Entries in deception (13)


Safe Sex, Lies, and Past Partners

There are a lot of safe-sex behaviors that reduce sexually transmitted infections (e.g., consistent condom use, getting tested for STIs). In addition, open communication with your partner(s) about your respective sexual histories can help you assess the risk of a new (or established) sexual partner. Unfortunately, however, a recent a study of 183 college students published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships suggests that the majority of young adults may be dishonest when disclosing their sexual histories to sexual partners. Specifically, over 60% of respondents admitted to previously lying at least once when talking to a current partner about their number of past sexual partners, and 20% reported that they always lie about their number of previous partners. Those students who had previously lied about their sexual history were generally uncomfortable with talking about safe sex. So while open and honest communication is important in sexual relationships, you can’t assume you partner is telling you the truth.

tl;dr: Your new partner probably may not be completely honest, so using a condom is always a good idea.

Horan, S. M. (2016). Further understanding sexual communication: Honesty, deception, safety, and risk. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 33, 449-468.


All Women Lie

I stood on the stage looking out at a sea of beautiful, successful but single women. All were there to find love. As I talked about the science of love, I stopped, took a pause, stood up straight, looked from one side to the other, and then uttered, “All women lie.”

I then watched as these lovely faces transform. One woman tilted her head as her mouth gaped. Another’s brow wrinkled in confusion while a few eyes narrowed in contempt. These were educated women who just paid good money to hear me speak and I was calling each and every one of them a liar. The air of “how dare she” wafted up to the stage.

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Using The Science of Micro-Expressions to Predict Divorce: Sorry George and Amal, Your Outlook Is Not So Good

I try not to be a relationship cynic, but I see divorce in George Clooney’s future. It’s not the tabloids that I’m relying on to make this prediction. It is the science of micro-expressions - the very brief (i.e., micro) facial expressions that flash across a person’s face for mere fractions of a second.1 These unconscious expressions can be quite telling, and a careful examination of George’s nonverbal behavior during a recent interview leads me to believe that he and Amal may not be as happy as they claim. 

Much of the research on micro-expressions has been conducted by Dr. Paul Ekman, a psychologist who has spent his career studying emotions and facial expressions. He has shown that when people try to conceal how they really feel, their faces often leak true emotions. For instance, imagine being disappointed by a loved one’s thoughtful gesture (e.g., an elaborate home-made dinner of your least favorite food) or being jealous of something wonderful that happened to a close friend (e.g., getting engaged, think Bridesmaids). As you know, it would be inappropriate, not to mention rude, to express your displeasure. Rather, you may try to mask your true feelings with something more socially acceptable (e.g., a smile). In those brief and fleeting moments, a trained eye could detect the subtle and unconscious facial movements, like knitting of the eyebrows or narrowing of the lips, that express your actual discontent.

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Mythbusting Online Dating

Online dating is increasingly popular, and yet misinformation about the industry abounds. Let’s examine four common myths, and why they're wrong: 

1. Everyone is lying

There is a widespread belief that dating sites are filled with dishonest people trying to take advantage of earnest, unsuspecting singles. Research does show that a little exaggeration in online dating profiles is common.1 But it's common in offline dating as well. Whether online or off, people are more likely to lie in a dating context than in other social situations.2 As I detailed in an earlier post, the most common lies told by online daters concern age and physical appearance. Gross misrepresentations about education or relationship status are rare, in part because people realize that once they meet someone in person and begin to develop a relationship, serious lies are highly likely to be revealed.3

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MTV's "Catfish": When Truth, Lies, and Self-Concept Collide

On the MTV reality show, “Catfish,” the show’s hosts help a viewer track down an elusive online love. Almost inevitably, it is discovered that they have been fooled, and the person to whom they poured out their heart is not who they appeared to be. However, sometimes something very real has developed beneath the lies. 

In each episode, a viewer involved in an intense online relationship contacts hosts Nev and Max, asking for help tracking down an online paramour, who has repeatedly refused to meet in person. In almost every episode, it is revealed that their love is merely a “catfish,” someone who has constructed a false identity with a fake online profile and lured the unsuspecting subject into a relationship. 

The feelings expressed by the people on the show are intense. Some even claim to be engaged to online loves they have never met in person. In some cases the catfish themselves express strong feelings and a desire to continue the relationship after the deception has been revealed. Many viewers wonder how someone can feel such a strong bond with a person they’ve only met online and how some of the catfish can claim to truly care about a person they have been deceiving for months, or even years. However, research on the expression of the “true self” online suggests that the development of these intense bonds is not so surprising.

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The Truth Behind Online Dating: What Is and Isn’t Real

Though still quite new (relatively) in our culture, and a bit daunting, more and more people are venturing into the online dating world for romance and sex. Below, I’ve compiled some evidence-based tips to help you navigate online dating websites and, hopefully, find what you’re looking for. 

