For her graduate work at Cornell University, Toma and her colleagues recruited heterosexual New York City residents who were using online dating sites that required a monthly fee, such as and

Toma’s team asked the participants to rate the accuracy of their own dating profiles, and then the researchers took their own measurements and looked at driver’s licenses to compare the participants’ profile data with the truth.

The general pattern was that 80 percent of people lied about one of at least three elements that researchers could objectively measure: age, height and weight.

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For example, only 15 to 20 percent of people lied about their age, and the vast majority were honest about their relationship status or whether they had children — elements of their lives that would be difficult to hide from partners for very long.

“We’re seeing that online daters are very strategic,” Toma says.

In general, people tended to lie in ways that were based on their perceptions of what potential partners would find attractive.

For example, women on average subtracted around eight pounds from their weight.

Additionally, women were more likely than men to use profile photos that they thought were more physically flattering.

Women also posted photos that presented themselves as younger than their actual age; on average, women used profile photos that were about a year and three months out of date.

Men were honest about their weight but “strongly rounded up” their height.

For example, a man who measured a little over 5’10” was more likely to list his height as 5’11”.

Yet despite how common it’s become to meet a partner through a profile, many remain deeply suspicious of online personas, especially anytime “troll” or “catfish” stories go viral.

But this perception of widespread deception may not match the reality of online dating, says Catalina Toma, a UW assistant professor of communications science who specializes in online self-presentation.

In contrast, men posted photos that were around six months old.