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Big Fat Liars: Less Attractive People Have More Deceptive Online Dating Profiles
Several years ago I was chatting on an online dating site with a man who claimed to have a graduate degree. When I asked him what his degree was he revealed that in reality he had spent six years in community college repeatedly starting, but failing to complete, programs. His comment was, “I could have been a doctor by now!” To which I responded, “Good bye.”
No one likes to be deceived by a person with whom you hope to one day develop a trusting relationship. It is perhaps for this reason that studies have shown that, unlike this guy, lies on dating profiles are generally quite minor. Men make themselves a little taller (by about 1”) and women make themselves a little thinner (by about 8 pounds). But unless you spent a summer working at a local fair guessing peoples' weight and height, the deceptions are so small, on average, that most people probably wouldn’t pick them out in a first date.
A recent study finds some evidence, though, that one particular group of online daters is more prone to lying than others – and that is people who are less physically attractive.
In the study, 69 currently active online daters were invited to come into a lab. They were given their online dating profile and asked to rate the level of deception of specific elements of the profile on a scale of one to five. They were objectively measured for weight and height and asked to provide proof of their age. Finally they were photographed in three poses, one of which replicated their main profile picture.
Judges (undergraduate students) rated -- on a scale of one to ten -- the pictures taken in the lab and the main profile picture for attractiveness. A measure of “photographic self-enhancement” was determined as the attractiveness rating of the profile picture minus the attractiveness rating of the picture taken in the lab that replicated the profile picture.
They found that less attractive people were more likely to have chosen a profile picture in which they were significantly more attractive than they were in everyday life. Women appeared to used this form of deception more than did men. (I personally suspect, though, that this gender difference has less to do with male versus female deception and more to do with how much make-up a woman wears in the middle of the day to a lab experiment compared to when out for a date.)
They also found that the less attractive a person was the more likely they were to have lied about objective measures of physical attractiveness such as height and weight. In general, women were not any more deceptive in their profiles regarding physical attractiveness than were men.
Interestingly, especially given that we have already seen that men can compensate for being less attractive by having higher incomes (in my very first post here on Dollar and Sex), in this study there is little evidence that less physically attractive people were more guilty of elevating their social status. They weren’t any more likely than more attractive people to over report their income, education or occupation levels.
One point about this study: the participants ranged in age from 18 to 53, and yet the judges ranged in age from 18 to 22. I cannot be the only one who thinks that a 20 year-old judging the attractiveness of a 50 year-old online dater is going to necessarily give a lower attractiveness score than might a judge who is closer to the participant’s age. I raise this issue because the strongest results in the paper are the ones measuring photographic self-deception, where people have posted pictures of themselves in which they appear significantly more attractive than they do in everyday life.
The older a dater is the more likely it is that they have posted a profile picture in which they are younger. Eighteen year-olds do not post five year old pictures while a fifty year old might. I am not sure why the researchers didn’t control for age in their regressions. If they had, they might have found not that less attractive people were more deceptive, but that older people were more deceptive.
Older women operate on a very competitive market where they are compared not only with women in their age cohort but also women who are much younger than themselves.
If they deceive in their profiles it is probably not because they evaluate themselves as being less attractive, and feel the need to compensate for that fact, but because they accurately assess that they need to do that in order to attract the attention of men who prefer to spend their time chatting online with women who could be their daughters.
This raises a more general issue and that is the underlying assumption that men and women are good at assessing their place on the market in terms of physical attractiveness. I have said this before, but I always think that researchers need to control for how long a person has been trying to find a mate online. It seems likely that if you post your profile, and then have no success, you will eventually want to go back and tweak your profile in order to be captured in more searches.
Less attractive people are bound to spend longer looking for love online. If people “revise” their profile over time in the hope of attracting more attention then, in the data, it will look like less attractive people are more deceptive. They might also be using an older picture simply because that is the one they put up when they started the process and have failed to update it as they have aged. If this is the case, then the relationship between deception and attractiveness is not a result of people assessing themselves as being less attractive, it's just a function of time on the market.
