Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Online Dating: Quit Bragging

Why putting your modest foot forward might be for the best.

Source: Pexels

When dating online, conventional wisdom dictates that presenting yourself in the best light possible in terms of physical, professional, and personal appeal is the key to success. However, as new research published in the National Communication Association's journal Communication Monographs suggests, this may not be the case:

In efforts to discover what makes online dating profiles successful, University of Iowa researchers gave 316 online daters one of four possible dating profiles which contained either high or low selective self-presentation (the tendency to highlight our most flattering information while minimizing negative traits) and either high or low warranting of content (adding additional information such as links to professional websites that would verify, as the authors put it, "that the person in a profile is the same individual they would meet on a date").

In their study, titled “An idealized self or the real me? Predicting attraction to online dating profiles using selective self-presentation and warranting”, the researchers asked a national sample of participants for their impressions of a manipulated profile's social attraction and trust and analyzed the participants' desire to date the online profile owner. There were both male and female profiles which only differed in the photograph and height and each of the four possible profiles presented the same education level, type of job, and interests. The differences for high or low selective self-presentation and warranting were created by changing the information found in the summary sections of the dating profile.

For instance, the high selective self-presentation profile indicated that the profile creator graduated with honors, whereas the low selective self-presentation profile mentioned having graduated, but with no indication of standing. The high warranting profile indicated a specific university name and graduation year, whereas the low warranting profile mentioning having completed college a few years ago.

The researchers found that profiles which were high in selective self-presentation (for instance, indicating that their job was "high level and involved multiple responsibilities" and they had "been sought out to write for the blog by its founder and that the blog had many followers") were perceived as less trustworthy and socially attractive, and thus, were less likely to be contacted for a date. Why? It turns out we tend not to trust or like potential romantic partners if they seem to overtly brag about themselves.

A better strategy, as the results of the study found, would be to decrease selective self-presentation (i.e.; bragging) and increase the warranting of content. For instance, creating slightly less flattering summaries (such as indicating having "3 or 4 close friends” instead of "an amazing network", or having a job "with room to grow" instead of a high-powered position, like in the fake profiles), while including high warranting information (such as your employer's website or a legitimate professional networking site) would make you "seem honest as well as humble and approachable”, as the authors note.

The key to successful online dating, then, is to be the "real you" modestly, with links to prove it!


Wotipka, C. D., & High, A. C. (2016). An idealized self or the real me? Predicting attraction to online dating profiles using selective self-presentation and warranting. Communication Monographs, 1-22.

More from Mariana Bockarova Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Mariana Bockarova Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today