Why You Should Lie in Your Online Dating Profile
by Sam Eye
Talk to anyone who has dated online, and they will tell you that they encounter lying in dating profiles. Men will lie about their height, and women will do what it takes to appear more slim. It turns out, these people are onto something.
A study by Nicole Ellison of Michigan State University, and her colleagues, found that 9 out of 10 people lie in their dating profile. As expected, men exaggerate their height, and women underreport their weight.
But, the deceptions were usually very small, and – as the study says – “would be hard to detect face-to-face.”
The upright (y) axis on each of these graphs represents the measured height and weight, respectively, of the participants – the x-axis is what they reported in their online dating profile.
Crossing the Line
Since online dating search features allow users to search only within certain height ranges, and body types, these small lies may actually be helping those who tell them – by helping them cross these thresholds, and meet in physical space. Because it turns out what we think we want, and what we actually go for, don’t always match up.
According to a study at Northwestern University by Paul Eastwick and Eli Finkel, what we say we value in a partner is a poor predictor of who we’ll actually go for in physical space, which suggests that simply managing to meet a potential match in person may be more important than representing yourself with pinpoint accuracy.
No Knowing What You Want
Eastwick and Finkel invited 163 undergraduate students to a two-hour speed-dating event – having first had them fill out questionaires stating what kind of looks, personality, and earning power they were looking for in a partner. While the gender differences you would expect were evident in the pre-event questionairres (men go for looks, women go for money), those preferences seemed to vanish when it came time to choose a partner in physical space. Eastwick and Finkel followed-up with participants one month after the event to see if any relationships had developed.
The left side of this graph shows how participants in the study scored their ideal mate in attractiveness, earning potential, and personality. As expected, men value looks a bit more than women, and women value earning power a bit more than men.
But the relationship between these self-reported scores, and how those attributes predicted whether a relationship would happen with a potential parter (as illustrated by the score on the right side of the graph) is where the surprise comes. It turns out, we have pretty much no clue what we actually want in a partner. As Eli Finkel says, what people think they’re looking for in a partner will “disappear when people meet living, breathing partners.”
Some other interesting findings illustrated by this graph:
- Attractiveness is the most important attribute predicting whether two people will get together, followed by personality, and earning power. The strength of these characteristics is pretty much even for both sexes. So, make sure your photos are great.
- Men understate their interest in earning power in a partner.
- Women understate their interest in attractiveness in a partner, and overstate their interest in earning power in a partner.
Improving Your Odds
So, not only is a little (undetectable) lying in a dating profile common, if it helps you secure a date, you’ll stand a better chance than if you had opted for modesty.
Think about how search works on Match.com for example. Some men will search only for slim/slender women, and many women have height restrictions, filtering their searches to men 5’10″ or taller – sometimes even more. If you’re a 5′ 9 1/2″ man, and try to be modest by putting 5’9″ on your profile, you aren’t doing yourself – or the ladies – any favors. The woman who would turn you down online for being 5’9,” might actually adore you when you meet her in person.
So, while you want to represent yourself well in your profile, and communicate efficiently, securing the date is of utmost importance. And when you search, don’t be too restrictive – you might miss out on someone who was just being modest.