Why You Should Lie in Your Online Dating Profile

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.”

Little lies are common in dating profiles

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.

We don't know what we want anyway

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.


  • Me

    We women aren’t as stupid as you like to think we are. First of all, with my background in criminology, I know how to weed out liars from truth-tellers, and they don’t even know I’m doing it. Secondly, no man is invited to my home without my running an extensive background check on him – I can find out if he’s married, has kids, a criminal background, and lots of other stuff too. Again, he wont know I’m doing it, I can slyly get lots of information from him just by joking about how bad drivers license photos are and asking to see his and making mental notes of his last name and address. Oh, and oops, sorry I forgot to bring mine so I can’t show it to ya! I don’t believe that men are born liars, but they are definitely born followers, and it’s a shame that so many of them choose to follow advice like yours to lie about themselves. Men are the biggest self-saboteurs on Earth. You’ll never find any kind of happiness unless you can be secure in yourselves, moment by moment and trust that a woman will like you for who you are. Until that day comes, we women have to look out for ourselves.

  • We have to have some edge to counter the time consuming and ridiculous jedi mind games insecure women, -which counts for most- choose to play.

    The article is about lying on your profile. Which women are just as guilty if not worse as men are.

    Take your male hating personal vendetta baggage and go check a parking meter.

  • Honesty is the best policy. Wtf@losers lying. :(

  • It’s funny to see a gal go ape-crazy about it… Some people freak out at the mere notion of exaggerating anything on a profile to a small degree.

    I think the article’s great, because people lie to themselves in what they want… and in a profile, you have to take that into consideration. I don’t mind if someone’s slightly off on height or body type — like the majority who lie do. In fact, many people will ASSUME you’re lying on your profile — so if you say you’re 5’9″, they’ll assume 5’8″ at best… if you say you’re 6’0″, they’ll assume 5’11”. So it is understandable why people would do that a bit. It’s the nature of the environment set.

    With that said, the NW study was undergrads, though. Earning power as undergrads? That’s not going to end up playing a factor, really. More like potential — but when in college, especially at a good one, you care less about that, either way…. and when it comes down to attraction vs personality — moreso at that age of 18-22, that looks wins the day, as long as personality didn’t stick out to ruin things.

    The variance on stated vs actual, though, would be different for those late 20s and beyond, rather than just a few years past high school. THAT, I would like to see. I think there would be less variance, but in the same general direction.

  • That’s a very astute observation about the NW study, Torsh. It would be interesting to see how things play out later in life as preferences change.

  • I recently interviewed a woman on my radio show who said that women tend to lie about body type or age and men lie about body type or income.
    I’m not sure it’s that simple to break down. I think people – of either sex lie about the thing, whatever it is, that they are most insecure about.
    I appreciate your article. I recently wrote an article about how to write your online profile I’d like to share.


    Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  • Bob

    I enjoyed the article and I also find it interesting that us humans try and fluff our feathers to look just a little better to our possible future mate. As for weight… how do you measure ‘a little extra’ or ‘average’ or whatever? People don’t really lie about that because they know the person that they meet will decide for themselves if a person is ‘too heavy’ to date (or too skinny for that matter). Same for a person’s height… What is a couple of inches? Again when ‘we’ meet you will soon find out that your 6 foot hunk is a 5′ 5″ shrimp. (I am 5′ 5″). What bothers me about the article and dating in general is one of the responses. I am afraid I am going to meet some gal that had a profile that I thought I could enjoy and she fit the age, height and looks test and we meet someplace and then I start getting the 3rd degree on how many traffic tickets I have had not to mention the yard stick and the forms that I will have to fill out just to say good night… because she already ate the dinner I bought her.

  • I was looking for something about this!! I have a blog and made mention on it that I have found in internet dating that a man’s height is usually off by a couple of inches. Being that I am 5’9 this always made a difference in my life. I was wondering if that men just dont know their height or if it was always done on purpose!! Thanks for this!!

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