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. 81

    E-79 – Sorry to disappoint you darling, but this lady DOES have that income.
    It is not bullshit at all.
    However, on dating sites, to protect my anonymity, I do not say what I do for a living, because this could attract idiots, and golddiggers.    
    Sometimes, I have posted a photograph (but usually do not) and usually what I say about myself is carefully vetted to avoid being contacted at work, for example (which I loathe) and by thus letting people know what my profession is.   I note that many people keep such private information private too – it’s so that they can practise their profession properly.
    Incidentally, many of my female colleagues earn more than the figure you quoted (:o)(:o)(:o) and so do the men.  
    It’s pretty great sometimes.  
    Direct lies for me are not a good idea – yes on a profile, my weight and height and eye colour were correct and no, I will not put my nationality, profession, or hobbies or political views.
    Because one of these days, I might just meet a guy who could be everything that I could have said I didn’t want, right?????

  2. 82

    Fibbing is one thing, lying seems another.   This has never happened to me before, but it is happening pretty much as I type this. I have fibbed. I put a year old pic cause i’m not that much different now than I was a year ago. I’ve told people I was a few years younger than I am (not on dating sites though cause I can’t figure out how). Tonight my phone died and I missed a date with someone from a website.   He gave me his fb so it wouldn’t happen again.   Well, he is much, much larger on there than his is on his dating profile. Not a 5’10 compared to a 5’8, not I’m 36 not 30, like, substantially larger. I don’t know what to do. I hate to cancel when I have agreed to the date and I am sure he will know when I see his much more representative pics. But what do I do when I get there, pretend the size he was when he was 19? This just seems to be setting yourself up for hurt.   I get fibbing a little and I bet most dates don’t even notice the difference between a 5’10 and a 5’8 or a 30 year old who is says she’s 27, but this kind of bait and switch just puts everyone in a bad position imo.

  3. 83

    hmmh recently started online datg and i lied a bit! i reduced my age by one year & upped my height by one inch! lol those lil changes are so pointless i dont even noe why i did it. guess i gotta admit, though i Think im qwite confident, that i have that insecurity! 🙁
    on the other hand, i used photos were i looked plainer than usual, just lite makeup, ponytail, and a coat .i took them on a trekking trip. 🙂 because i didnt wanna build up too high expectations. its only reading a blog online that i realised many people try to put up their very best photos.
    met a great guy who saed hes 5 ft 11 inch, but from my estimation, more lyke 5 ft 9, or 5 ft 10 max. i dont care if its a minor lie! o and he also looks much better than his pics!
    personally i try not to judge too much about small lies about online dating! i have sympathy, i noe if i was older i wud feel tempted to fudge the age by a few years! but anything more than 5 years, or 10 pounds, or 2 inches, those are BIG lies to me! how long can u fool some1 anyway?? i try to be open about my bad points early on. we all need more confidence & belief that sum1 will love us! 😉

  4. 84

    Nice to see that honesty and integrity have been thrown out the window; but then, what else can one expect, in an environment where anyone can pretend to be whoever and whatever they want? Hey, it’s all ok; it’s all about getting what we want, and if that means lying about age, height, body type, whatever; or posting old pics, or ones designed to hide that extra 40-50 pounds of blubber, (because someone is too lazy and/or undisciplined to simply lose it), so what?   Well, you can rationalize anything, if you want to, but as one of those one poster (male, with the women cheering him on) called   “old Boomer men, incapable of any self-awareness or introspection”, do excuse me if I remark that most of the succeeding generations (and too many of my own), have completely lost any moral scruples, honor, or even the pretense of a scintilla of personal integrity. Congratulations on turning OLD into a fiction-writing fest. Have   at it, liars of BOTH genders; you deserve each other, and I sincerely hope you find someone just like you. Any means to a desired end; but then, it’s ALL about YOU… isn’t it? Great way to start a relationship based on mutual trust…or does that even matter to you? If you want to talk “introspection”, how about you ALL   (you too, Evan, since you condone these tactics) go   take a good, long, hard look, at who that says you REALLY are. Yes, I know I’m an anachronism,   (and therefore completely worthless to any woman under 65 simply because I’m 66-nice strereotypical comments on older men in some threads here, BTW) but I think I’d rather stay that way. Carry on.

