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Entries in online dating (30)


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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The Truth Behind Online Dating: How It Compares to “Offline” Dating

Read Part 1 of this series here: The Truth Behind Online Dating: What Is and Isn’t Real

Read Part 2 of this series here: The Truth Behind Online Dating: What Motivates Users and Companies

Online daters aren’t really that different from offline daters. I often hear my students claim that people who use online dating are “weirdos” or “that’s for people who can’t get dates in real life.” But the idea that people who prefer online dating are somehow different than offline daters is not supported by science. First of all, different how, exactly? In terms of general personality traits (e.g., openness to new experiences, neuroticism), online and offline daters are not significantly different from each other.1

One study did find that people who have used online dating (ever in their lives) were more sensitive to rejection compared to non-users—but this was a general “have you ever used online dating in your life” question and did not differentiate between one-time users and regular users.

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The Truth Behind Online Dating: What Motivates Users and Companies

Read Part 1 of this series here: The Truth Behind Online Dating: What Is and Isn’t Real

People are shallow. Psychological science has demonstrated that people often use a “what is beautiful is good” mental shortcut.1 People tend to assume positive characteristics about others based on physical attractiveness, even though these perceptions are not accurate. This bias for beauty has been shown in all types of contexts that are not limited to online dating. A classic study from the 60s on in-person dating found that a date’s hot body/face predicted romantic attraction more than personality traits, intelligence, popularity/charisma, mental health, and self-esteem.

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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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Grammarly: An Online Dater’s Secret Weapon

Joe Romance scratches his head. Online dating profile questions are the worst. I never know what to write, he muses. He decides to write just the basics: general hobbies and interests without many distinctive details. His “matches” will be able to tell he’s a good guy, right? Then, he can work on impressing them later, once he connects with someone he really likes.

He taps out the following: I have two dogs. We go jogging in the park every morning. If your a Dog Lover like me, maybe we’ll get along. One’s a Labrador, the others a Dalmatian. And, I like stargazing. I studied Astronomy in highschool and could of been an astonomer. If you want to know how to find Orion in the sky, well I can be your Star Hunter ha ha. Normally I like to go to the observatory alone, it’s kinda my Fortress of Solitude (Superman fan, don’t judge), but for the right person, I’ll make room on my stargazing blanket. I also like concerts and going to the movies.

Satisfied with his self-description, Joe Romance submits his bio, uploads a few photos, and waits for his dating luck to change. Over the next few weeks, his number of profile views goes up, but he only gets a few messages.

What went wrong?

If Joe had thought to use it, leading automated proofreading site Grammarly could have offered a few suggestions. The global service has helped over two billion native and non-native English writers with common grammatical errors, spelling mishaps, and lack of originality through its signature Grammarly Editor. Beyond the automated proofreader’s obvious utility for school assignments and business communication, the folks at Grammarly believed their service could boost its users’ romantic prospects, too, by helping people make good first impressions with their online dating profiles.

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Does Internet Dating Really Work?

Does internet dating really work?

The answer to your question really lies in how you define “work.” If your goal is to meet new dating partners, then on-line dating services can help put you in touch with a large number of other eligible singles. Services like and have a large pool of individuals looking to date, hook-up, and marry. The problem is that there are oftentimes so many profiles to sort through that the choices are overwhelming, which causes you to miss out on people who actually might be good matches.

Other dating services, such as eHarmony, propose that matching dating partners based on similarity will lead to better pairings. They accomplish this (allegedly) by analyzing responses to a lengthy survey using a proprietary algorithm, or in less fancy terms, a formula they use make money (consider it the KFC secret recipe of matching partners). In another SoR story, Paul Eastwick wrote a summary of a paper he co-authored,1 essentially showing that the algorithms used to match people don’t work the way that they are supposed to, and you are no better off relying on the matches made for you than if you were just meeting someone cold in the library or at a sporting event. He and his co-authors recommend that dating sites change the algorithms to match on factors demonstrated by research to be more effective at predicting long-term compatibility.

