Why Do So Many People Lie In Online Dating?

There are millions of Americans seeking love on the Internet. Little do they know that teams of scientists are eagerly watching them trying to find it.

A recent New York Times article titled “Love, Lies and What They Learned,” indicates that collectively, the major dating sites had more than 593 million visits in the United States last month.

Research involving more than one million online dating profiles was partly financed by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The in-depth studies found that about 81 percent of people misrepresent their height, weight or age in their profiles. On average, the women described themselves as 8.5 pounds thinner in their profiles than they really were. Men fibbed by 2 pounds, although they lied about their height, rounding up a half inch. Another study found that women’s profile photographs were on average a year and a half old. Men’s were on average six months old.

According to the studies, liars tend to use fewer first-person pronouns. Professor Catalina L. Toma, an assistant professor in the department of communication arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said this is an indication of psychological distancing: “You’re feeling guilty or anxious or nervous.” Liars use more negative words like “not” and “never,” yet another way of putting up a buffer. Liars use fewer negative emotion words like “sad” and “upset,” and they write shorter online personal essays. (It’s easier not to get caught if you say less.)

“I was personally really shocked,” said Professor Rose McDermott, a professor of political science at Brown University whose study was published this year in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. “People were much more likely to say ‘I’m fat’ than ‘I’m a conservative.’ ”

Personally, none of this is surprising if you’ve dated online. You may find it exasperating, but I just think it’s human nature. WE are insecure. We know that online dating presents a lot of choices. We know that men are looking for younger and thinner and women are looking for taller and wealthier. We know that if we tell the truth – I’m 5’8″, not 5’10”, I’m 55, not 49, we’re all but eliminated from the search of the most desirable candidates. So we fib a little to “get in the door” and hope that we don’t seem too different from our descriptions.

Given that 81% of people lie, I think it’s time to stop getting so bent out of shape when they do, and simply assume that everyone is fudging a little bit – some, more than others. At the end of the day, it’s better to be pleasantly surprised when someone does tell the truth than bitterly disappointed when he doesn’t. It’s too predictable to get angry about.

Read the full article here and let me know your thoughts.

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  1. 31

    No one has to lie it is a choice one makes.  Please everyone tells themselves they look 7 – 10 younger I think that is biggest lie those of a certain age tell themselves “I don’t look my age so I am justified in putting a younger age on my profile. ”  I have read this in many mens profile and you know what 99.9% of the time they do look their age.  Why would you want to have relationship with someone who is this delusional? 
    When I was online the majority of emails I received were from men 20-30 years younger than me.  Did this mean I look good for my age( whatever that means) no it means they think I am so desperate that I would have no qualms about jumping in the sack with them. 

  2. 32

    Remember that clip from the Johnny Carson show where he tells Gloria Steinem on her 40th birthday that she doesn’t look 40? She responded, “This is what 40 looks like.” Ha! Where do we get these ideas of what people “should” look like at what age? It’s a very good question!

  3. 33

    I’m not scrupulously honest for anyone’s benefit but my own.  I’m not going to lie just because “everyone does it,” nor am I interested in a man who does.   I’m not missing out on great guys because I don’t lie about my age,.  Men who are too rigid in their thinking are missing out on me.  

    I’m 53 and I’m honest about it.  I date men from online and real life from ages 42 to 72.  The online guys can’t even be kept as friends, they have so much weird stuff going on in their heads.  Some have incredible fake lives built for online dating and have hit me on several sites.  They don’t recognize me because I don’t have a picture.  

    My real life men become relationships of some sort or another, Oprah Guy Friends, fishing buddies, I’m their “hot young chick” to show off to friends, companions, friends, uncommon intellectual discourse.  The men who are not for me, but are awesome, I introduce to my girlfriends who can never meet nice men.  They appreciate me screening out the jerks.

    I know not everybody lives in such a rich dating pool as I, but still…. Quality over Quantity.

  4. 34

    @Teresa, you aren’t kidding.  I mean, a person who hasn’t reach age X is a poor judge of what X looks like.  If you are 18, 30 seems ancient.  If you are 25, then 45 is ancient, so when they say “oh you look great” you should take it with a grain of salt.  I mean, a person can find you attractive even if you are older than they are and are they REALLY going to say, yeah, you look your age if they are hoping to get laid?  