  5. 85

    I think it’s terribly sad that people have to be dishonest online. I am a recent victim of online dating- I dated a guy I met online for 3 months. We started a relationship and I found out 3 days ago that he lied about his age, name and the fact he is married. I’m a Christian and he has made an adulteress out of me.
    I’m glad he’s out of my life now but I will find it hard to trust again and I certainly won’t be dating online ever again.

    1. 85.1

      Jane, I’m sorry that happened to you, but u shouldn’t let that dissuade u from OL dating, which offers great opportunities to meet so many pple u otherwise never would.

      Yes u met a jerk online. But there are jerks everywhere. Last year a man approached me in public, very soon he was professing love to me, asking me to marry him etc. Well we broke up after some time, but he started pursuing me again this yr. I found out a few months ago that he was Married! He denied it at first, later he apologised profusely, offered to get a divorce and marry me blah blah, I was like   no thanks.

      So I know u’re hurting and cynical–I’m v lucky I never slept with him, and I bet u feel SO angry about the situation, as u should. But don’t give up on OL dating pls! And don’t stop trusting pple because there are lots of trustworthy pple around. Really. If you are negative and cynical, that will significantly reduce your chances of one day ending up with a great guy.

  6. 86

    I am 50 years old and that’s why my profile says. My height is accurate and although most would consider me “slender” my profile says “average” (this is subjective, so I prefer to err on the side of caution). There is absolutely nothing in my profile that is in accurate. Lying is lying and I don’t care what everyone else considers the norm, I will not let that influence my character. I want someone who is attracted to exactly who and what I am, so lying is pointless. If you’re not interested in a woman who is 50, guess what? I’m totally ok with that. Good luck in your search finding whomever it is that you seek.

    I have met men who have lied about their age (this seems to be the most common lie in my experience) and I don’t care if they look like Brad Pitt, they absolutely do not get a second date. Relationships are built on a foundation of trust and that starts with your profile stats. That’s one character trait I will not budge on. You surely don’t have to be Brad Pitt, but you do have to be honest. Lying on a profile screams of insecurity and as we all know, there are few things less attractive than insecurity.

  7. 87

    Lying online about things like your height is beyond stupid because eventually, you meet anyway and it’s obvious when you’ve been lied to. I’m a 5’9″ woman, and I once went on a date with a guy, who said he was 5’10” in his OKCupid profile, but when I met him, he was about 5’8″. “How much difference can an inch or two make?” you may ask. A lot because when you’re as sensitive to height as I am (I’m not asking for 6’4″ guys, but he has to be at least my height), you notice right away if you can see over the top of someone’s head. After that, I had no desire to go on a second date because to me it seemed so pathetic that he was saying “Hey, I’m so unpopular. Maybe people will like me more if I’m taller.”

  8. 88

    It’s gotten to the point now when I speak to a guy I have to ask questions. I ask if he is the height and age that he put in his profile.   I am tired of wasting my time going out to meet someone who is shorter and or older than stated. I   just discovered another question to ask, it’s about the children situation. A man on a date told me he had a teenager who lived with him. On his profile all his kids are on their own. I have learned from experience that if a man still has kids that are not grown, not out of the house and independent it will NOT work for me. I don’t lie about anything on my profiel I expect the same.

  9. 89

    If you lie about 1/2 of height of 5 pounds of weight who cares?    If your pictures is 6 months or even a year old as long as you still look like that I don’t care either!   But if it is a year old and you look nothing like that well that’s totally different. People can gain or lose lots of weight in that time.      My judge is this, if I cannot recognize you when we are meeting up on the first date by comparing your profile picture to finding you in a bar then we have serious issues.         Now there are certain circumstances where you may look better in person, and I have actually found with men that is the case. Many just don’t know how to pick the best photos and do not do themselves justice.       However I have heard from men it is quite the opposite women doctor their photos so much that it is no longer actually them.    Which explains why men usually want you to send them selfies, I mean beyond those just fishing for dirty pics.   I think many of them have gotten burned by the doctored pics.   It’s like send me a picture of you with the newspaper from today in front of it LOL.   But I get it    I find men and the height are a big problem and it is not 1/2 an inch.    It is men saying that they are 5’9 and showing up and being 5’5 that’s a big lie men I am sorry and no I am not going to look past that and no matter how much you wow me in person I am not going to forget that lie, sorry.   Just don’t do it.   And not only are you lying you are showing your lack of confidence. Yes there are a lot of women that will not date you because you are 5’5 but do you want that woman?   No you don’t and you don’t want any woman you have to lie to get.   Don’t waste our time please.   I don’t lie at all, not one bit on any subject.

