Blog·Checkup

How to catch a liar on dating sites

Jeff Hancock is an expert on online communications, especially online dating. He says most often people lie about the little things, but there are three "deal breakers" you should never lie about.
(CBC)

Online dating websites and apps can give users the environment to define themselves in new ways and start afresh with different people. For some, that means downplaying certain aspects of yourself and exaggerating others. But what about when you want to take that online relationship offline?

Researcher and professor of communications at Stanford University Jeff Hancock says that there are certain things it's okay to beef up online, but for others, honesty is the best policy. Listen to his interview with Checkup guest host Suhana Meharchand.

Jeff Hancock is an expert on online communications, especially online dating. He says most often people lie about the little things, but there are three "deal breakers" you should never lie about. 10:21

On the prevalence of dishonesty on dating sites

There's a pretty common belief that if someone can lie, they will. But if you start a relationship online and you want to get to coffee for this person and meet in person—and then, from coffee you either want to have a relationship or something else. If you lie too much, then you aren't going to get past coffee. So, you can lie in your online dating profile a little bit, subtly. But if you do it too much then you will sabotage yourself.

Most commonly people will lie about things that make them seem better. We see lies about a slightly younger version of yourself, for instance with an old photo. For men, they tend to round up their height and lie a bit about their income. Women tend to lie about their appearance, their weight. Those are all lies that people tend to forgive because they can be modified over time.

The really bad lies are ones you can't really modify and that are considered "Deal Breakers" those are: age, marital status, and education. Those are three biggies that are unforgivable once you get to know somebody.

On catching a lie.

This is one of the shocking things, we've got 50 years of deception research now and the one common finding unfortunately is that if somebody is lying to you, they'll probably succeed—at least in the short term. We're very bad at detecting deception.

The good news is that most of the time people are pretty darn honest, and the reason that we trust people so much is because most of the time they're worth trusting. In my view, whether you meet somebody through online dating or you meet at work you're equally likely to meet an honest person.

Everybody has a story. And when you're reading someone's online profile you're trying to learn their story and the degree to which it seems consistent. People have a hard time staying consistent over a longer interaction. So if you have any suspicions when learning their story—those suspicions are almost always accurate. Trust your intuition. Scammers take advantage of trustworthy people.

Jeff Hancock's comments have been edited and condensed. This online segment was produced by Ayesha Barmania.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now