How to Spot Deception in Dating Profiles

by on March 7th, 2015
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As we the inhabitants of the modern world move ever closer to virtual representations of ourselves via online social networks, it becomes ever more difficult figure out which of those profiles out there are real and which are fake. This is why we turn to social psychologists to help us forge a path through the murky wilds of Facebook, Twitter, etc. To that end, John R. Schafer, Ph.D., psychologist at Fielding Graduate University, and author of Psychological Narrative Analysis: A Professional Method to Detect Deception in Written and Oral Communications, suggests in a recent column in Psychology Today that people make themselves aware of the fact that recent studies have shown that up to 80% of profiles posted, are skewed to make the owner look better.

According to Schafer, knowledge and a bit of cynicism is the way to go; when people can pump themselves up, they will. One example is a recent study he cites that says that the majority of women polish up their profile pictures to the point of fraud, while men on the other hand are more likely to fudge on their height.

But these are minor things, what about the people out there who seem normal on their profile only because they are lying through their teeth.

Cornell researchers, Catalina Toma and Jeffrey Hancock have published the results of their study on the subject and in it they write how they found that actual cues to the veracity of an individual can be discerned by examining the way they describe themselves. For example, they have found that liars tend to write about themselves in more open-ended ways. They tend to distance themselves from their writing, almost as if writing about someone else. They also tend to use more negations, saying they are not like this or that, for example. They also found that the more a person lies on their profile the shorter the profile descriptions, likely to make sure they aren’t contradicting themselves in other sections. Perhaps most importantly of all they found that liars tend to use more emotional descriptions than the average person, quite often using hyperbole to make their descriptions seem more realistic.

Toma and Hancock also suggest studying a complete profile before replying to or contacting others based on a profile. Liars often do make mistakes such as listing different ages in different boxes, or putting down an age that doesn’t gibe with interests or knowledge of current events.

The bottom line, they say, is if your gut tells you something is amiss, it probably is.


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