OSR Journal of Student Research

Article Title

Catfish Relationships: Feelings of Love in Deceptive Romance


Catfishing is the act of creating a false online identity to pursue a romantic relationship. Catfish relationships differ from typical relationships because the perpetrator does not intend to meet the target in person. Deception from the perpetrator can range from minor lies, such as posting outdated photos to major deceit such as posing as a different gender. This study will answer the following research questions: To what extent is love experienced in catfish relationships? Do experiences of love vary based on one’s status as a catfish target or perpetrator, and do they vary by gender? Participants were recruited from a university pool and through announcements on Craig’s List, Facebook, and Psychology Today. They included catfish targets and perpetrators (N = 982) who were assessed using an online survey hosted on Qualtrics.com. In addition to the open-ended questions above, participants also completed the Passionate Love Scale (Hatfield & Sprecher, 1986) and identified their demographic traits. Qualitative data were coded using the constant comparative method. The three most common themes relating to feelings of love in targets included: feelings of obsession, feeling wanted, and a need for affection. Common themes regarding feelings of love among perpetrators included: thrill experienced, a boost in personal confidence, and physical attraction. Targets reported significantly less passionate love than perpetrators, and women reported more passionate love (21%) than men (15%). Approximately one third (33%) of perpetrators indicated that they “liked/loved” their catfish partners compared to one fifth (20%) of targets. Suggestions for future research conclude the presentation.

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