    @Ann, that’s just it.  There isn’t any one thing that a given age looks like.  There is kind of what YOU look like at a particular age and just b/c another person who is your age looks different, it’s really just ego to tell yourself that you clearly look 35 when you are 50, b/c even in a pack of average 35 year olds, your plastic surgery and botox isn’t fooling anyone.

    I personally think that there are a lot of cues that indicate people’s age besides what they look like so I’m not usually surprised by anyone’s age if I can interact with them for a little bit.  It just shows, or when you are close to them you can see the tell-tale signs, even in someone who has “aged well.” 

  5. 35

    @Goldie #30 “The truth is going to come out on the first date

    No it won’t and it never has. Not one woman has ever known I don’t have a Bachelor’s degree. I date women with Master’s degree’s all the time. Ironically they’re teachers!

    It’s also not a woman’s business if I have a cigarette once in awhile when I’m out with my friends and not around her. Should I put “smokes occasionally” in my profile and be honest? Of course not I’d be eliminating 90% of non smoking women from responding to me. Again,not one woman has ever known.

  6. 36

    When I went to my 30th high school reunion, I was amazed at how differently we had aged, even though we were all 48. Some people looked about 48, some looked much older, and some much younger. Everyone commented on how much better the women looked (overall) than the men. Of course, we women are more likely to use cosmetics, hair dye, etc., than men are. It did show me that people age very differently, so I do think it’s a good idea to keep an open mind about age.

  7. 37

    So if I’m 5′ 9.5″ tall, and Match.com only does even inches, is it lying to list myself as 5′ 10″ tall?

  8. 38

    @ JB #35, 99% of my children’s HS teachers, half of their middle school teachers, and a good portion of their grade-school teachers had masters degrees. Then again, they may be lying to impress me. Maybe they’re trying to date me, yikes.
    “No it won’t and it never has.”
    If a man says he has a nice, well-paying job, and in reality he’s unemployed, there is no way he can hide that for long.
    “It’s also not a woman’s business if I have a cigarette once in awhile when I’m out with my friends and not around her.”
    When I said true story, I meant true story. A person’s profile said non-smoker, then he told me he “smokes once in a while”, then it turned out that “once in a while” was really a pack a day. There’s no way to hide a pack a day habit for longer than 2-3 dates. The “once in a while”, I actually don’t mind.

  9. 39

    Because of JB, I might start asking to see a diploma now.

    If people are so insistent on beating the filters and wanting to make sure they show up in a search, they can keep their ‘fake age’ up and then disclose their real age in the body of their profile (same with height, education, etc.). It’s not ideal, but at least you disclosed before meeting so the other person has a choice on whether or not they want to be bothered.

    I don’t like the idea of everyone being so casual and ‘everybody does it’ about lying online. Because that attitude makes more people feel like it’s alright and the people who *don’t* lie and won’t resort to it are eventually going to get fed up and leave the sites, if they haven’t started to already.

    I like people that are comfortable in their own skin. People that meet that criteria aren’t the ones who lie on their dating profiles.

  10. 40

    @JB & Goldie – Teachers get a pay raise of about $15-20k for getting their masters.  Every single teacher I know is now getting their masters for the guaranteed raise!

  11. 41

    @JB #35

    Lying about college degrees and smoking habits….  Does your profile claim you are looking for a serious long term relationship to get more dates too?

  12. 42

    I’ve seen what can be countered as “little white lies” such as shaving a few years off of your age or listing a different town/city from where a guy actually lives. One that scared me was a guy I met at a restaurant who used a photo for his profile that was not him at all. I called him on this and he admitted it. Thankfully he was an OK guy but that is a scary move.

  13. 43

    @ Goldie #38 You’re right a guy saying he HAS a well paying job but is really unemployed is far cry from me making $68,000 a year but putting in myself in the 75-100K range on Match. Again it’s not a women’s business how much money I make so I’ll lie about it freely within reason. You want to see my tax return?Puuhhhleezz

    And you might not “disqualify” a guy for having a couple of cigarette’s a week when he’s not around YOU but there’s plenty of women who would and do so I’m not going to take that chance. But when I email a woman who says SHE smokes “occasionally” I always let THEM know I do because it’s a plus. I agree with you totally on “pack a day” smokers though. That can’t be hidden very long or very comfortably…lol I can assure you.

    @ Jennifer #39 Sure ask to see a diploma I’m sure every guy will show it to you. While your’e at it ask to see his divorce papers and be ready to show yours along with the results of your current STD test. Or you can just put in your profile like one woman I saw when said “I’ll be running a full background check on anyone BEFORE we meet” ….lol I’m sure she got a lot of responses and went on to live happily ever after with the ONE guy that might of passed that she fell in love with….lol NOT! 

