With more and more people taking to the Internet to find partners, the question that arises is whether we can trust the information that people post via online dating services about themselves.
Jeffrey Hall of the University of Kansas is lead author of the paper on Internet dating, which shows that people looking for romance online actually behave very much as they do in face to face dating and relationships.
Advertisement"Our findings dispel the myth that people using online dating are that different than any one else who might find a relationship through friends, school or work," Hall explained.
His team investigated over 5000 individuals dating online in search of long-term partners, from all walks of life and over a wide age range (18 to over 60).
The survey included questions on personality traits such as openness, extroversion, education and income.
"We also asked a series of questions on an important trait that we call self monitoring," Hall said.
"Self monitoring is about how we try to present ourselves in a favourable light to others, to make people like us," he stated.
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.
Self-monitoring scores turned out to be a major factor in the likelihood of people changing their presentation to others across all dating indicators (topics such as previous relationships, likes, dislikes, appearance, etc).
Whether people are likely to lie about themselves online also depends on what kind of people they are.
Someone who is very open to new experiences (e.g. foreign travel) is highly unlikely to misrepresent themselves about their experiences - because they are naturally interesting people.
On the other hand extroverts are more likely to misrepresent themselves when describing past relationships.
Extroverts tend to have many past relationships because they meet new people easily, but may play this down when looking for a new relationship.
The good news, according to Hall, is that the likelihood of people misrepresenting themselves overall is actually very low.
The research also showed that not all men are from Mars and Women from Venus - the differences between individuals was far greater than any difference between the sexes.
However women were somewhat more likely to fib about their weight, whereas men were more prone to tell white lies on other subjects, such as how many previous partners they had had, or how serious they were about finding a long-term relationship.
"Men and women aren't as different from one another as we might believe," he added.
The study appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, published by SAGE.
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