Across 190 countries approximately 50 million people swipe left and right on the dating platform Tinder. However, not all are in pursuit of immaculate love. Surveys indicate that between 18 and 25 percent of users are already in a “committed” relationship. In the United States, that percentage jumps to 42. Now, a new study shows that these “non-single” Tinder users are quite different from single users — and not just because they are already dating someone.
In a paper published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior experts in psychology and communication studies found that people who cheat on Tinder have different motives for using the app, as well as more psychopathic personality traits compared to other people in committed relationships who don’t use Tinder.
The researchers surveyed a mix of students and non-students with questions about their relationship status, the nature of their Tinder use, and if any hanky-panky came out of it. Getting people to divulge their dark cheating secrets wasn’t too hard: A raffle for free movie tickets helped encourage participation.
When they were asked follow-up questions about their offline behavior, cheaters in the group reported engaging in more casual sexual relationships, French kisses, one night stands, and relationships with other Tinder users than single users.
“What was most fascinating to me about this study was that more than half of our non-single participants using Tinder also reported engaging in offline behaviors with another Tinder user,” study co-author and University of Massachusetts, Boston professor Cassandra Alexopoulos, Ph.D., tells Inverse. “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.”
More romantic relationships and sexual encounters might make seem like cheaters are simply better at Tinder. But Alexopoulos says that’s not necessarily what’s going on here. Sure, non-single users are reporting a higher number of relationships with people they meet on Tinder compared to single users, but that could mean that not all those relationships are successful, she says. Instead, they could have “previously found dating success using the app and, now that they’re committed to someone, they still have a lingering curiosity about what’s out there.” Let’s hope.
Next, the researchers wanted to understand if common personality traits drove cheaters on Tinder, and if they share any “dark triad” traits — the unholy trinity of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Through two specially manufactured quizzes, the team determined that non-single Tinder users scored significantly lower on “agreeableness” and “conscientiousness” and significantly higher on “neuroticism” and “psychopathy.” Here, the psychotic-element wasn’t driven by being in a relationship — it was demonstrated by the active decision to get on a dating app.
“Our findings revealed that non-single Tinder users are more psychopathic than non-single non-users,” says Alexopoulos. “Psychopathy is typically characterized by a high level of impulsivity, but a low level of empathy. This could explain why some people have a greater tendency to commit infidelity than others.”
Meanwhile, the team found that single users on Tinder are more interested in flirting, forgetting about an ex, and gaining a relationship — regardless of the actual outcomes. There may be a landmine of cheaters out there, but some Tinder users are actually looking for the mushy-gushy stuff.