    @ Laura #41 Yes it says I’m looking for a LTR but I don’t put that in to “get more dates”….lol You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that most women are looking for LTR’s rather than just “casual” dating so that’s going to come off better anyway. Of course you have to “date” before you decide whether it’s going to actually get to a LTR.

    The bottom line is we as men see women’s profile’s with endless delusional lists “must have’s” from women that are “3’s” or “4’s” and we just laugh…lol

  14. 44

    I’ll admit it….I’ve lied once on Match for age…Felt bad about it but I’m in early 40’s and look in my 30’s ..I put 39 down (since most guys do a search under 40) just to “get my foot in the door”.  I don’t think what I did is so bad considering I’ve heard stories of guys meeting women who looked nothing like the pictures they posted of themselves.  At least my photo’s are current and everything else is accurate.  What I hate are the guys that claim not to smoke but show up with a funk odor – as if I wouldn’t notice.

  15. 45

    @JB #43
    But the thing is, preferring someone with a college degree is far from delusional. I’m not a paranoid background-check type of girl, but good Lord, why lie about something so basic? Why do you get to decide that her desires are delusional and override them with lies?

    People want what they want. If that makes them ‘miss out’ on someone, then that’s just a chance they take and it’s a fact that others have to live with. If they decide to change things up one day then they will and if not, oh well.  

    But the bigger question is- why would you even want to go out with people with such ‘delusional’ desires anyway?

  16. 46

    Oh Jennifer, I don’t think it’s delusional at all for a woman to want a man with a degree but since it’s so normal to have one not one woman has ever even questioned me on it. These days everyone just assumes it to be true especially at my age (51) so it has never even come into play since I’ve been putting it in my profile. I was referring to the long lists of “must haves” besides the normal “degree, six ft. tall, income, job title”,etc…. that are the delusion. Everyone at this point and especially on this blog know when they see a profile with “delusional” expectations in it that’s all I meant. Evan teaches endlessly about it. Btw I know people with degree’s that aren’t intelligent or well spoken at all if you can believe it.
    The question of why I would want to go out with a woman with delusional desires? I don’t email those ridiculous profiles so I never meet them but I should email them a link to Evans site so they can learn. Me? I just laugh at them….LOL

    We can all “desire” anything we want that’s part of the game. What you want and what you’ll end up with are 2 different things. Call my bluff and I might have to show you my hand……..but if you don’t…..It’s game on !!

  17. 47

    @ JB, I never even look at the “income” part of a guy’s profile. If it’s too high, he’s probably inflated it. Actually I prefer that he leave it blank. Why would I need to know his income, we’re not moving in together and merging our bank accounts. Mine was blank as well.
    My guess is that people who look for a degree, are looking for common ground. However in my generation (GenX), I know a number of people who never finished college, or never went, for reasons beyond their control (parents couldn’t afford it). As long as it is a well-read, open-minded person with a decent job/career that he takes interest in, I can live with that.
    One guy that I met online told me that I was his third online date ever. Apparently his second had been a disaster – the woman looked nothing like her pictures, and was extremely overweight. Fast forward ten years to his first date with me. I get to the coffee shop on time and the guy isn’t there. Thinking he’s running late, I walk up to the counter to order, so I could sip my coffee while I wait for him, at that moment, all of a sudden, he appears from behind my back. Turned out he’d gotten there early, and had been hiding in a corner behind the front door the whole time. I guess he wanted to make sure I wasn’t morbidly obese before he’d show himself. There was no second date, for a number of reasons, his hiding-behind-the-door act being one of them.

  18. 48

    @ JB #46, just because we don’t call bullshit, doesn’t mean we’re swallowing it, okay?

    The problem with the lies is they prevent you from ever having a true intimate relationship if and when you find The One.  when you lie, you have build lie upon lie upon lie.

  19. 49

    JB #9

    << I started “tweeking”……my height,age,income,education,and even my marital status….>>

    I wouldn’t have a problem if someone knocked three years off their age or added an inch to their height. However, “tweeking” of multiple items might make me question the other person’s overall honesty, and wonder if they were only honest when it suited them to be so. I see many men online who only have “some college”. I understand that some really smart people didn’t finish college because they were anxious to begin their careers, for example (think Bill Gates & Woody Allen). Maybe a man never married, but had a long-time, live-in girlfriend. People who have extremely rigid or traditional ideas about what other people should have accomplished in life would not make the best partners, at least not for me.

