"UMass [University Of Massachusetts At Amherst] Researcher Finds Link Between Lying And Popularity." Science Daily Webpage 14 Dec. 1999. 24 Mar. 2004 <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/12/991214072623.htm>.

 

UMass Researcher Finds Link Between Lying and Popularity

AMHERST, Mass. - The most popular students in school sometimes are the best liars, according to a study conducted by University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert S. Feldman and published in the most recent Journal of Nonverbal Behavior.

"We found that convincing lying is actually associated with good social skills. It takes social skills to be able to control your words as well as what you say non-verbally," said Feldman.

Feldman asked the parents of a group of 32 middle- and high-school students between the ages of 11 and 16 to complete questionnaires providing information about their children's activities, social relations, and school performance. Based on that data, the children were divided into high and low social-competence groups. Student participants from both groups were asked individually to sip a pleasant-tasting, sweet drink, and a sour, unsweetened version, as part of a taste test. Next, they were instructed to persuade an interviewer that they liked or disliked the drinks, even if that was not the case. This meant each participant gave one truthful and one deceptive interview.

According to Feldman, the interviews were videotaped, and the tapes were edited into equal segments in a random order. Fifty-eight college students watched clips of all 64 interviews, then evaluated the participants' effectiveness in expressing their convictions. The results were tabulated against the drinks tested, the ages and genders of the testers, and the social competency ratings provided by parents.

"We wanted to find out if having high social skills can make it easier for you to deceive others, or if being a better liar can make you more popular," said Feldman.

The study found that older adolescents were more adept at deception than the younger ones. Younger or older females were more likely to excel at lying than their male counterparts. Among all ages and genders, those adolescents with the highest level of social competence were the most talented liars. They were able to verbalize untruths while controlling their nonverbal behavior, including facial expression, vocal pitch and mannerisms, posture, and eye contact. Those youths with the poorest social skills had the most trouble controlling their nonverbal behavior when lying.

"This study tells us something about people: It's unrealistic to expect them to always tell the truth. In fact, it's not even the way we want people to always behave," Feldman said. "Children are taught at an early age to be polite and say something nice in social situations, even if it's not the absolute truth. In fact, pretending is part of many children's and adult's games."


"UMass [University Of Massachusetts At Amherst] Researcher Finds Most People Lie in Everyday Conversation." Science Daily Webpage 12 June 2002. 24 Mar. 2004 <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020611070813.htm>.

UMass Researcher Finds Most People Lie in Everyday Conversation

AMHERST, Mass. Most people lie in everyday conversation when they are trying to appear likable and competent, according to a study conducted by University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert S. Feldman and published in the most recent Journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology.

The study, published in the journal's June issue, found that 60 percent of people lied at least once during a 10-minute conversation and told an average of two to three lies.

"People tell a considerable number of lies in everyday conversation. It was a very surprising result. We didn't expect lying to be such a common part of daily life," Feldman said.

The study also found that lies told by men and women differ in content, though not in quantity. Feldman said the results showed that men do not lie more than women or vice versa, but that men and women lie in different ways. "Women were more likely to lie to make the person they were talking to feel good, while men lied most often to make themselves look better," Feldman said.

A group of 121 pairs of undergraduate UMass students were recruited to participate in the study. They were told that the purpose of the study was to examine how people interact when they meet someone new. Participants were told they would have a 10-minute conversation with another person. Some participants were told to try to make themselves appear likable. Others were told to appear competent. A third, control group was not directed to present themselves in any particular way.

Participants were unaware that the session was being videotaped through a hidden camera. At the end of the session, participants were told they had been videotaped and consent was obtained to use the video-recordings for research.

The students were then asked to watch the video of themselves and identify any inaccuracies in what they had said during the conversation. They were encouraged to identify all lies, no matter how big or small.

Feldman said the students who participated in the study were surprised at their own results. "When they were watching themselves on videotape, people found themselves lying much more than they thought they had," Feldman said.

The lies the students told varied considerably, according to Feldman. Some were relatively minor, such as agreeing with the person with whom they were speaking that they liked someone when they really did not. Others were more extreme, such as falsely claiming to be the star of a rock band.

"It's so easy to lie," Feldman said. "We teach our children that honesty is the best policy, but we also tell them it's polite to pretend they like a birthday gift they've been given. Kids get a very mixed message regarding the practical aspects of lying, and it has an impact on how they behave as adults."

Feldman is currently studying how often people lie in job interviews, and plans to expand on the research by studying the types of behaviors people exhibit when they are lying. His previous research has included a study that found the most popular students in school sometimes are the best liars.