People aren’t always what they seem. Deception is common in online dating—and I’m not talking about Catfishing, I’m talking about people presenting themselves as somewhat better than they actually are (taller, thinner, smarter, sexier, wealthier, fewer cats, etc.). This type of self-enhancement is a subtle form of deception, but deception all the same.1 Most people who make an online dating profile do this, which makes sense because pretty much everyone fudges a little bit. This strategic self-presentation is not limited to online dating; it happens in a lot of different social contexts (consider how we portray ourselves on resumes).

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The Ethics of OKCupid’s Dating Experiment

So let’s talk about the elephant in the room. You probably have noticed some widespread media coverage about OKCupid’s “experiment” wherein, to look for patterns in dating behavior, they manipulated aspects of the site without informing users (see OKCupid’s announcement here as well as coverage here and here). This revelation comes in the wake of Facebook’s massive experiment, which attracted similar attention and criticism. Commenters have questioned the ethics of these experiments primarily due to the fact that Facebook and OKCupid users did not know they were participating and did not consent to be in the study—nor were users directly notified about their participation after the experiment ended.

The idea that these large corporations would manipulate people’s emotions or behaviors without telling their users sounds very disturbing to some. But was this really such a big deal? Were these experiments really “unethical”? Let’s examine these issues further.

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Relationship Rules: Honesty, Deception, and Relationship Satisfaction - Relationship Matters Podcast 26

In the 26th installment of SAGE's Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Katlyn Gangi (formerly Roggensack) talks about her research on honesty in relationships.

Gangi, now a PhD student in the Department of Communication at the University of California in Santa Barbara, conducted the research with Dr. Alan Sillars while at the University of Montana.

The researchers were interested in the assumptions people have regarding what honesty and deception means to romantic partners. Gangi explains on the podcast,

We don’t go into relationships blindly without any expectations of how others will act...we have rules for all sorts of things...and these rules help create structure and predictability in our relationships...Rules about honesty and deception though are kind of in a class of their own…Often people only start talking about these things once a rule is perceived to be broken...Somebody does something that doesn’t meet up to your expectations or surprises you or upsets you and then you say, ‘Hey, why did you do that? I thought that these were the expectations in our relationship and it seems like you think something different’.”

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The Rules of Deception in Romance

In the acclaimed TV drama Breaking Bad, high school chemistry teacher Walter White has a big secret—he doesn’t tell his wife Skyler that he and his former student Jesse Pinkman have begun “cooking” and selling meth. Lots and lots of meth.   

As is the case with many couples, Walt and Skyler may differ on what they consider to be deception. Walt isn’t hiding his criminal activity to hurt Skyler or damage their marriage; in fact, he started his meth lab as a way to ensure his family’s financial security, in the event that he dies from lung cancer. However, Skyler actually considers Walt’s deception quite problematic (his life of crime places him in great legal and mortal danger, after all!) and later pursues a divorce when he reveals the truth. Walt and Skyler’s different perspectives on Walt’s deception beg the question: how might beliefs about deceit differ between men and women in real life?

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Catfish: A Cautionary Tale (Too Bad It Came Too Late For Manti Te'o)

My new obsession is Catfish. No, I’m not talking about the whisker-faced, water-dweller. I’m referring to the documentary and subsequent MTV reality series about online romances. Given the heightened frequency of internet dating, the premise doesn’t sound all that unique. However, this show highlights relationships that have gone on for months, and in some cases years, without the partners ever meeting face-to-face. In a fascinating and unfortunate twist (SPOILER ALERT), the show typically ends with one partner realizing that his or her online love is not who he/she has been pretending to be. Think it couldn’t happen to you? Just ask Manti Te’o how real a virtual romance can feel. 

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Lying About Physical Attractiveness

I attended an interesting talk yesterday by Dr. Edward Lemay and his colleagues about how people use deception in their relationships. He wanted to know what motivates people to lie when their girlfriend or boyfriend asks how they look. For example, if you don’t think they look very physically attractive, do you tell the truth?

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Liars, and Letches, and Narcissists! Oh My!

Meeting new people and engaging in flirtatious banter are my favorite things about dating. In all honesty, the initial “getting to know you phase” was what I missed most when I was married. Unfortunately, occasionally there are dates that are excruciatingly painful to sit through. One such date involved someone whose on-line photographs depicted a youthful, attractive and successful man who apparently enjoyed scuba diving. At the very least, I thought we could swap travel stories.

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A Little Too Good To Be True: Deceptive Tactics in Dating

Evolutionary theories of partner selection suggest that whereas men look for partners with signs of youth and fertility, women seek out partners who will be good providers (i.e., males with status, power, and/or wealth). So, what’s a guy to do if he finds himself lacking when it comes to these highly sought-after characteristics? Employ deception!

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