  20. 50
    Jupiter Jim

    I could never really understand the point of lying in a profile or using a OLD pic of you that doesn’t represent who you really are, or who your really look like.  People that lie must have a LOT of personal time that they feel free to squander.  Because almost every single time that the person they ‘met’ in online dating meets them in ‘real life’, that person is going to feel duped which is most likely going to kill any chemistry between you two. Wash, rinse, repeat — for more failure, more time wasted.     Right now in my life I am very happy building my business.  If I meet someone —  great.  If I don’t meet someone — great.  Too many people think that another person is going to make them happy and it never seems to work out that way.  Be happy and you’ll attract happy people and maybe someday, that happy person could become your husband or wife, if that’s what you’re looking for.  Will this be achieved by lying on your profile?  Not so much….   

    1. 50.1

      But you’re wrong. 
      Women go into online dating with a checklist:
      30 to 37
      over 6 ft tall
      earns 200k+
      Imagine a guy like this: 39, 5′ 10″, earns 168k/yr. 
      He make not make it past her mental online filters. But in person he may look young enough, be tall enough (she may be 5′ 6″), and have enough income.
      So, if he lies by shaving off 2 years, adding 2 inches of height, and increasing his income by 20%, he will get his foot in the door. If he does NOT get his foot in the door, his chances of wooing her in person is 0%. If he DOES get his foot in the door, his chance is higher than 0%. 
      When I did online dating, women ignored me because I’m 5′ 7″. I had to beg beg beg one woman to meet me (I really wanted to meet her). She agreed to meet me when she had lunch for 30 minutes. We met and we were together for 4 years. If I had proposed, she would probably have said “yes.” My point is she THOUGHT she wanted to meet a guy like X, but what she really wanted (evinced by 5 years of being together) was me. 
      Women have only a vague notion of what they want. 

  21. 51

    @Jupiter Jim #5   Exactly!

    Dates like thate aren’t very fun unless they’re double dates and I have a friend along.  I can give her a scorecard and we can play good game of Bullshit.  I’ts one of the games my cousins and I invented to put the fun back in dysfunction for  family gatherings.

    I’d still need to want to waste that much time and I have things I’d rather do than spend time on the phone and hang with a stranger who will never be called friend or lover, or ever seen again.  

    I don’t know if I felt duped by the online lying, I knew some of the men were attempting to dupe, and some were just scammers.   I just wasn’t getting the game.  It’s all new to me.   The men I meet in person are not that way.   I’ve already stopped responding to most online contacts, and will be taking my profile down soon.  If lying is the standard, it’s not the dating pool for me.

  22. 52

    Yo know what’s funny is I talked about this story in another thread way back…….

    A few years ago I met a woman online and we had an incredible first date and like an idiot I told her I had lied about my age by 2 years which didn’t seem to matter to her as 6 hrs later we were making out by the end of the date. She also told me on this date that her last relationship was with a woman. We made plans for another date that night and when I called her she said she didn’t want to see me again because I lied about my age.(FYI-she was a bank fraud investigator for a living…lol) Which is funny & ironic because I don’t recall her putting in her profile she was BI-SEXUAL…lol Ahhh yes lying by omission. I guess she figured that it wasn’t that important? I’m sure women would want to know if the guy they were meeting and kissing had a “boyfriend” 2 months ago….lol slightly different than age. No big loss, the experience didn’t make me change a thing.

    Bottom line is no one on this blog is going to change the world. Just beware that people lie online and everyone has to deal with it or go meet people in the real world where no one lies…..lol yeah right. It’s massively different for most men online than it is for women so we have to do things differently. You can all be 100% honest in your profile if you like and if it works for you great but for some it’s the difference between getting dates or getting no responses at all. I’ll always take my chances because I’m a gambler……oh I don’t put I’m a gambler in my profile is that a lie?

  23. 53

    @JB 52- you know I think I remember that story.

    Lies by omission are one thing- everyone faces that issue online or off, and no one is saying that’s good.  But it doesn’t make lies to very direct, simple questions (Age, Height, Degree) any better or more justified.

    I don’t expect you (or others who do similar things) to necessarily change what you do, though it would be nice! I just hope that folks realize that the right person for them is one they don’t *need* to lie to; especially about the basics, so the justifications aren’t necessary.

