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Beware the False Consensus Effect!
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Your Preferences - Preliminary Results
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Popularity Survey - DO IT FOR SCIENCE!
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Zietsch's Response to PZ, Laden and Scicurious.
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The Personality of Cities
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Discussion #1 - Walking Speed and City Size
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People who Doodle Learn Faster = Bullshit
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This is a lie, she said.
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MSPaint is mightier than the Sword
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The Art of Indecision
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Skeptical Checklist 1.1
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The Skeptical Checklist 1.0
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Of Chimps, Children and Post-Grads...
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Video Game Morality: Actions inside the box?
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Psychobabble goes live!
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The Trolley Problem: Who cares?
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Podcast delay and misc. Drugs!?
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My very own Natural Disaster
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A window into your Genetics and Mate Preference?
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Oh sorry, I totally phased out there...
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Porn: A force of Mutual Benefits
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Statistical Pwnage
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Why you should care...
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The paper of Influence
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Sharing: Part I - Emotions
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No-one cuts deeper than a Science Blogger.
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Half Full, or Half Empty? Well, That Depends on the Shape of the Glass.
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What Your Voice Says About You
Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Babushka Blog: A Meta-Blog on ResearchBlogging.
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Willful Self-Deception is Bliss
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A man and his words.
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Little kids, little minds...
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Smoking (maybemightcould) is Good.
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How to stop the Apocalpyse
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How to trick yourself creative
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Psycasm is the exploration of the world psychological. Every day phenomenon explained and manipulated to one's own advantage. Written by a slightly overambitious undergrad, Psycasm aims at exploring a whole range of social and cognitive processes in order to best understand how our minds, and those mechanisms that drive them, work.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

At the time of writing this post it is 12pm. I caught the bus to Uni at 8:30 where I spoke to a bus-buddy. I arrived and did about half an hour of online arsing-around, and half an hour of reading for this post. During that period I spoke to a friend who I also saw yesterday. Then I went to a two hour lecture and engaged in the usually amount of greetings, whispered comments and occasional jokes, half time commentaries and, finally, a brief conversation with the lecture at the lectures close.

I was going to open this post with a question posed: "How often, and how frequently, do you lie?". I decided instead to work out how often I lie...

The research tells us we do lie. A lot. Lies fall into a bunch of different categories. They can vary both in the manner of lie and the content to which it relates. According to Tyler and Feldman (2004) (who was reference DePaulo, a giant in the field of not-telling-the-truth) the manner of lies can be categorized thusly:

  • Outright Lies
  • Exaggerations, and
  • 'Subtle' Lies (including white lies, evasions, and ommisions or relevant information).

My gut feeling is that those subtle lies should be separated out...

The things we lie about also vary; we lie about:

  • Facts (about things, or people; semantic or empirical things, like the colour of the sky or the name of a dog)
  • Feelings (emotions and opinions, etc)
  • Actions (about did, doing, or intends to do)
  • Achievements (acomplishments, etc)
  • Explanations (why's and how's, etc)

Additionally, we can lie about Ourselves and about Others.

...So, instead of asking you about your lies I decided to evaluate and document my own.

I spoke to my bus-buddy about a recent tournament I competed in. It was domestic martial-arts tournament, and I told the following story (which has been abbreviated):

I didn't think I would do so well, but was really happy with how I went. A ring is square and has a judge on each corner, like boxing, each judge scores the points scored by fighters. In my division I was both the shortest and the lightest, which is saying a bit, because I'm in the heavyweights. My first fight I won 3:1 and my second I won unanimously. I lost my third 3:1, but I know exactly where I lost it. I gave the other guy my back for a moment and he beat me in the head, repeatedly. The last fight I had was against a competitor who was 197cm tall, so I didn't walk in with much expectation of winning.

Just FYI, I'm only 168cm tall.

So where did I lie? The biggest lie was a bit fuzzy. In the heavyweight division of ~11 I am the shortest, but I'm not entirely sure that I'm the lightest. I'm certainly one of the lightest, but perhaps not the lightest. The second lie was that I might have only won the second fight 3:1, but didn't get see all the decisions. I know it was at least 3:1, but I can't be sure of the 4th.

The next lie I can recall was a lie of ommision. The lecture I went to has been discussing the developmental perspectives of (human) culture, and the final lecture is on the pervasiveness of religion as a culture phenomenon. This lecture, however, won't be assessed because in the past some sensitive individuals objected to being assessed on the content due to their own beliefs. The lecturer made some arguments as to why he thinks it’s ok to make a single lecture in a series non-assessed given that the lecture series was not specifically about religion. He argues that if the course was more religion oriented such considerations would not have been made because people would have made conscious decisions to self-select in, or out, of such a course. Personally (and I'm sure you can guess where I stand) I object to this kind of accommodating for a-scientific beliefs. Religion is a social and cultural phenomenon - as such I believe it should be discussed in the context of cultural development. I didn't say this, however. I decided to bring up my opinion next week when it could be discussed more appropriately. In a sense I lied (or at least misrepresented myself) regarding the topic at hand.

A lie about my achievement and my feelings - One exaggeration and one ommission. All before lunch.

Certainly I can pretend to myself that the omission was due to social pressures. The first, however, is clearly an exaggeration, but it’s so damn close to the truth... and I know that the person to whom I was speaking has no way of knowing otherwise.

And so this self-aggrandizing pre-amble leads up to a paper I found the other night.

It's about lies.