Online dating technology appears to have changed the way we measure a potential mate’s worth. I can’t imagine a 75-year-old women looking back on her marriage and reflecting that she might have been happier had her husband just been one inch taller. Or a 75 year-old man looking at the mother of his children and thinking that if she had only been curvy, instead of just plump, his life with her would have been so much better. If people deceive in their online profiles it is because they perceive that these qualities are actually important enough to lie about. I would love to see some evidence that in terms of quality of long-term matches that this is actually the case.
Toma, C. L. and J. T. Hancock. 2010. "Looks and Lies: The Role of Physical Attractiveness in Online Dating Self-Presentation and Deception" Communication Research, 37(3): 335.
So much for rest in peace.
- Australian scientists found that bodies kept moving for 17 months after being pronounced dead.
- Researchers used photography capture technology in 30-minute intervals every day to capture the movement.
- This study could help better identify time of death.
We're learning more new things about death everyday. Much has been said and theorized about the great divide between life and the Great Beyond. While everyone and every culture has their own philosophies and unique ideas on the subject, we're beginning to learn a lot of new scientific facts about the deceased corporeal form.
An Australian scientist has found that human bodies move for more than a year after being pronounced dead. These findings could have implications for fields as diverse as pathology to criminology.
Dead bodies keep moving
Researcher Alyson Wilson studied and photographed the movements of corpses over a 17 month timeframe. She recently told Agence France Presse about the shocking details of her discovery.
Reportedly, she and her team focused a camera for 17 months at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), taking images of a corpse every 30 minutes during the day. For the entire 17 month duration, the corpse continually moved.
"What we found was that the arms were significantly moving, so that arms that started off down beside the body ended up out to the side of the body," Wilson said.
The researchers mostly expected some kind of movement during the very early stages of decomposition, but Wilson further explained that their continual movement completely surprised the team:
"We think the movements relate to the process of decomposition, as the body mummifies and the ligaments dry out."
During one of the studies, arms that had been next to the body eventually ended up akimbo on their side.
The team's subject was one of the bodies stored at the "body farm," which sits on the outskirts of Sydney. (Wilson took a flight every month to check in on the cadaver.)Her findings were recently published in the journal, Forensic Science International: Synergy.
Implications of the study
The researchers believe that understanding these after death movements and decomposition rate could help better estimate the time of death. Police for example could benefit from this as they'd be able to give a timeframe to missing persons and link that up with an unidentified corpse. According to the team:
"Understanding decomposition rates for a human donor in the Australian environment is important for police, forensic anthropologists, and pathologists for the estimation of PMI to assist with the identification of unknown victims, as well as the investigation of criminal activity."
While scientists haven't found any evidence of necromancy. . . the discovery remains a curious new understanding about what happens with the body after we die.
Metal-like materials have been discovered in a very strange place.
- Bristle worms are odd-looking, spiky, segmented worms with super-strong jaws.
- Researchers have discovered that the jaws contain metal.
- It appears that biological processes could one day be used to manufacture metals.
The bristle worm, also known as polychaetes, has been around for an estimated 500 million years. Scientists believe that the super-resilient species has survived five mass extinctions, and there are some 10,000 species of them.
Be glad if you haven't encountered a bristle worm. Getting stung by one is an extremely itchy affair, as people who own saltwater aquariums can tell you after they've accidentally touched a bristle worm that hitchhiked into a tank aboard a live rock.
Bristle worms are typically one to six inches long when found in a tank, but capable of growing up to 24 inches long. All polychaetes have a segmented body, with each segment possessing a pair of legs, or parapodia, with tiny bristles. ("Polychaeate" is Greek for "much hair.") The parapodia and its bristles can shoot outward to snag prey, which is then transferred to a bristle worm's eversible mouth.
The jaws of one bristle worm — Platynereis dumerilii — are super-tough, virtually unbreakable. It turns out, according to a new study from researchers at the Technical University of Vienna, this strength is due to metal atoms.
Metals, not minerals
Fireworm, a type of bristle wormCredit: prilfish / Flickr
This is pretty unusual. The study's senior author Christian Hellmich explains: "The materials that vertebrates are made of are well researched. Bones, for example, are very hierarchically structured: There are organic and mineral parts, tiny structures are combined to form larger structures, which in turn form even larger structures."
