Virtual lies and real insights into (online) dating

In a new study published in the
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed journal, researchers uncover the truth behind the white lies that permeate online dating profiles.

On March 8, the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, an international and interdisciplinary peer-reviewed journal, launched a new feature to their online section, Relationship Matters, a podcast series that interviews researchers about their published studies. The podcast opened with Jeffrey A. Hall, PhD, assistant professor at University of Kansas and lead researcher on the study that surveyed online daters to gain insight into gender differences, self-monitoring and misrepresentation.

Hall explained that the survey used detailed questions to highlight individual personality traits with respect to openness, extroversion, education and income. "We also asked a series of questions on an important trait that we call self monitoring," Hall continued "self monitoring is about how we try to present ourselves in a favorable light to others, to make people like us. Someone who scores as 'low' on self monitoring is extremely authentic when describing themselves in all circumstances, and those who score 'high' are more prone to so-called white lies."

The researchers also found a subtle gender gap, women tend to lie more about their weight and men were more apt to lie about their interest in a long-term relationship and misrepresent past relationships. However, Hall and his team concluded that men and women behave that same as they would if introduced face-to-face; dispelling the myths about gender and online dating site are filled with only lies. Basically if a person (irrespective of gender) is going to lie, it doesn't matter if they are online or not.

The study's key findings for those actively online dating is that extroversion will make a person more likely to lie and openness brings out the truth. "What people lie about really depends on the type of people they are," said Hall. "Someone who is really open to new experiences, likes going hiking in the mountains, likes to go travel to foreign countries - they are very unlikely to misrepresent themselves based upon their interests because they are very interesting people. A more open person would be very unlikely to lie about what they are interested in because they are interested in many things."

However extroverts, people that are more outgoing "meet new people, well actually they are more likely to misrepresent themselves based upon their past relationships because they tend to have a lot of past relationships," Hall said.  Extroverts have more relationships and "as a consequence have more opportunity to misrepresent themselves."

Research concluded that "for the most part men and women are quite similar" and "lying is not a prevalent behavior" amongst a diverse 5000-subject pool that included a range of ethnicity, class, education, ages 18-96 that were single, divorced and separated.

Later this year, Hall along with some of the colleagues from this study, will publish a new study "Individual differences in the communication of romantic interest: Development of the flirting styles inventory" in Communications Quarterly, an academic journal, about the five factors in the way people communicate their interest.

The study, "Strategic misrepresentation in online dating: The effects of gender, self-monitoring, and personality traits": http://spr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/27/1/117
Relationships Matter podcast with Dr. Hall: http://spr.sagepub.com/content/vol27/issue1/images/data/DC1/Relationship_Matters_Podcast_Number_01.mp3

 

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