Everyone aims out of their league, study finds

If you're struggling to find love - or something less permanent - try lowering your standards.

New research has found users of online dating sites swipe right on people about 25 percent more attractive than they are - but usually end up with someone about their level.

Scientists looked at data from 187,000 users in the US of an unnamed dating site. Each user was given an attractiveness score based on how many unsolicited messages they received, and how attractive the people sending those messages were - similar to how Google ranks websites.

The study, published in journal Science Advances, found on average men go for women about 26 percent more attractive than they are, while women aim 23 percent higher.

And women at least appear to know when they're chasing someone out of their league.

"Women consistently sent more positively worded messages to men when the 'desirability gap' was greater... sign that they were putting in more effort for a more desirable man," the study said.

Men were the opposite, being less positive towards more attractive women.

"My co-author and I used to joke that the men are playing it cool," said lead author Elizabeth Bruch, a sociologist at the University of Michigan. "They're not being as enthusiastic when they're approaching more desirable partners."

And it worked - being positive usually resulted in fewer replies, which surprised Prof Bruch, saying women consistently fell for the kind of "backhanded compliments" used by "pick-up artists".

The other strategy that worked for men chasing more attractive women was being persistent.

"It seems like even writing 10 messages to find someone you find incredibly desirable is a pretty modest investment of time and energy."

Longer messages didn't seem to work for either sex, except for men in Seattle, which the study's authors put down to the city's high ratio of single men to single women.

Prof Bruch hopes to study follow-up messages in detail to find out how first dates - or flings - turn into committed relationships.