Toma, C.L. & Hancock, J.T. (2010). Looks and Lies: The role of physical attractiveness in online dating self-presentation and deception. Communication Research, 37, 335-351.
This study examines the role of online daters’ physical attractiveness in their profile self-presentation and, in particular, their use of deception. Sixty-nine online daters identified the deceptions in their online dating profiles and had their photograph taken in the lab. Independent judges rated the online daters’ physical attractiveness. Results show that the lower online daters’ attractiveness, the more likely they were to enhance their profile photographs and lie about their physical descriptors (height, weight, age). The association between attractiveness and deception did not extend to profile elements unrelated to their physical appearance (e.g., income, occupation), suggesting that their deceptions were limited and strategic. Results are discussed in terms of (a) evolutionary theories about the importance of physical attractiveness in the dating realm and (b) the technological affordances that allow online daters to engage in selective self-presentation.