What Is "Breadcrumbing?" A Relationships Expert Explains


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You've no doubt heard of "ghosting" and "gaslighting"—two online dating terms that have broken into the mainstream lexicon with the prevalence of dating apps like Tinder and Happn—but how about "breadcrumbing?" To gain insight into the latest phenomenon in modern dating, we asked Kelly Campbell, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and human development at California State University, San Bernardino, to weigh in.

According to Campbell, breadcrumbing "is leading someone on romantically using online or electronic forums (think: Social media or texting) to keep someone's interest in you, even if you never intend to become romantically involved with them." Much like ghosting and gaslighting, breadcrumbing is essentially an emotionally manipulative tactic designed to make someone dependent on you (or vice versa, depending on the exact relationship dynamic).

Ahead Campbell breaks down the psychology behind breadcrumbing in relationships, including the red flags to watch for, the reasoning behind the manipulative behaviour, and how to navigate the next steps.

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