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Log On for Love?

Several years ago I received a Facebook message from a stranger.  After exchanging a few innocuous messages with him, he invited me to lunch and—partly because I was recently single, partly because I had never gone on a formal date with someone I met online, and partly because I enjoy the excitement of a potential kidnapping—I agreed. Over the course of the meal he peppered me with a series of questions that I thought were somewhat atypical for a first date (“How many children do you want?” “How soon can I meet your family?”).  Eventually, I set my fork down and said, “Not to be rude or anything, but it feels like you’re auditioning me to be your wife.” He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Kind of, yeah.”

Despite my adventurous spirit, I had enough sense to not marry the guy. But a growing number of individuals are meeting their future spouses online. In fact, results of a recent nationally representative study suggest that over one-third of individuals who married between 2005 and 2012 originally met their partners on the Internet.1 What is particularly compelling about this study, however, is that it tackled a previously overlooked question that many dating websites (e.g., eHarmony) claim to know the answer to: Do individuals who meet their partners online or offline have more successful marriages?

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The Science Behind 3 Popular Dating Apps 

You have an app on your smartphone for the weather, the news, where to eat, and one just for crushing candy. So why not an app for dating? Finding people on your own at a bar probably hasn’t been terribly successful, so it may be time to let your phone help you find a little love (or perhaps lust). Let’s see how they stack up compared to the scientific literature…

1) Snapchat (iTunes)

What the App Does: Allows users to take a picture and send it to someone else. The interesting aspect of Snapchat, however, is that it allows you to set how long others are able to see your photo. Only want the other person to see the picture for 3 seconds? 10 seconds? Then you can set the timer accordingly. So why is this a dating app? Well, it has become the social media sexting app of choice because the pictures “self destruct,” leaving behind no evidence (that is, unless someone is quick enough to take a screen shot!).

What Science Says: A few seconds to view a picture (innocent or otherwise) may not seem like enough time to form an accurate judgment.

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What's Wrong With My Internet Dating Profile?

I just read about DateSim.netTM, a service that is co-founded by Dr. Jennifer Harman that uses dating  simulations to give objective feedback on dating skills. I think it sounds like a great idea, but the $500 fee is outside of my budget.

How about reviewing existing profiles on a dating website and giving suggestions? I've been on the same dating site for 4 years and have only been contacted 3 times - twice by obvious scammers and once by someone whose picture alone scared me to death, not to mention his inability to write a complete sentence. I remain on that website because it's free. (I know, I know.)

Maybe I should mention I'm 55 yrs old, divorced 12 years after a 24 yr marriage, and have yet to have a first date. I'm not a ravishing beauty but I don't scare dogs or small children. I'm 5' 6" 140 lbs, so I'm not bigger than most women my age. I'm self-sufficient and own my own home. It seems that the men in my age group, 50-65, are looking for young sexy starlets. Does a woman my age have any chance at all of having a date?

Great question. The way we present ourselves on the dating market, particularly on-line dating services like and Plenty of Fish, is tricky business. These on-line sites are not technically matchmaking services...they are essentially tools that you can use to market yourself to show how desirable you are.  

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Can Your Computer Play Cupid?

PlentyofFish. OkCupid. eHarmony. These are just a handful of dating websites that offer users the opportunity to seek out romantic partners and, if lucky, develop a fulfilling, committed relationship. Such dating sites promise access to a large selection of potential partners, the ability to communicate virtually with other users prior to meeting face-to-face, and (allegedly) rigorous matching with compatible potential partners. It is unclear, however, whether meeting partners online yields more positive romantic outcomes1 than do more traditional avenues (e.g., meeting a relationship partner through friends or by chance encounter). Should you leave it to your computer to play matchmaker, or are you better to stay offline and wait for Cupid’s arrow to strike?

