How much of your online dating profile do people actually read?

If you're trying to attract men in San Francisco who like to visit coffee shops, you may want to skip filling in your "about me" section, and spend as much time as possible picking out your very best profile picture.

According to consumer research company AnswerLab, men spend 65 percent more time looking at photos than women, while women spend 50 percent more time than men actually reading through profiles.

These are the results of a small study conducted over the course of a single day at a coffee shop in San Francisco. 18 women and 21 men — who self-identified as being interested in dating a member of the opposite sex — were asked to peruse dating profiles from Match.com and eHarmony.com.

The results feed into a lot of stereotypes about how men and women approach dating, so there's a good chance you're not surprised by findings that suggest men don't read through online dating profiles. But the results of the study (which, let's face it, had a tiny sample size and a pretty narrow range of experimental conditions), aren't nearly as interesting as the methods used to acquire them: eye-tracking technology that kept meticulous track of where on the computer screen the experimental participants were looking. Discovery News' Kate Pregaman explains:

The researchers collected data using the Tobii X1 Light Eye Tracker, a new, portable model of eye tracker. The device works by shining an infrared light at the eye, creating reflections which are, in turn, recorded by a camera. Using the recorded pattern of reflections, the program calculates the angle between the cornea and pupil, which is used to calculate the angle of the gaze. Combining the angle of the gaze and the distance between the eyes and the screen leads to accurate tracking of the eye's movements.

How much of your online dating profile do people actually read?

Your eyes are capable of incredibly quick movements that allow them to take in various aspects of your surroundings in rapid succession. When your eyes move from one aspect of this environment and refocus on something else (in the case of this experiment, the environment comprises images, text, and advertisements on a computer screen), researchers call that event a "fixation."

Shown here is an example of the data the researchers' eye-tracker is capable of collecting. The image reveals the recorded fixations of a man in the first 10 seconds of looking at a woman's profile on eHarmony. There are over 200 recorded fixations.

Just imagine what it would be like if your computer's webcam was outfitted with the technology behind the eye-trackers used in this experiment. Where would your eyes spend the majority of their time? Just imagine how much people would pay to have access to that information, and how it could be used to their advantage.

The future is a wonderfully frightening place.

[Via Discovery]