  24. 54

    JB: It seems your goal is to simply “get dates” and if that’s the case then I suppose you are doing exactly what you feel you need to do.  I don’t speak for all women, but I am looking for a LTR and as someone already said, the lies will either lead to more lies to cover the original lies, or they lead to fessing up that you lied.  Either way, building a committed relationship on lies or on the fact that you lied IS going to affect intimacy and/or trust.  So casual dating?  Sure, no problem, everyone’s just out to have fun.  But I don’t want a relationship built upon lies, or with someone who thinks that is the game they have to play.

    Regarding lies of omission… you can’t put EVERYTHING in your profile, If the question of orientation is specifically asked on the site you are on (OKC?) and a bisexual answered “straight” then that is lying.  But if the question isn’t asked (Match?), and she didn’t spell it out in her essay, but she divulged it on the first date?  That seems perfectly acceptable to me.

  25. 55

    When I was doing OLD, I was 100% honest about everything.  The number of bozos one has to sift through there is disgustingly enormous.  Big lies, little lies, and everything in between.

    If I did OLD again, I’d certainly lie about my age and my education level (go lower, not higher… men don’t like women who are ‘smarter’ than them). 

    Don’t get me wrong… I AM looking for a committed relationship again, but I think it is pretty much impossible to find that online until someone invents one that does identity and background checks from the get-go.  Not to mention, I have no intention on telling my friends/family that I met my future SO online.  

    Online dating is for target practice.  Nothing more.  If you expect more than that, you are bound to be disappointed.  Especially with the crop of men online saying they want committed relationships just so they can get laid.  Sad for the guys who really are looking for committed relationships, but most of them just aren’t.  Keep it ‘real’ and don’t take any of them too seriously. 


  26. 56


    About 45% of my friends got married online.

  27. 57

    Obviously these are not the frustrated girlfriends I wrote about on another post (the 45% are more acquaintance than friends)

  28. 58

    [email protected]  Thanks for the clarification.  I don’t have a single friend (male or female) or acquaintance who met their SO online.  I have plenty who tried it, got disgusted after a few months, then met their wife/husband shortly afterwards at work or through offline hobbies/activities.  I’m sure it helped them get through a tough time and maybe helped their dating skills (ie target practice). 

    Ultimately, they did the smart thing and settled on a partner they could check out through friends/family/work networks. 

    I suppose it all depends on what people value.  My friends (male and female) seem to value being able to thoroughly check someone out and perhaps have more to lose than the average online dater.  Others seem to value so-called ‘chemistry’ and the constant high of meeting/dating new people… which is, I suspect, the reason they are dating online in the first place.  They aren’t happy with their options in the offline world.  To each his/her own. 

  29. 59

    I have a question for JB – when you said not one woman has ever found out you do not have a Bachelor’s degree, do you mean that you didn’t finish school, or that you never went? Here’s why I ask. In conversations, at least from my experience, stories from “when I was in college” seem to come up quite a bit, especially now that most people’s children are starting college as well. (You said you’re 51, so the kids in college part is probably the same for you and for the women you date.) So I’m just curious, when a woman asks a man about how things were when he was in school, or where he went to school, or did he take this or that class — just as part of normal conversation — and the man, in fact, never went, what does he say to that? I can only think of four options.
    1) come clean
    2) make stuff up and never stop making stuff up. Not the easiest solution in my opinion. You’ve got to keep track of your stories at all times.
    3) Distract her (“Honey, look, a Nordstrom! Wanna go inside, see if they have any shoes on sale?”)
    4) Go the dark mystery route. (“I would rather not talk about that.” With the right facial expression and tone of voice, should scare the woman into changing the subject.)
    So how do you manage? Just curious.
    Seriously, though. Supposedly, the end result of your dating is to be in a long-term relationship. Which, in turn, would involve a lot of talking, telling each other things about your life, meeting each other’s family and friends and having them tell your SO stories about your life etc etc. It would take a, I don’t know, James Bond, to hide a whole significant part of your life from a person and keep it hidden the whole time the two of you are together. This is exactly what I was referring in my comment about people who say they graduated, but in fact never even went — that’s a lot of information to hide from your BF/GF on a regular basis. I know I could never pull it off — way too much work, so personally I don’t even try. From your experience, doesn’t having to hide the fact that you don’t have a degree, etc. complicate things? Or do you finally tell them at some point? Being honestly curious here.

  30. 60


    How old are you and your friends? I’m 33, and those I know who got married online are in their 20s or early 30s- maybe that makes a difference

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