Deception in online dating

By Guest Writer Christina Arnold

Manti Te'o on sideline
Manti Te’o

On the internet, it’s easy to create an online persona that radically differs from your offline self.  When it comes to online dating, it seems even more likely that people will be deceptive about their true selves in an effort to get a date.  But are there certain attributes that make it likely that someone will exaggerate about themselves?  And how much will someone lie to score a date?

In the article “Strategic misrepresentation in online dating: The effects of gender, self-monitoring, and personality traits”, researchers examined what factors make it more likely that a person will misrepresent themselves to a potential online date.

The user of an online dating service is able to customize their profile to exactly how they want it, which may make it more likely that they  will misrepresent themselves to appear better to a potential suitor—especially because of the high amount of competition that can be found on these sites.  However, since online dating sites usually encourage face-to-face meetings early on, most users are discouraged from any blatant deception about themselves.  The anticipation of a face-to-face meeting, along with the knowledge that your profile can be saved or printed out and looked at later, helps to stop any obvious misrepresentation since it would easily (and quickly) be found out.  Because of this, any misrepresentation is usually small, and is usually explained away by the user as their desirable (and potential) ‘future self’ (for example, their ‘future self’ may be thinner or more fit than their current self).

The authors looked to evidence in Evolutionary Psychology to create hypotheses that could help predict what could lead to deception in online dating.  Evolutionary Psychology suggests that women are more likely to look for men that have more resources and are committed for the long-term.  Both of these traits show that the man is willing and able to take care of any future offspring in the long-term.  Men, on the other hand, look for women who show signs of fertility (e.g., whether they’re young and healthy).

From the surveys, the authors found that men were more inclined to lie about their personal assets (i.e., resources), personal interests, and personal attributes than women were.  Women, on average, misrepresented their weight to a higher degree while men were more likely to lie about their age (it’s safe to say that the older a man is, the more likely he is to be more financially stable and have more resources).  However, older women  tended to misrepresent their age more—which goes back, again, to the Evolutionary Psychology theory that men look for signs of fertility (like youth).  Men were also more likely to lie about characteristics that signaled they were interested in long-term relationships.

The authors also discussed the “Big 5 personality traits” that might help predict deception—neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness.  They found that extroverts lied about past relationships more (because they were more likely to have a variety of sexual encounters), but misrepresented their personal interests less.  People low in conscientiousness misrepresented more because they didn’t have a strong concern for future consequences, and those who were less open to new experiences were more likely to misrepresent themselves to look like they were more interesting.

So while, yes, there is a likelihood that a person will lie about themselves to some degree on a site, I don’t think it should turn anyone away from online dating.  Any lies that you’re told can usually be discovered upon your first face-to-face meeting with this person.

Hall, Jeffrey A., Namkee Park, Hayeon Song, and Michael J. Cody (2010). “Strategic Misrepresentation in Online Dating: The Effects of Gender, Self-monitoring, and Personality Traits.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27,: 117-35.

A study of speed dating: How to get the second date

By Guest Author Krista Morasch

Speed dating candiesAs a speed-dating skeptic myself, it is intriguing to discover that although a six minute date does not offer sufficient time to learn a lot about a partner, the determinant in desire for a second interaction does not then completely fall to physical attraction. With social media and other modern technologies hastening our judgments of people, the ultimate impacts of these impressions remains a fruitful area of research.

Houser, Horan, and Furler recently conducted a study of 157 speed daters. They covered three basic issues in their study:

  1. How the dater’s predicted value of a future relationship relates to his/her attraction, similarity, and nonverbal communication to develop liking (such as eye contact) to her/his date.
  2. How the dater’s predicted value of a future relationship relates to his/her desire for a future date.
  3. How the dater’s attraction, similarity, and non-verbal communication relates to his/her desire for a future date.

The results indicated that when a dater predicted the value of a future relationship to be high, their attraction and amount of positive nonverbal communication was high as well. Similarity however, did not relate to the predicted value of a future relationship. The results also revealed when the predicted values of future relationships to be high when so too was the desire for a future date. Obviously then, a high desire for a date positively corresponds to high levels of attraction and positive nonverbal communication. Using this principle, the researchers could predict with 77 percent accuracy whether a dater would desire another date.

