The Attractiveness, Trustworthiness and Desirability of Autistic Males’ Online Dating Profiles

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 4, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
J. Gavin1 and M. Brosnan2, (1)University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom, (2)Centre for Applied Autism Research, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

A lack of success through traditional, face-to-face dating has led some autistic adults to pursue relationships through online dating. Creating an online dating profile, however, is a process that requires a range of complex social skills, the ability to balance a number of social demands, and self- and other-awareness - all of which can be challenging for autistic people.


The study explored the relative desirability of online dating profiles that include autistic attributes and interests presented in a positive way compared to the same attributes and interests presented negatively. It also measured the relative desirability of online dating profiles with and without an explicit autism diagnosis being stated.


Participants were 127 self-identified heterosexual females who were ‘seeking a man’ through online dating, with an average age of 20.4 years (range 18-25; sd=1.56). These respondents were recruited through an advertisement on social media.

Participants viewed one of six profiles, all of which featured the same profile photo and basic details, for instance height and ethnicity. However, the profiles differed in regards to what was written in the ‘About Me’ section. Two variables were manipulated, the first being whether a diagnosis of autism was explicitly stated (‘I am autistic’) or not, and the second being the wording used to describe the male’s autistic-like attributes (positive, negative or neutral). The neutrally worded profile was taken from the world’s most popular online dating site. The authors inserted five autism-relevant statements that were either negatively or positively worded (e.g. I do not find social situations easy vs I am happy in my own company) for autistic-like attributes.

The dependent variables were interpersonal attraction (physical, social and task attraction), trustworthiness, desire to date, and familiarity with autism was controlled for.


There was a significant main effect for autism label on physical attractiveness (F(1,120)=6.87, p=.01) and trustworthiness (F(1,120)=5.00, p<.05). Post-hoc independent t-tests identified that an explicit statement of a diagnosis of autism related to the image being perceived to be more physically attractive (t(125)=2.44, p<.05) and more trustworthy (t(125)=2.33, p<.05). There was a significant main effect of wording on social attractiveness (F(2,120)=3.75, p<.05) and task attractiveness (F(2,120)=4.21, p<.05). Post hoc independent t-tests identified that positive wording was associated with a significantly higher social attractiveness rating than negative wording (t(81)=3.04, p<.01) and approached significance for neutral wording (t(81)=1.83, p=.07). In addition, negative wording was associated with a significantly higher task attractiveness rating than positive and neutral wording (t(81)=2.05, p<.05; t(81)=3.29, p<.001; respectively). There were no significant two-way interactions between label and wording (all p>.05).


Explicitly stating a diagnosis of autism and positively-worded attributes associated with autism related to enhanced perceived attractiveness in online dating profiles. It is interesting that an explicit statement of a diagnosis of autism related to enhanced perceived physical attractiveness (as the same photo was used in all conditions) and may be related to enhanced perceived trustworthiness. Positivity would seem to be related to enhanced perceived social attractiveness.