Why Do You Swipe? The Fascinating Science Behind Hookup Apps

Have you ever used a social dating app like Tinder? If you have, you’re certainly not alone. Tinder now reports over a billion swipes take place every day, with ten million matches occurring every 24 hours on the app.

Whether you think that the majority of those matches are leading to true love or not is your own opinion, but what can’t be disputed is that Tinder— and apps like it, such as competitor Bumble— have tapped into something beyond simply the desire to find a mate. They’ve turned matchmaking into a game.

For years, psychologists and economists have closely studied ‘gamification’— the addictive way of turning any task into something that lights up the pleasure centers in the brain. For just as long, experts on productivity and learning have used this to encourage students and workers. Turn it into a game, and people are more likely to devote their time and attention to it. The same is true for apps, particularly when you pair that addictiveness with the thrill of finding a romantic partner.

“Nobody joins Tinder because they’re looking for something,” Co-founder and former CEO Sean Rad said in an interview with Time Magazine. “They join because they want to have fun. It doesn’t even matter if you match because swiping is so fun.”

Rad has been in the press as of late after a highly public battle with former Tinder employee Whitney Wolfe Herd, who has since gone on to found Bumble and become the youngest self-made woman billionaire in history. Wolfe Herd sued Rad and Tinder after she claimed that Rad and other members of the founding team used racist and sexist language and created a hostile work environment for Wolfe Herd and other employees.

The feud only intensified when Tinder’s parent company, Match Group, tried to buy Bumble for a massive sum only to be refused.

Whatever is going on behind the scenes, one thing is for certain. The intense competition between these behemoths in matchmaking have caused them to constantly innovate new ways to get us hooked. Who knows, maybe our addiction will one day lead to us finding the love of our life. Or simply a weekend fling or one-night stand.