of the most popular dating platforms online.

However, it's most certainly not everlasting love everyone is after. Recent surveys suggest that anywhere between 18 and 25 percent of users are in what's considered an "exclusive" relationship. In the United States that percentage nearly doubles to a close 42 percent.

In a study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior researchers found that non-single Tinder users were quite different from their single user counterparts. The paper, aptly titled Why are you cheating on Tinder? Exploring users' motives and (dark) personality trait, found that people who cheat on Tinder use dating apps for different reasons than users who are single. They are also more likely to have psychopathic personality traits compared to people in exclusive relationships who aren't on Tinder.

Researchers surveyed students and non-students with questionnaires about their relationship status, Tinder usage, and whether or not they used the app for sexual encounters.

When a round of follow-up questions were asked about their offline behavior between other Tinder connections (or hookups) the researchers found that cheaters were more likely to have reported they engaged in more casual sexual relationships than other single users.

One of the authors of the study stated:

Some people in relationships might want to satisfy their curiosity about the current dating market by downloading Tinder. But we interpret this finding to mean that some people are also looking for a lot more when they download the app.

What some of these people in exclusive relationships are looking for in their side-quest for some digital infidelity might be led on because of some psychopathic tendencies.

​A look into the research of potential tinder psychopaths

The researchers presented an exploratory study with an intent to figure out why people in relationships would use Tinder and looked to see if they'd score higher on a number of dark personality traits compared to single users and non-users in exclusive relationships.

Their results found that non-single Tinder users reported a higher number of romantic relations that included these criteria: "French kisses, one night stands, and casual sexual relationships with other Tinder user…" When it came to dark personality traits, non-single Tinder users scored lower in categories of Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, while scoring higher on Neuroticism and Psychopathy compared to non-users in exclusive or committed relationships.

There is still a number of follow-up studies to understand the full implications of this data. For example, researcher Elisabeth Timmermans wanted to be cautious around the fact that partnered Tinder users may cheat more than those in exclusive relationships not on the app. She goes on to sat that:

We also looked into whether partnered Tinder users differ on their Tinder outcomes compared to single Tinder users. Our findings show that partnered Tinder users report significantly more one night stands, casual sexual relationships, and committed relationships with other users compared to single Tinder users.

However, one major limitation here is that we did not specifically ask these users whether they reported on these outcomes while in a committed relationship. It thus might be possible that they are also reporting on these behaviors while being single. As we did not measure this and did not have information on relationship length either, we are a bit cautious about claiming that partnered Tinder users are more likely to cheat on their partner.

Main takeaways and future research

Researchers of the study are working on continuing with follow-up research the complex effect on relationships dating apps are having. "Our findings leave me wondering whether dating apps might be a threat to romantic relationships," said Timmermans. "Of course our findings are too preliminary to make such conclusions, but they already suggest that some people (i.e., with certain personality traits) might be more susceptible to using dating apps for infidelity purposes than others."

The next questions that need to be asked is how to determine if these types of people would have cheated anyways regardless of the platform — although the app makes it easier to do so. The nature and problems of social media still baffles many sociologists and when you add into the mix an intricate human activity like courtship, you'll find we're entering into dangerous territory.

Hopefully future research will help us navigate these choppy dating waters.

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