Two stick figures standing on a red background. One says, “It might just be the halo effect, but you sure look like an angel to me!” The other says, “Shut up nerd.”
Hi there

Gather round, children, and let us spin you a yarn; a tale from the Before Times, passed down by our elders. Legend has it that long ago, people used to meet their significant others in wacky, real-life locales — bars, for instance, or whilst out for a little jaunt in the park. Allegedly, one might get to know somebody over a shared “interest” or “hobby,” or perhaps be introduced by a mutual friend. 

Fast forward to 2023, and these customs have long since been forgotten, lost to the sands of time. Now, the lonely hearts of the world have but one option: to enter the brutal colosseum that is the world of dating apps. 😱

We’re being a bit facetious, of course. But it's also true that apps like Tinder have completely transformed the dating landscape. Statistically speaking, if you and your sweetheart got together in 2019 or later, you’re most likely to have met online (if you’re in the U.S., anyway). 

Why are we so hooked on dating apps? The answer, in short, is behavioral design — something that just happens to be one of our specialties. So come celebrate Valentine’s Day the TDL way: with a thorough analysis of dating apps and their choice architecture.

Until next time,
Sarah, Katie, and the appropriately affectionate team @ TDL

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Today’s topics 👀
💝 Viewpoints: How Tinder Stole Our Hearts
☕️ Field Notes: Wanna Grab Coffee?
🐟 Deep Dive: Some Other Fish in the Sea
💝 How Tinder Stole Our Hearts

We’re literally playing the dating game. Dating apps have been around for a couple of decades now, but Tinder changed the industry by gamifying online dating. Swiping can feel similar to a slot machine, with frequent — yet unpredictable — rewards.

We’re wired to swipe. The actual swiping motion we make when on dating apps is more powerful than you realize. Swiping is an instinctive gesture — even newborn infants are observed making similar gestures when faced with engaging stimuli.

We feel more in control. Many dating apps require a double opt-in: both parties need to “like” each other before any interaction. For many, this is a pleasant change of pace from the unpredictable nature of real-world interactions.

We feel like we’re in the real world. A hallmark of successful UX design is bridging the gap between the user’s experience and the real world. The few components of Tinder’s simple layout mimic how we evaluate people in real life — hence why 80% of the screen is taken up by images, instead of the lengthy profiles of dating websites past.

Fun fact: Tinder was partly inspired by B.F. Skinner’s work with pigeons, wherein the legendary behavioral scientist leveraged unpredictable reward schedules to train his birds. 🐦

The most popular destination for first dates is none other than a classic coffee shop rendezvous. But all those meet-cutes come at a steep environmental price — 58 billion coffee cups thrown out each year, to be exact. 

We partnered with one of the world’s biggest coffee chains to help cut down on that waste (but not the romance). We created an applied, evidence-based behavioral playbook to guide the coffeehouse’s new sustainability initiative, to be piloted around the world. You can check out the full case study here.
A pattern of coffee cups on top of a teal background.
🐟 Some Other Fish in the Sea

Tinder is undeniably the reigning champion of dating apps — but it has more competition every day. Here are just a few other dating apps on the scene, and some of the ways they’re changing up the choice architecture of searching for love.

+ Some apps, like Coffee Meets Bagel, conservatively limit the number of swipes and matches users can make each day. These models help combat choice overload, one of the more anxiety-inducing aspects of online dating

+ Many alternative apps integrate profile prompts to nudge users into sharing unique information about themselves. Higher originality in dating profile bios has been shown to boost perceptions of intelligence, humor, and attractiveness.

+ To dramatically incentivize continued social interactions (and disincentivize slot-machine-like swiping), dating app Jigsaw conceals users’ faces, revealing their image piece by piece as messages are exchanged.

+ Apps like Clover make use of low-pressure group interactions by offering “Mixers”: group chats centered around shared hobbies or interests. Opt-in group environments — like the group dating practice in Japan known as gokon — can stimulate conversation and reduce participant stress.

+ Bumble uses the urgency principle to encourage conversation, giving matches a limit of 24 hours before their pairing expires. A sense of urgency or prospective FOMO can jumpstart connections that may otherwise remain silent.
A pie chart labeled “Reasons for using Tinder.” According to a survey of nearly 10,000 college students, 44% use Tinder for “confidence-boosting procrastination,” 22% are looking for a hookup, 4% are looking for a relationship, and 29% cited some other reason.
Why college students report using Tinder. Data retrieved from lendedu.

The Sexual Overperception Bias

How can you tell if your local barista is flirting with you, or just being friendly? Due to the sexual overperception bias, some individuals (especially men) tend to overestimate other people’s sexual interest in them.
Opportunities in behavioral science
TDL is hiring! We’re hiring for a number of positions, both remote and based in our Montreal office. Some open roles include:
  • Associate Project Leader
  • UX Designer
  • Senior UX Designer
  • Research Analyst
  • Summer Content & Marketing Interns

Find out more by visiting our careers portal.

Want to have your voice heard? We'd love to hear from you. Reply to this email to share your thoughts, feedback, and questions with the TDL team.

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