Therefore, telling little lies for love is normal, and we do it because it serves a purpose – not just because we can.
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In a 2018 paper, my colleague Jeff Hancock and I wondered: How often do people who use dating apps lie? Our studies are some of the first to address these questions, but others have also examined deception in online dating.
Past research focused largely on the dating profile.
This relatively new form of courtship can give you access to a large pool of potential partners. For example, you’ve probably heard about – or have personally experienced – a date that was planned online but didn’t go well for one of the following reasons: He was shorter than his profile said he was, she looked different in person than she did in her photos, or he was talkative over text but it was like pulling teeth at dinner.
In other words, a person’s profile – and the messages sent before a date – might not capture who a person really is.
Only after messaging your match will you decide if you want to meet him or her.
To understand how often people lied to their partners and what they falsified, we evaluated hundreds of text messages exchanged after daters swiped right, but before they met – a period we call “the discovery phase.” We recruited an online sample of over 200 participants who provided us with their messages from a recent dating conversation and identified the lies, with some participants explaining why these messages were deceptive and not jokes.
Lying to appear like a good match or lying about your whereabouts can be completely rational behaviors. There’s also a benefit to lying just a little bit: It can make us stand out in the dating pool, while making us feel we’ve stayed true to who we are.
However, outright and pervasive lies – mentioning your love for dogs, but actually being allergic to them – can undermine trust.
We found that lies could be categorized into two main types.