Study Reveals What Online Daters Are Most Likely To Lie About

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Things between you and your Tinder match might appear to be going well, but are they everything they seem? Research recently published in the Journal of Communication reveals just how often people lie on dating apps – and what it is they choose to lie about.

“Until now, it has been relatively unclear how often mobile daters use deception in their messages before they meet the other person,” said David Markowitz, a former graduate student in communication who worked in the Stanford Social Media Lab, in a statement


Markowitz and Jeffrey Hancock, a professor of communication in the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences, surveyed more than 200 volunteers and analyzed over 3,000 messages to determine how honest online daters really are. The messages were taken from the "discovery phase", which is the time between matching and meeting face-to-face. Essentially, when you're trying to make sure your potential date really is the funny, dog-loving Chris Hemsworth lookalike their profile says they are and not a psycho killer.

First, the good news. The online daters surveyed were a relatively honest bunch with almost two-thirds reporting they did not lie once. Roughly 7 percent of messages were rated as deceptive, the vast majority of which were small white lies. 

So then, when people did fib, what did they lie about?

Unsurprisingly, given that it is a dating app and all, the majority of porkies told were intended to boost a dater's attractiveness and make them appear more interesting to their prospective partner. This could involve adding a couple of extra inches to their height, fibbing about their job title, or exaggerating their love for The Notebook.


For example, when their match was discussing their favorite TV show, one respondent replied with the message, “God, I love that show. I could literally keep watching it over and over”.

Roughly a third of lies were what the researchers call "butler lies". Named after the Jeeveses and Carsons of the world, these are designed to initiate or terminate conversations or manage availability without hurting the recipient's feelings. 

As Hancock explained, “Butler lies were one way that daters try to handle saving face for both themselves and their partner."

One dater wrote, “Not tonight, Its [sic] late and I’m so tired, have to be up early for work tomorrow.” When asked his or her real reason for turning down the meetup, the dater admitted, “I was a little tired but I mostly didn’t want to meet them because it was late at night and I didn’t feel comfortable.”


The study has its limitations, one major one being that the survey was self-reported and therefore prone to bias, but the overall takeaway for online daters is positive, said Markowitz.

“The data suggest that mobile dating deceptions are strategic and relatively constrained," he added. "Most of the messages people report sending are honest and this is a positive step toward building trust in a new romantic relationship.”


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