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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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Beware of Claims about Single People that Come from Online Dating Services

Have you seen the headlines about the “Singles in America” survey? is oh-so-proud of it. The company boasts of the intellectual firepower behind their study. The survey is touted as “comprehensive” and the CEO brags that, “Since its inception, Singles in America has proven to be an unprecedented source of insight into the ideologies and lifestyle choices of today’s singles.”

Of course, the fact that the survey comes from should set off our scientific alarm bells. But points to their scholars in charge, and notes that the results are based on a representative sample of 5,000 American singles and 1,000 married people. Plus, sadly enough, many media outlets take the findings reported in the press release and run with them, as though they were ferrying precious cargo. So I think it is important to take a close look from a scientific perspective, and offer a less credulous perspective than you might find elsewhere.

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Sex Lives in Second Life

I met my first boyfriend in a Sailor Moon chat room. For the uninitiated, Sailor Moon was a Japanese anime show that was “popular” in the late 1990s. My online alter ego, a character I named Hiko Aino (Japanese for “fire child of love”), was tall, graceful, and witty—everything that I, at the time, was decidedly not. After a few weeks of frequenting the chat room, I started a relationship with a guy whose online persona was a dog (yes, a dog, as in a canine…oh, the shame is endless). It’s probably worth mentioning I was thirteen at the time and wildly unpopular at school (given what I just shared, I can’t imagine why). But the chat room allowed me to reinvent myself, connect with others with similar interests, and—in short—escape the sad reality of middle school. And although the Sailor Moon chat room is probably long gone, other virtual worlds have sprung up in its wake. One such environment is the online community named Second Life.

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Are Men’s Standards Really So Low That They’re Willing To Date “Sociopaths”?

I recently read an article entitled "OkCupid Experiment Proves Men Don’t Mind Dating Sociopaths." Naturally, I was intrigued. The article goes on to report the results of an “experiment” in which a couple of friends created a fake OkCupid profile featuring an image of an attractive woman (“Tara_IceAge4”) whose profile appeared, well, a little on the crazy side. Read the full article if you want all of the gory details, but the basic idea is that she’s racist, insensitive (e.g., she makes jokes about 9/11), erratic, a hit-and-run driver, and, above all else, a really poor speller. This fake profile was viewed 400 times and received 39 replies from potential male suitors within a few hours. So does this little study “prove” that men are perfectly comfortable dating sociopaths? And, in the words of the article’s author, is this really “an experiment that every human being should examine?” No and no. Let me explain.

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Does “Romantic Compatibility” Actually Matter?

“Romantic compatibility theory”—it has a nice ring, doesn’t it? This theory suggests that relationship success is a function of the unique combination of two individuals’ qualities. He appreciates her art, they both love cycling, and her positivity keeps him motivated when he needs a boost. Obviously, such similarities and connections between partners impact romantic outcomes—right?

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The Consultant Returns: Are We Birds of a Feather?

The Consultant was back in town this week and invited me for dinner and a show. The last time I saw him was over two weeks ago for our first date, so I was excited. He picked me up wearing a suit and carrying a bouquet of flowers. Very nice. My mother, who lives with me and was watching my children for the night, was impressed.

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So Many Fish in the (Online) Sea: Is All This Choice a Good Thing?

Online dating sites, all clamoring to give you access to thousands, or even millions, of potential new dates, clearly believe more fish make a better sea. But, is all this choice really a good thing?

A recent critical review of online dating research suggests maybe not. While dating sites deserve credit for increasing romantic opportunities, some of their new-fangled methods could actually be undermining your love life. Before your next foray into the cyber-scene, consider these four online dating tips.

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Flirtatious Facebook Game: Special Invite for Science of Relationships Readers

From time to time people approach us with special deals and offers to promote their products. To this point we've deleted the majority of these requests, but we recently learned about a new Facebook "flirting game" called Flirtatious. It's currently in beta, but the developers were kind enough to make a limited number of invites available exclusively for Science of Relationships readers.

Check it out by going here:

...and use the invite code "scienceofrelationships" to get started.

Have fun!


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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Why Some Women Stay Single: The Feline Saboteur