The bristle worm jaw, by contrast, replaces the minerals from which other creatures' bones are built with atoms of magnesium and zinc arranged in a super-strong structure. It's this structure that is key. "On its own," he says, "the fact that there are metal atoms in the bristle worm jaw does not explain its excellent material properties."
Just deformable enough
Credit: by-studio / Adobe Stock
What makes conventional metal so strong is not just its atoms but the interactions between the atoms and the ways in which they slide against each other. The sliding allows for a small amount of elastoplastic deformation when pressure is applied, endowing metals with just enough malleability not to break, crack, or shatter.
Co-author Florian Raible of Max Perutz Labs surmises, "The construction principle that has made bristle worm jaws so successful apparently originated about 500 million years ago."
Raible explains, "The metal ions are incorporated directly into the protein chains and then ensure that different protein chains are held together." This leads to the creation of three-dimensional shapes the bristle worm can pack together into a structure that's just malleable enough to withstand a significant amount of force.
"It is precisely this combination," says the study's lead author Luis Zelaya-Lainez, "of high strength and deformability that is normally characteristic of metals.
So the bristle worm jaw is both metal-like and yet not. As Zelaya-Lainez puts it, "Here we are dealing with a completely different material, but interestingly, the metal atoms still provide strength and deformability there, just like in a piece of metal."
Observing the creation of a metal-like material from biological processes is a bit of a surprise and may suggest new approaches to materials development. "Biology could serve as inspiration here," says Hellmich, "for completely new kinds of materials. Perhaps it is even possible to produce high-performance materials in a biological way — much more efficiently and environmentally friendly than we manage today."
Dealing with rudeness can nudge you toward cognitive errors.
- Anchoring is a common bias that makes people fixate on one piece of data.
- A study showed that those who experienced rudeness were more likely to anchor themselves to bad data.
- In some simulations with medical students, this effect led to higher mortality rates.
Cognitive biases are funny little things. Everyone has them, nobody likes to admit it, and they can range from minor to severe depending on the situation. Biases can be influenced by factors as subtle as our mood or various personality traits.
A new study soon to be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology suggests that experiencing rudeness can be added to the list. More disturbingly, the study's findings suggest that it is a strong enough effect to impact how medical professionals diagnose patients.
Life hack: don't be rude to your doctor
The team of researchers behind the project tested to see if participants could be influenced by the common anchoring bias, defined by the researchers as "the tendency to rely too heavily or fixate on one piece of information when making judgments and decisions." Most people have experienced it. One of its more common forms involves being given a particular value, say in negotiations on price, which then becomes the center of reasoning even when reason would suggest that number should be ignored.
It can also pop up in medicine. As co-author Dr. Trevor Foulk explains, "If you go into the doctor and say 'I think I'm having a heart attack,' that can become an anchor and the doctor may get fixated on that diagnosis, even if you're just having indigestion. If doctors don't move off anchors enough, they'll start treating the wrong thing."
Lots of things can make somebody more or less likely to anchor themselves to an idea. The authors of the study, who have several papers on the effects of rudeness, decided to see if that could also cause people to stumble into cognitive errors. Past research suggested that exposure to rudeness can limit people's perspective — perhaps anchoring them.
In the first version of the study, medical students were given a hypothetical patient to treat and access to information on their condition alongside an (incorrect) suggestion on what the condition was. This served as the anchor. In some versions of the tests, the students overheard two doctors arguing rudely before diagnosing the patient. Later variations switched the diagnosis test for business negotiations or workplace tasks while maintaining the exposure to rudeness.
Across all iterations of the test, those exposed to rudeness were more likely to anchor themselves to the initial, incorrect suggestion despite the availability of evidence against it. This was less significant for study participants who scored higher on a test of how wide of a perspective they tended to have. The disposition of these participants, who answered in the affirmative to questions like, "Before criticizing somebody, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in his/her place," was able to effectively negate the narrowing effects of rudeness.
What this means for you and your healthcare
The effects of anchoring when a medical diagnosis is on the line can be substantial. Dr. Foulk explains that, in some simulations, exposure to rudeness can raise the mortality rate as doctors fixate on the wrong problems.
The authors of the study suggest that managers take a keener interest in ensuring civility in workplaces and giving employees the tools they need to avoid judgment errors after dealing with rudeness. These steps could help prevent anchoring.
Also, you might consider being nicer to people.