  10. 90

    I decided to experiment this past week with my age.   Ever since I turned 65, the views and messages dropped to single digits.   So I posted in my stats that I was 55, then the first line in my profile said “I’m 65, just conducting an experiment.”   The results were crazy.   In less than a week, over 100 messages and many are viable ‘dates’.   No one bitched about my lying, since I came clean immediately.   Most were very nice about it, although one person was nasty.   My profile was “reported” to match for “inaccurate information” and Match changed my age back to 65.   And just like that – poof – the messages, winks, views disappeared.   It was fun while it lasted : – )

  11. 91
    Teresa W.

    OMG this is so much BS!

    “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.” HA!   Are you serious? I’ve been dating online for about 10 years off and on and continue to see OLD pics from 3-5 years from men! I’ve seen a profile on Match.com where it stated the guy was 58 then saw him the same day on Fitnesssingles.com as 51! this is just one example out of hundreds or more. Nice try Evan! Of course a man wrote this crap

    Don’t even get me started on women lie about weight and men by only 2lbs??? Eod, I wish it was just 2 lbs. ! lol Evan, did your eyes fall out of your head as well as your brain?

    To be “fair”, men and women alike lie about age, height, weight, etc.  What do you expect, It’s a dating site; like thinking everything you hear within the media is the gospel. And the biggest joke of all is YOUR paying for it. Feeding the beast. You think you can sit on your couch with a    laptop and find the person of your dreams? Or be a guy and have some lame list of about the type of women you want when you have failed to posses the same traits! lol Tip: People who lie online are broken, your paying for these people. Yep, over 81% lie and cheat…..Knowing this and still you complain.

  12. 92
    ms kaye

    I’ve never misrepresented myself,   I provide exactly my stats and post the most current pic of myself,   portrait to body shot, so there’s no deception upon meeting. Now, on my profile I make message clear: no old photos   (style of clothes are dead giveaways), cropped or altered photos with former GFS or significant others, no bathroom selfies or no photo at all… I do not correspond.

    Weeds out the losers, but the process in meeting that honest person is quite the challenge which sometimes is worth the wait.

  13. 93

    The one thing I will lie about is how much money I make.   If there are high categories I low ball it.   I just don’t want to date anyone where lots of money is a part of their criteria.

  14. 94

    I think with online dating it’s just a risk you take and hope for the best. It comes with the territory.

  15. 95

    I just opened my profile a month an a half ago. I met three people in person so far and have a few dates lined up. I’ve read a lot of Evan’s materials and they have helped me feel more comfortable dating online.   Online dating feels similar to catalog shopping. You normally aren’t critically comparing him/her to everyone else in the room when you meet someone in person. I have an honest profile and prefer to have it back. I am separated (2 years). Truly separated and in the process of divorce. I would probably get more responses with “divorced,” but I don’t want to lie. I wouldn’t be comfortable meeting someone I did.   I’m 5’1 and of average weight. I am ruled out by a lot of men’s profiles for that alone. I don’t even care abt a man’s height and am minimally interested in his income or education level. They don’t matter if they’re a great person and we hit it off.

  16. 96

    I am such a fool!   I have been telling the truth for the past 4 months (my entire stint on these dating sites).   My height is too tall for half of the men in the world (I am 5’10” but that is what I write), my photos are spot on up to date, even though the photos from a few years ago probably are a bit more attractive,   I have been scrupulously honest in all that I have written.   Damn!   I am rewriting my profile tonight! Of course, I am kidding – about rewriting my profile I am hoest to a fault, obviously. I am also very disappointed in most of you out there.   I am the first one to bend rules when they seem illogical and pointless, but lying to people you might like to engage in a relationship?   Seems stupid, but apparently it works.   I guess that says a lot about the value of these relationships.

  17. 97

    Men care about height a lot less than women. For most men, its a minor consideration. If you are unusually tall, the main reason this would hurt your dating prospects is because many men will be afraid of getting rejected if they are shorter/similar height.

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