Who Are Better Liars?

In an article on Time Healthlands webpage, entitled “Why we think Women are More Trustworthy than Men” the depth and believability of lies are put to the test.

The study called “Jo are you Lying to Me? Temporal cues for Deception” was conducted by Marilyn Boltz and her colleagues investigated whether variations in speech rate and latency response provide cues for deception.  They found that men tell and are told more “self-lies”.  These are lies that benefit the liar.  Women, on the other hand, tell and are told more “other-lies”, which are manufactured for the benefit of others.

Diary studies where participants were to record their own falsehoods have shown that men and women both admit to lying in 20-35% of their social interactions.  Boltz’s study, which complements the diary studies, had participants listen to a recorded conversation between “Jim” and “Claire” a couple in a relationship.  They were then asked to determine whether each response was in earnest.

An excerpt from the conversation:

Jim:  Were you happy with the steak?
Claire:  Yeah it was really good.  *Was it your own recipe? (* potential “other-lie”)
Jim:  Yeah, it was.  **It is one I’ve been trying to perfect over the years. (**potential “self-lie”)

The study, published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, revealed gender differences in the type of lie told that depended on speech timing characteristics.   If the speaker took a longer time to respond and spoke quickly, then that person’s sincerity was more likely to be called into question.   Boltz proposed that people were less likely to believe that a woman was lying than a man, because of how society teaches us to play our perspective gender roles.  She states, “Beginning at a young age, males are encouraged to boast about their abilities and assert themselves over others…Women, on the other hand, are encouraged to be more modest in their self-presentation and are taught the importance of intimacy and developing connections with others.”

Claire’s believers dropped from 86% to 16% when she spoke quickly and responded late.  Jim’s believers dropped from 77% to 14% when he told a potential self-lie in the same style.  Boltz is careful to state that long pauses and nervous chatter are not classic assertions of falsehoods.  Also, the premise of the study that the speakers were in a close relationship is important to note.  If a person is interested in gauging truth telling they need to have a baseline and that is hard to do with strangers.

She goes on to insist that a good rule to remember is, “You can train people to some extent but still it’s very difficult to have a human lie detector, just because there are so many factors that can influence one’s behavior.”  She goes on to state, “In general you find that people are not very good at detecting deception.  You kind of have to know the baseline behavior.”

What do you think about this study? Do you think it is an accurate reflection of men and women when they tell lies?

2 responses to “Who Are Better Liars?”

  1. Keith D. says:

    It makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Women bear and raise children, it’s a big investment of resources to reproduce as a woman, so she’ll have an interest in enticing her mate to stay around. Thus the “other-lie”.

    Men on the other hand, have no large investment in reproducing. It’s in his best interest to attempt to reproduce with as many females as possible, and to be successful at that, he needs to look like the most able and apt mate to the females. Thus the “self-lie”.

  2. omar says:

    Considering that women are generally thought of as being more empathetic than men (studies show a greater number of mirror neurons in females) it would make sense that women would be more prone to tell lies that aren’t necessarily for their benefit, lies that are intended to make others feel loved.

    But, still, to say that these “other lies” that women speak are ‘not as bad’ as the “self-lies” of men would be unfair in my opinion.

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