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Singles willing to lie for dates

Aug. 31, 2004

By DEANNA L. LOWERY, reporter

Think it's too hard to get a date? Jump on the bandwagon: try lying.

In recent studies conducted by Dr. Wade Rowatt, psychology and neuroscience assistant professor, harmless lying to attract a potential dating partner was found to be the norm for many college-aged adults.

According to one study, Rowatt found people reported being more willing to lie about their personal appearance, personality, income, past relationship outcomes, career skills and course grades to prospective dates they considered "facially attractive" than the less facially attractive prospective dates.

Rowatt, who is starting his eighth year teaching at Baylor, conducted his research at Kentucky's University of Louisville with fellow researchers Michael Cunningham and Perri Druen while working on his master's degree. He received his doctorate in experimental social psychology from the same university.

Instead of delving into the deep, psychological issues associated with neurosis and pathological lying, Rowatt investigated "the more subtle form of deception, those little white lies people tell every day."

Rowatt, who admittedly liked exploring "the dark side of relationships," met wife and fellow Baylor psychology professor Dr. Tamara Rowatt while at Louisville.

She works alongside her husband in the psychology department covering classes and says she is "spending all my free time with our twin daughters." She also received her doctorate from the University of Louisville and has been teaching at Baylor since 1998.

Wade conducted two separate sets of research, both dealing with lying in order to get a date, consisting of four separate studies. Each involved between 75 and 100 unknowing psychology students at the university who believed they were participating in a blind dating service. Each student was first given a round of tests to determine their ideas about love as well as general personality traits.

Students were then shown several pictures of prospective dates, half attractive and half unattractive.

Attractiveness was measured on an objective "facialmetric" scale: more physically attractive faces contained higher cheekbones, large eyes, smaller nose, wider chin, etc.

The attractive prospects were given a set of highly undesirable traits -- self-consciousness, emotional instability, moodiness -- while the unattractive were made desirable. The study labeled these candidates as humorous and outgoing with excellent social skills.

"When people are motivated to get a date, they are more likely to lie to meet the expectations [of the person they are pursuing]," Wade Rowatt said.

In the first set of research, Wade Rowatt specifically investigated males and females considered to be high self-monitors. These are people extremely aware of themselves and very "others-oriented," possessing a heightened awareness of how others perceive them.

The research also indicated that the tendency to conform to the prospective date's set of ideals is more consistent with those who are highly aware of themselves.

Changing personalities from partner to partner, these social chameleons feel more comfortable being who they think others want them to be.

He made sure to point out, however, that these lies are "not as planned as people think -- not intending to mislead, as a consensus."

His findings also unearthed no distinction between the willingness of males and females to lie.

In fact, the most marked difference between the sexes found in the research was that men were more likely to lie about their personality and economic status while women's deception involved enhancing their physical appearance.

He also gave hope to those who lack that certain flair for lie-detecting. "After having repeated interactions with an individual," he said, "you are more likely to pick up on consistencies and inconsistencies."