Online dating – a psychological approach on how to spot a catfish

In our increasingly digital world, one huge area of interest and traffic is online dating and relationships. The perceived anonymity and security we find behind a screen has some benefits for sure, but in the dating world it was some troubling implications. Once such issue is lying and catfishing. So is there any way to tell when someone is lying on a dating profile or when they’re texting you? Thankfully, psychology and research in linguistics suggests yes!


There are a few signs and tricks to be aware of. First of all, it’s good to have some idea of what people may lie about.

Men tend to lie about their status, income and height most. Women are more likely to lie about their body/appearance and age.

Ok, so how can you tell? There are some language trends that people tend to subconsciously use when they lie.

Lying is generally considered bad and hence is associated with feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety. This may be evidenced in an online dating profile or in messages by frequent use of negations (words like “no,” “not,” or “never) and negative emotion words (like “hate,” “sorry,” or “worthless”). The liar will also want to distance themselves from the lie; this will be indicated by a lack of self-reference words like “I” or “me”.

Lying also required more mental processing than telling the truth – you have to keep track of a story that’s made up and make sure you’re consistent in that fabrication. This manifests itself in several ways. Firstly, the liar will use fewer words altogether. Messages will likely be short and simple – easier for them to remember and keep track of, probably vague because concrete details can be tripping points. They are likely to use few exclusive words and replace them with more motion words. Exclusive words like “but”, “without” or “except” require more processing because they are categorising.


Now, all of these signs will be more prominent in “real-time” interactions because there is less time to plan and process responses. In an online profile, the individual has more time to make their information appear truthful.

So stay alert, don’t let feelings override logic, and for goodness sake DON’T send anyone money!


Stay safe,


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