Neuropsychologist Breaks Down Planting Duds: The TikTok-Viral Strategy For Vetting Your Relationships

There's a viral relationship strategy going around TikTok that involves dropping a false piece of information about yourself to see if your potential partner weaponizes it against you later. The tactic is called "planting duds," where you tell a budding romantic partner or new friend a piece of innocuous information about yourself to see how they utilize that information. The process is about checking if they'll keep the information to themselves, or if they'll use it against you later during an argument. You're checking both for their discretion and their unwillingness to weaponize seemingly sensitive information. The relationship trend has become popular on TikTok as a way of vetting potential partners. Lizzy's Outside the Box offered a succinct summary of "planting duds" and gave an example. She had started dating someone new and spotted a few red flags, so she told him that she didn't like her middle name. After much persuasion, she told him her middle name (which she actually loved) but asked him never to reveal that name. Four days later, this person started using her middle name.

"Planting duds" has gained a lot of traction online with mixed opinions. Some feel like it's a successful vetting strategy, while others feel that's manipulative. The trend has piqued our interest so Women.com spoke exclusively with New York City-based neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez, director of Comprehend the Mind. We got an expert's take on "planting duds" to better understand this hack that's taking over relationship vetting.

A neuropsychologist says that 'planting duds' involves deception

Relationships are tough and we all want to find ways of vetting a new romantic partner to spare us from heartache down the road. Many on TikTok swear by the "planting duds" trick, and one person commented on Lizzy's Outside the Box video: "Wow, love this technique. Thinking about it, crazy how so many people have used my stories against me. Definitely using this from now on! Thank you!!"

We were curious though, if using a tactic in dating wasn't problematic, even if the effort is an earnest attempt at weeding out manipulators. "Planting duds" seems like a viable way of doing this, so we ran the concept by Dr. Sanam Hafeez. "'Planting duds' can be seen as a proactive way to gauge someone's trustworthiness," Hafeez told Women.com exclusively. "By revealing minor, innocuous secrets, individuals can observe how others handle that information and whether they demonstrate respect and discretion."

However, Dr. Hafeez explained that at its core, "planting duds" hinges on deception, since the planter is holding back their real intentions for sharing the information. "A more direct and open communication style is generally recommended for building trust and understanding in relationships," Dr. Hafeez went on. "Instead of relying on indirect methods like 'planting duds,' openly discussing boundaries, fears, and expectations can foster a healthier and more transparent connection." Our expert offered tips for vetting a relationship that didn't involve manipulation.

What to do instead of 'planting a dud'

There are other forms of communication besides "planting duds" to see if a new person is safe. Dr. Sanam Hafeez shared effective strategies with Women.com about how to evaluate someone's trustworthiness, particularly for those who have previously been betrayed. Dr. Hafeez said that there were five key things to look out for in someone. "Assess the person's consistency in behavior, actions, and communication," Dr. Hafeez explained. "Consistency over time is a key indicator of trustworthiness." The second green flag to look for is reliability. "Evaluate whether the person follows through on commitments and promises. A reliable individual is more likely to be trustworthy," our expert added.

As you get to know the person's past, look for the third key principle: demonstrated integrity. "Look for a history of integrity in the person's actions. Someone with a consistent record of ethical behavior is more likely to be trustworthy," Dr. Hafeez added. The fourth key point is transparency. "A trustworthy person is transparent about their actions and intentions," the neuropsychologist went on. "They don't hide information that could impact the relationship." The final point is feedback from others. "Seek feedback from mutual friends, colleagues, or acquaintances about the person's character," Dr. Hafeez shared. "While opinions may vary, getting insights from others can provide additional perspectives." While it's not as exciting as a TikTok hack, looking for consistency, reliability, demonstrated integrity, transparency, and valuable feedback from others are non-manipulative ways of vetting new partners and friends.