FREAK-TV: What Do Online Daters Lie About?


This is a subject we wrote about in Freakonomics, based on a really interesting paper called “What Makes You Click?” by Günter J. Hitsch, Ali Hortaçsu, and Dan Ariely. The story we told in the book was an aggregate one, based on thousands of online daters’ data. But we thought it would make sense to go out on the street and ask people, one by one, the same question: if you filled out an online dating profile, what would you lie about? You might want to ask yourself the same question before you click “play.”

Mike B.

Most consider dating sites to be just a better opportunity to spread carefully fabricated lies amongst thousands of people. I mean, how many girls post photos of themselves wearing no makeup on dating sites? Not many. Same deal.

joshua Rothhaas

I guess it doesn't answer the question, but wouldn't a lie on a dating site just be silly. I'm sure it happens a ton, but if your having trouble meeting people who like you for who you are in person, then the internet holds the promis of 1 billion other people. the only way any one of those people wil ever have a chance of liking you for who you are is for you to tell the truth.


my cousin lied about being able to cook. and it significantly upped her compatibility. hehe.


Woman lie about age and men about height. Although throughout high school and college, dating a classmate is the norm, once men leave the school world it seems that any internet dating search must include only women 5 years their junior (10 years if over 35). Women don't want to look down on thier man, literally or figuratively. The difference however is that a man's lie won't last beyond the first meeting, whereas a woman's can last as long as she is smart. I for example have been 31 and holding for 3 years now.

Delaware Jim

Many of the most alluring young "women" on internet dating sites are simply photos of professional models put up by Nigerian dating scammers. A man can tell them all the lies he wants, because their only purpose is to get his financial help out of a series of "crisis" situations. The practice is so widespread that the FBI calls this the "419" scam, after the Nigerian law against fraud. The hotter the internet babe, the more likely she'll be asking for emergency money. Oh yeah, "she" is usually a "he." Perhaps guys should go back to looking the old fashioned way--in person.


It may be a bad assumption all online daters are looking for a) marriage or b) a long term relationship. I wonder how many out there seek one night stands or cheat in a marriage?

VIrginia K NYC

All the women I know who are over 50 lie about their age on dating sites, and none of them have ever lied about anything else at all.

No one I know has ever posted a misleading picture (out of date or someone else).

And - I have a job which brings me into contact with an unusually large number of internat dating stories!!


I would probably lie about my weight. I'm not over weight but I would probably say I was about 10 pounds lighter than I am.

not telling

I just recently lied (though I prefer the word embellish) about my height by an inch. Also, my intentions: While I wouldn't mind a "friend", I would prefer a bit more; I just didn't want to come across as lecherous (because I'm not... I don't think). Anyway, I think the process is very clearly like the resume/job interview process: You need to balance getting noticed with what you can back up. One might omit a detail about not wanting to stay with the company for the long term, for instance, and one might also omit they're only working for the "money".


When I used online dating services I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to tell the truth about everything and see who was still interested. I mean why lie about something that's going to be really obvious such as physical apperance? I used to judge men, in part, by spelling and grammar; do you think that is wrong?

Former online dater

Having met men online-- believe it or not, they lie often about their weight! I'm not sure if they know they're lying-- they might actually believe it or have a different definition than mine. "Athletic" means average and "average" means about 30 pounds overweight. They also sometimes lie about whether they ever smoke. I never lied, but I kept specifics out because I didn't want to be identified by anyone. BTW, I'm happily married after having met my now husband about four years ago online through a dating service.


I have read that a suspiciously high percentage of online daters have ages that end in "9." Lots of 29-year-olds, 39-year-olds, and so on. People apparently round their ages down, for instance claiming to be 29 when they're actually 35.


The most common things women I've met lie about is being a bit neurotic, valuing honesty, and their real looks. (As Mike notes, posting a photo with makeup is as dishonest as posting an out-of-date photo.)

But does it really matter? That first date is supposed to just be for coffee and to meet in person. What really matters is how you interact in person and whether there is any chemistry -- two things online dating sites can't determine. If you don't click, you've only wasted an hour and $2.50.


The question "What would you lie about?" is assuming that you would lie at all. The question is set up to make people think about lying when it might have occurred to them before.


Thought you might be interested in this link if you haven't already seen it. Some mathematicians from Germany with some calculations on predicting future deprived neighbourhoods in relation to their geographic isolation due to urban planning


1. Contrary to what the girls on the video say, I doubt lying about something when the truth would likely be considered an improvement would cause any problems when the truth came out. If I was looking for a relationship I'm with the doctor - I would definitely lie about my profession and understate my income.

2. re comment 1, I have a close friend with an (in my view) excessively casual attitude about what he'll say to online prospects who has mentioned repeatedly that meeting women who will sleep with him is like "shooting fish in a barrel" on online dating sites. He is not, and in my view almost certainly never will be, interested in more than (maybe) three dates.

3. Women misunderstand and grossly overvalue the role of physical appearance (theirs, I mean). Once you've met a man's threshold for that characteristic, going above it has rapidly diminishing returns. Wasn't there a discussion here about some girl in NYC looking for Mr $500K who suffered from that misconception?


Mike B.

I'm going to have to politely disagree with "J" (#16). Women do not "misunderstand and grossly overvalue the role of physical appearance." If anything, the vast majority of women undervalue it.

While I agree that there is a certain point of diminishing returns, that point is only met by about five to ten percent of the female population; if that. For the rest, doing everything you can to improve your appearance (lose weight, improve hygiene, cosmetic procedures -- for example orthodontic work) will be more beneficial to finding willing partners/spouse(s) than improving your salary, earning more degrees, or just about anything else. In fact, more successful/educated women actually do far worse than their prettier, less erudite counterparts.

I'm too lazy to look for the study(ies) that support this, but I promise they exist. Truly.


I don't understand the comments about how makeup on women is a "lie." I'm wondering, then, do more men prefer a natural face on a woman? Even if the picture she had up on the dating site were of her with makeup, whats the problem? You might see her like that most of the time anyway (for work, going out, etc). On these dating sites you want to appear as nice as possible. The men, I'm sure, have pictures of themselves up after they've showered, shaved and have dressed themselves nicely. Is that a lie? I don't really understand that POV I guess...


It is interesting, I have ever been part of it,I am not a typical "case" which worth to study,I remember I lied two things, First of all, I lied I don't mind skin color, but actually I do, I just did not want to leave the impression that I am not an open mind person. another thing is I said I am average looking, but people who met me think I am above average, for this, I did not want people feel disappointed when they see me in person. But I noticed many men(since I did not care about women there) said they were attractive, that is really about personality, but guess what, I contacted a man said he is normal man, average looking, and we have been together for months.


Hey, isn't this reference a rip-off of what I posted, Comment #31, I think, as a comment to the original article!

Not that I'm not proud of my references being plagarized by freakonomics!