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Humans are not very good at spotting a lie. In fact, research has consistently found that our accuracy rate for detecting deception is only about 54 percent – just a smidge above a coin toss. While the occasional white lie here and there isn’t too terrible, becoming a frequent liar is a clear and distinct line that should never be crossed. Even if it’s not their intention, liars destroy trust and will never be able to maintain a healthy relationship for long. Let’s begin unpacking the science of lying with these six truths everyone should know about those who frequently lie.
1. Prolific Liars Think They Are Good Liars – According to a 2019 study, prolific liars consider themselves to be a good liar. Brianna Verigin and other co-authors of the study explain that good liars seem to be responsible for a disproportionate amount of lies in daily life. The findings demonstrate that “higher self-reported ratings of individuals’ deception ability were positively correlated with self-reports of telling a greater number of lies each day.” Deception, for the prolific liar, is not an unconscious habit of stretching the truth. Instead, it involves skill and strategy to make a lie hard to spot.
2. They Prefer Lying Face-to-Face – Researchers also found that higher self-reported deception ability was correlated with preferring to tell lies face-to-face, but not correlated with preference in telling lies via text message, phone call, email, or social media. This study fits in with a 2017 study which also examined characteristics of self-reported good versus poor liars, showing that “self-perceived good liars most commonly lied via face-to-face interactions versus through text chat.” The research here suggests that this could be a strategic decision of the prolific liar in that verbal strategies of deception work best face-to-face.
3. The Most Common Recipients of the Prolific Liars’ Lies – This study found that skilled liars tend to deceive mostly their friends, colleagues, and romantic partners as opposed to family, employers, or authority figures. The authors explain that this suggests that good liars are not as restricted in who they lie to as poor liars, who past research has shown tend to tell more lies to casual acquaintances and strangers than to friends and family.
4. They Tend to Tell Inconsequential Lies – Another finding from the study shows that an expert liar would tend to tell more inconsequential lies than lies of serious consequence. The findings from the self-reports reveal that an increased ability to deceive was positively correlated with higher endorsement of telling white lies and exaggerations within the past 24 hours. The authors of this study theorize that “people who believe they can get away with such minor falsehoods may be more inclined to include them frequently in daily interactions.”
5. The Majority of Lies Are Told by a Minority of Liars – Previous research reveals that most people are honest most of the time and that the vast majority of lies are only told by a handful of liars. In fact, a 2010 study of 1,000 participants found that 50 percent of all the lies reported in a 24-hour period were told by 5 percent of the respondents, the prolific liars.
6. Men or Women: Who Is the Better Liar? – The 2019 study found that men are twice as likely as women to consider themselves to be good at lying and at getting away with it. Out of the self-reported poor liars, 70 percent were female compared to 30 percent male. Additionally, from the participants who identified themselves to be good liars, about 62 percent were male whereas around 37 percent were female.
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