How People Are Using Tinder to Cheat

Key points

We know that many people in committed relationships fail to delete their Tinder app. For instance, in one study some 73 percent of people indicated that one of their male friends who they knew to be in a relationship had used Tinder, and 56 percent of people indicated that one of their female friends who they knew to be in a relationship had used Tinder (Weiser et al., 2018). Furthermore, it was also found that some 17 percent of undergraduates had messaged someone on Tinder while in a committed relationship, and over 7 percent had engaged in a sexual relationship with someone they had met on Tinder while still in a committed relationship (Weiser et al 2018).

Therefore, how would you know if your Tinder date was actually single? Furthermore, what motivates people in committed relationships to continue using Tinder? Elisabeth Timmermans and her colleagues sought to investigate these questions by comparing Tinder users who were currently in a relationship with single Tinder users and those who didn’t use Tinder on their reasons for using the app and their personality characteristics (Timmermans, De Caluwe, and Alexopoulos, 2018).

Why People Use Tinder

First, the researchers found differences in the reasons for using Tinder between single Tinder users and users in a relationship. More specifically, Tinder users in a relationship reported a lower motivation to use Tinder to establish a connection with others, such as seeking a relationship, or even flirting, but instead were more concerned in finding a short-term liaison. In addition to this, more than half of Tinder users in a relationship reported meeting someone with whom they had matched on Tinder.

Personality Types

Next, the researchers looked to see if Tinder users in a relationship displayed particular personality types compared to single Tinder users or non-users. They found that agreeableness, generally associated with behaving in a caring and thoughtful way towards others, was lower in Tinder users in a relationship when compared to single Tinder users and those who didn’t use Tinder. This perhaps explains why Tinder users in a relationship continue to use the app, as they are less caring about their partners and relationship exclusivity. Furthermore, users low on agreeableness also reported using Tinder to have more sexual experiences compared with those scoring higher on agreeableness.

Users in a relationship who had met someone with whom they had matched on Tinder were also more extraverted and open to new experiences compared with Tinder users in relationships reporting no face-to-face meetings.

Finally, Tinder users in a relationship scored higher on neuroticism compared to non-users, and this is possibly explained by the fact that more neurotic users suffer a sense of relationship insecurity, and need the external validation satisfied only by garnering Tinder matches. It, therefore, seems that neurotic individuals are using Tinder for the purpose of managing their mood, as opposed to using Tinder to seek out long-term partners.

Dark Triad Traits

The researchers then went on to look at whether Tinder users in relationships displayed Dark Triad traits, such as narcissism, Machiavellianism, or psychopathy. They found that these users scored higher on psychopathy in comparison to non-Tinder users. Furthermore, this trait was related to the motive of using Tinder for sexual experience. Psychopathy is generally associated with lower relationship involvement, opportunistic or impulsive behaviour, and being more sexually open-minded. Dating apps seemingly offer a wide array of potential partners and are therefore ideally suited to those perhaps pursuing more sexual experiences. Furthermore, Tinder users in a relationship who scored high on psychopathy reported more one-night stands and casual relationships.

Machiavellianism which is associated with self-promotion on social media, and narcissism which is often associated with posting filtered and carefully selected photos of oneself, was found to be linked with non-single Tinder users employing the app specifically for social approval.

Overall, those with dark personality traits tend to view relationships as a game and engage in them for more selfish purposes. For instance, narcissists are often less committed and prefer more casual relationships and have a higher propensity to cheat.

Future Research

One major limitation of this study of course is the lack of a measure of relationship satisfaction, or even relationship length, which the researchers fully acknowledge. Both measures could also explain to a large extent why those in long-term relationships might continue to use Tinder. However, the study nevertheless reveals some important information on who is likely to be a non-single Tinder user and the way they are likely to behave.

Timmermans, E., De Caluwe E., , Alexopoulos C. (2018) ‘Why are you cheating on tinder? Exploring users’ motives and (dark) personality traits‘puters in Human Behaviour. 89, 129-139.

Weiser, D. A., Niehuis, S., Flora, J., Punyanunt-Carter, N. M., Arias, V. S., Baird, R. A. (2018). Swiping right: Sociosexuality, intentions to engage in infidelity, and infidelity experiences on Tinder. Personality and Individual Differences, 133, 29–33.

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