With this knowledge of what makes people say yes or no to another date, people have the opportunity to become super speed-daters. They will know what to do to enhance their chances of getting another date and hopefully use the knowledge in their speed dating endeavors. This study has provided and proven prescript things one can do to achieve this end. For instance, a dater can practice grooming and hygiene in a way to make him or herself more attractive. Also, a dater can intentionally send nonverbal communication showing his or her interest such as leaning in, holding eye contact, and/or smiling. Finally, he or she can choose discussion topics that will make him or her seem pleasant and desirable to be around in the future. When attractiveness, nonverbal communication, and high perceived value of a future relationship are present the likelihood for a desired further date is high as well. As such, it appears that enhancing any or all of these criteria will also enhance one’s date probability.

Houser, M.L., Horan, S.M., & Furler, L.A. (2008). Dating in the fast lane: how communication predicts speed-dating success. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 25, 749-768.

How reality television is making you spill your guts online

By Guest Author Hannah Schultz

Reality TVSomewhere, someone desperately aspires to be a cast member on “The Real Housewives of Orange County”. Another alters his/her hair and tan like the stars of “Jersey Shore” in hopes of earning a spot on the next season. Oh, to be the next quasi-famous reality star! Reality television has indisputably opened the doors for regular folk who want to attain celebrity-type fame.

But what do you do if you want the fame, but can’t get cast on the big screen? The Internet is the next best source, as many “YouTubers” have discovered. American consumers support these relatively new forms of entertainment simply by watching them. Recent research has shown a strong correlation between behaviors displayed on reality television and the way people interact on Internet sites. Yes, your weekly viewing of “The Bachelor” may cause your daily “status updates” on Facebook.

With a total of 452 online surveys of undergraduate communications students, researchers concluded that a direct correlation exists between reality television consumption and Internet behaviors. Specifically, reality television has normalized blurring the lines between privacy and public visibility. A greater acceptance of what some might call intrusiveness and/or openness has prevailed in the mind’s of many people, particularly those in Generation Y. Reality television as a whole exhibits a value system that associates visibility with success. Internet users mimic this behavior by sharing their lives on sites like Facebook and YouTube.

YouTube reconfirms the idea that non-celebrities can become famous if enough people view their video. This study offers evidence that those who are heavy consumers of reality television disclose more of their personal thoughts and feelings on their online forums. This doesn’t mean that because you watch “The Bad Girls Club” you will become a raging drama fiend. Instead, the evidence here indicates that you will probably partake in more Internet sites that allow you to either achieve fame or share your feelings with a broad audience.

There was a time when reality television was a fleeting phase, and Internet sites such as YouTube were just getting started. Reality television, whether it has a trashy reputation or not, has taught us that sharing your personal life with the world will get you attention, and that it is the normal thing to do. With over 95% of college students maintaining online site profiles, it seems America is awfully attention hungry.

Stefanone, M., & Lackaff, D. (2009). Reality television as a model for online behavior: Blogging, photo, and video sharing. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 14, p.964-987.

One Experiment of How People Judge You on Facebook

By Guest Author Kirsten Bergstrom

In an experiment by Utz, 124 Hyves (a popular Dutch Social Network Site, or SNS, similar to Facebook) users gave their impression about a mock profile of Anouk Jansen using a 5-point scale.  The subjects judged Anouk based on her profile picture (extroverted, lively facial expression vs. introverted, sitting alone on the edge of a river), number of friends (82 vs. 382), and her friend’s profile pictures (extroverted pictures vs. introverted pictures).  The participants judged three factors:

  • Popularity (unpopular/popular, unsocial/social): Anouk was judged to be more popular when she had an extroverted profile than an introverted profile, had 382 friends, and had extroverted pictures of friends.  Self-generated information (profile picture) had the strongest impact.
  • Communal orientation (unfriendly/friendly, dishonest/honest):  The difference between Anouk’s introverted profile picture with introverted friends and Anouk’s extroverted profile with extroverted friends had little significant difference.  However, when the extroverted profile had introverted friends and the introverted profile had extroverted friends, her communal orientation score dropped significantly.
  • Social attractiveness (“I would like to spend time with Anouk”): When Anouk’s friends had introverted profiles pictures, she was perceived as more socially attractive with 382 friends than 82 friends.  When they had extroverted profile pictures, Anouk was slightly, but not significantly, more socially attractive when she had 382 friends than when she had 82 friends.

Utz, S. (2010). Show me your friends and I will tell you what type of person you are: How one’s profile, number of friends, and type of friends influence impression formation on social network sites.  Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 15, 314-335.