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To be attractive or to be authentic? How two competing motivations influence self-presentation in online dating

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This paper examines how and why online daters, differentiated by gender, strategically self-present in online dating profiles when pursuing two competing goals: attracting potential daters and avoiding detection as a liar.


A survey and a content analysis were employed to test four hypotheses.


The results revealed that seeking to project an attractive image in online dating was significantly associated with acquisitive self-presentation. The online daters adopted falsification more than any other strategies, and women were more likely than men to embellish their self-presentation, especially their physical appearance.


The findings clarify people's mate selection processes in light of the interpersonal deception theory (IDT) and the information manipulation theory (IMT) as well as take an evolutionary psychological perspective on computer-mediated communication. For practitioners, they provide a more nuanced picture of deceptive communication in online dating and, for online daters, can guide the adaptation of their online behaviors.

Keywords: Deception; Gender; Misrepresentation; Motivations; Online dating; Self-presentation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Macau University of Science and Technology, Taipa, China

Publication date: April 14, 2020

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