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Many Men and Women Lie in Their Online Dating Profiles

( - February 8, 2007) According to a new study, many people tell "little white lies" on their profiles, lying about things like age, height, and weight.

Using a new method that measured the actual difference between profile information and reality, the study revealed that men systematically overestimated their height, while women more commonly underestimated their weight.

"Surprisingly, age-related deception was minimal and did not differ by gender," said Jeffrey Hancock, an assistant professor of communication at Cornell University and lead author of the study. The study will be published in the April 2007 issue of Proceedings of Computer/Human Interaction.

According to the study:

» About 52.6 percent of the men in the study lied about their height, as did 39 percent of the women.

» Slightly more women lied about their weight (64.1 percent) than did men (60.5 percent).

» When it came to age, 24.3 percent of the men were untruthful, compared with 13.1 percent of the women.

For the study, a "lie" was defined as follows:

» For height, the discrepancy between what was said in the profile and reality had to be greater than half an inch.

» For weight, the deviation between what was said in the profile and reality had to be greater than five pounds.

» For age, there had to be a difference of a year between what was said in the profile and reality.

The results showed that a higher percentage of participants lied about their weight than either their height or age. For nearly two-thirds of the participants the difference between posted weight and actual weight was incorrect by five pounds or more.

Hancock says that social research abounds on how men and women use different strategies for finding love. In general, men seek youth and physical attractiveness in a partner, while women look for men who can provide as well as indicators of social status, such as level of education and career. The pattern of lies -- frequent but slight -- suggest that deception in online dating profiles is strategic.

"Participants balanced the tension between appearing as attractive as possible, while also being perceived as honest," said Hancock.

Many online dating services are now changing the way they handle the issue of weight, asking for a general body type (i.e. thin, athletting, a little overweight, etc.) instead of an actual weight. According to Hancock, however, the basic tension of trying to appear as attractive as possible without having a deception detected still applies.

Methodology for Gathering Study Information
Hancock, Cornell doctoral student Catalina Toma, and Nicole Ellison, Michigan State University assistant professor, examined four popular dating Web sites, where users create their own profiles and initiate contact with others:, Yahoo Personals, American Singles and Webdate. Study participants -- users of these Web sites -- were recruited in New York City through advertisements in the Village Voice and The final sample included 80 participants, equally divided between genders. After collecting information about the participants from their online profiles, the researchers measured each person's height and weight, and obtained their age from drivers' licenses.


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