So Tyler and Feldman (2004) recruited 104 pairs of undergrads and randomly arranged them into mixed and same sex couples. The couples were informed that they would be engaging with this person in a 10 minute conversation just once, or several times over the next few weeks (which itself was a lie).

The conversations were recorded covertly, and one participant from each couple was asked to stay back and view the video and to indicate which statements of theirs were lies, and what a 'more truthful' version of lie would have been.

The data was analyzed by participant gender x partner gender x interaction type (once off or first of many).

...and so what do you reckon? Who lies, when do they, and when would they lie the most?

First of all, the average number of lies per 10-minute interaction was 2.18 (with a range between 0 and 8). 78% of all participants lied, and mean number of lies for those who did lie was 2.81.

Well, it turns out that it doesn't matter who we're talking to. We're just as likely to lie to men as we are women, irrespective of whether we are male or female. This surprised me, personally... it could be argued that there are different things at stake depending on who you're talking to, and lies are a great way of facilitating different motives.

However there were differences. A main effect of gender was found - that is, one gender lied significantly more than the other. Additionally, a significant interaction was found between gender and interaction type. That is, gender influences frequency of lying depending on whether they expect to see their partner again.

Which gender? and under which condition?

Women, in this study, lied more than men. They also did more frequently when they expected to see their partner again (both genders lied at similar rates if they did not expect to see each other again).

People, it seems, lie in the situation in which they are most likely to get caught (marginal though it may be). Tyler and Feldman (2004) argue women do this in order to foster the greatest atmosphere of affiliation. But this seems counter-intuitive given the following... What people lied about:

Everyone lied about Facts more than Feelings, Actions, Achievements, or Explanations, with women lying more about facts than men. It seems women also tended to exaggerate more frequently than men, and we all exaggerated more than engaging in Outright lies or Subtle lies. ... Also, screw other people, we lie for ourselves and about ourselves; lies about other people were basically at floor levels.

I'm surprised at a few things.

First, I would have suspect men would lie more than women, primarily when they expected to see them again, but mostly when they were speaking to women. This was not the case at all. However, my thoughts here are probably guided more by stereotypes than science.

Second, if women are lying to facilitate a warmer, more friendly friend-making atmosphere, why are they lying about facts? Facts can be falsified, either on the spot or at a later date. Lies about feelings would have made a lot more sense, and would seem (to me) to be able to foster a warmer atmosphere more easily. Lying about your opinion on a movie or a lecturer seems easier and less risky than lying about a semantic, objective fact.

Third, it's a shame they didn't keep the second participant around to indicate when they thought their partner was lying, and to indicate how they felt about their partner as a result of the conversation. Not strictly relevant to the hypothesis, but interesting none-the-less.

Finally, I'm not sure that the process that involved participants revealing their lies was fool-proof. If I'm lying I'm hoping not to benefit from the deception.... if I'm subsequently asked to identify all my lies then I'm sure as hell going to be hesitant, if not outrightly deceitful. It certainly wouldn't have been hard to continue in a lie in this context, particularly given that revealing one's lies would be a socially costly exercise. I'm a touch hesitant to swallow the results fully.

For instance, here's a very brief counter-explanation; one which I forced myself to conjure (almost as an exercise)... it's not parsimonious, but given that the previous research is mixed on 'which gender lies more' it might speak to the methodology and the findings. If the findings are well mixed then we would expect non-significant main effects of gender, and in situations where the context facilitates lying or conveys larger social advantage we might find a main effect of situation type, and maybe an interaction between target gender x situation type (and maybe, maybe, a three-way interaction including partner gender).

Women, perhaps, are more honest when confronted with their own deception. When asked to reveal their lies they do so. Men, however, commit more to the lie. They may not lie more, but they may be more hesitant to reveal existing deceptions. Here we can imagine non-significant results between men and women, except regarding the situation type (which includes the situation in which they're asked to reveal their deception).

However, that's just navel-gazing. The data does not suggest this is the case, but merely leaves the possibility open that it might be so. The most parsimonious explanation is the one evident in the data, but I do remain unconvinced that social demands were appropriately eliminated when people were asked to out themselves. Some very, very clever methodology would be required to remove the social pressure and to falsify my claim – this, I’ll be the first to admit.

I did find the paper fascinating however, and I hope it generates a good degree of discussion (or at least argument)... but there's definitely more blog posts and podcasts for me on this topic.

Almost certainly you have an opinion. Simply put, do women lie more?







Tyler, J., & Feldman, R. (2004). Truth, Lies, and Self-Presentation: How Gender and Anticipated Future Interaction Relate to Deceptive Behavior1 Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 34 (12), 2602-2615 DOI: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2004.tb01994.x

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Blog Comments

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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I think I have to agree with your final assessment, the guys were probably much less likely to be honest with the researchers about lying than the girls.  Without knowing the truth, or fact checking everything said in the conversations, it'd be impossible to be sure that your results were accurate.

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Funny, just like Brian, I was thinking that the guys lied more to the researchers about their own lies, as part of the social stereotype that "we can't be wrong", so we have more pressure to make sure that what we have done in the past is the "truth" even if it's not.


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Maybe when "caught" in a lie women concede easier than men. Also could be a woman's socially acceptable tendency to be demure, did the woman tell researchers she was lying more if the researcher was male verses female?

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Yeah, they didn't include that in the results section, but I suspect that's a very important factor too [the gender of the experimenter].

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