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Teenagers Lie a Lot: A Further Investigation into the Prevalence of Lying


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Although it is commonly believed that lying is ubiquitous, recent findings show large, individual differences in lying, and that the proclivity to lie varies by age. This research surveyed 58 high school students, who were asked how often they had lied in the past 24 hr. It was predicted that high school students would report lying with greater frequency than previous surveys with college student and adult samples, but that the distribution of reported lies by high school students would exhibit a strongly and positively skewed distribution similar to that observed with college student and adult samples. The data were consistent with both predictions. High school students in the sample reported telling, on average, 4.1 lies in the past 24 hr—a rate that is 75% higher than that reported by college students and 150% higher than that reported by a nationwide sample of adults. The data were also skewed, replicating the “few prolific liar” effect previously documented in college student and adult samples.
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Teenagers Lie a Lot: A Further
Investigation into the Prevalence of
Timothy R. Levine
, Kim B. Serota
, Frankie Carey
& Doug
School of Media and Communication , Korea University , Seoul ,
Republic of Korea
Department of Management and Marketing , Oakland University
University of Miami
Syracuse University
Published online: 12 Jul 2013.
To cite this article: Timothy R. Levine , Kim B. Serota , Frankie Carey & Doug Messer (2013)
Teenagers Lie a Lot: A Further Investigation into the Prevalence of Lying, Communication Research
Reports, 30:3, 211-220, DOI: 10.1080/08824096.2013.806254
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Teenagers Lie a Lot: A Further
Investigation into the Prevalence
of Lying
Timothy R. Levine, Kim B. Serota, Frankie Carey, &
Doug Messer
Although it is commonly believed that lying is ubiquitous, recent findings show large,
individual differences in lying, and that the proclivity to lie varies by age. This research
surveyed 58 high school students, who were asked how often they had lied in the past
24 hr. It was predicted that high school students would report lying with greater fre-
quency than previous surveys with college student and adult samples, but that the dis-
tribution of reported lies by high school students would exhibit a strongly and
positively skewed distribution similar to that observed with college student and adult
samples. The data were consistent with both predictions. High school students in the
sample reported telling, on average, 4.1 lies in the past 24 hra rate that is 75% higher
than that reported by college students and 150% higher than that reported by a nation-
wide sample of adults. The data were also skewed, replicating the ‘‘few prolific liar’’ effect
previously documented in college student and adult samples.
Keywords: Deception; Lying; Prevalence Of Lies; Teenagers
Despite the large literature on lying and deceptive communication, relatively
little research has sought to answer the question of how often people lie. Instead,
most deception research takes questions of prevalence for granted, presuming that
deception is commonplace and ubiquitous.
Timothy R. Levine (PhD, Michigan State University, 1992) is a professor in the School of Media and
Communication at Korea University, Seoul, Republic of Korea. Kim B. Serota (PhD, Michigan State
University, 2011) is a visiting professor in the Department of Management and Marketing at Oakland
University. Frankie Carey is an undergraduate student at the University of Miami. Doug Messer is an
undergraduate student at Syracuse University. Correspondence: Timothy R. Levine, School of Media and
Communication, 607 Media Hall, Korea University, Seoul, Republic of Korea; E-mail:
Communication Research Reports
Vol. 30, No. 3, July–September 2013, pp. 211–220
ISSN 0882-4096 (print)/ISSN 1746-4099 (online) # 2013 Eastern Communication Association
DOI: 10.1080/08824096.2013.806254
Downloaded by [University of Alabama at Birmingham] at 06:23 01 June 2015
This presumption of ubiquity is problematic for at least two reasons. First, good
science requires a rich descriptive understanding of the phenomenon under study as
a prerequisite to sound theory building and experimental work (Rosin, 2001).
Clearly, knowledge of prevalence would be part of such a necessary descriptive under-
standing. A lack of such knowledge suggests a shaky foundation on which to build.
Second, the presumption of ubiquity may simply lack correspondence with existing
data. Recent research on the prevalence of deception (Serota, Levine, & Boster, 2010;
Serota, Levine, & Burns, 2012) suggests (a) large individual differences in how often
people lie, (b) that most people do not lie with great frequency, (c) that the distri-
bution of lying is not normally distributed across the population, rendering the arith-
metic mean number of lies misleading, and (d) that the prevalence of lying varies
over the lifespan of humans, making college student samples non-representative of
other age groups. What the existing data suggest is that most lies are told by a
‘‘few prolific liars’’ and that prevalence declines with age (Serota et al., 2010).
This research seeks to answer two related questions. First, previous research reports a
negative association between age and the prevalence of lying (DePaulo, Kashy, Kirkendol,
Wyer, & Epstein, 1996; Serota et al., 2010; Serota et al., 2012). College students lie with
greater frequency than adults and younger adults lie more than older adults. This
research questions if that trend extends backward with even greater frequency among
high school students. Second, previous research reports large and nonnormally distrib-
uted individual differences in the prevalence of lying. This research investigates the dis-
tribution of lying among a sample of teenagers. In short, this research tests the hypotheses
that teenagers lie with greater frequency than college students or older adults, but that the
presence of a distribution dominated by a few prolific liars holds across age groups.
Previous Research on Lie Prevalence
Most research on deception prevalence has used one of two methodological strate-
gies: experiments or self-report. Experimental work puts people in situations where
lies might be prompted and observes the proportion of people who lie. The limitation
in such research is that the results are context bound. The alternative is self-report,
either through diaries or survey methods. The limitation is that self-report work
may result in underreporting stemming from social desirability bias.
As an example of experimental research, Levine, Kim, and Hamel (2010) put part-
icipants in situations where they either did or did not have a motive to lie. They
found that lacking motive, virtually all participants were honest. However, in various
deception motive conditions, approximately two-thirds of participants lied. Feldman,
Forrest, and Happ (2002) had participants interact with a stranger. They found that
more than 60% of participants lied in a 10-min interaction, and that lies were more
frequent for participants who were instructed to make a positive impression than
those in a control condition. Furthermore, a reanalysis by Serota et al. (2010) of
the Feldman et al. findings found that across 121 participants, 26% of the participants
accounted for 72% of the lies, whereas 49 participants told no lies at all. Together,
experimental research on deception prevalence suggests that there are situations
212 T. R. Levine et al.
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which reliably prompt deception, but not everyone lies, even in situations where
there is reason to lie.
More widely known and often cited is the self-report work on deception
prevalence. Of that body of work, a diary study by DePaulo et al. (1996) has been
the most influential. DePaulo et al. found that, on average, college students reported
telling two lies per day, and non-student adults reported one lie per day. Replications
by George and Robb (2008) and Hancock, Thom-Santelli, and Ritchie (2004) yielded
estimates for college students ranging from 0.6 to 1.6 lies per day.
Most recently, Serota et al. (2010) conducted a survey with a representative sample
of 1,000 adults in the United States. They replicated the DePaulo et al. (1996) finding
that, on average, people 18 and older tell between one and two lies per day average,
but also found that the distribution was radically skewed, thus rendering the mean
misleading. Sixty percent of adults reported telling no lies in the past 24 hr, and
50% of all reported lies were told by just 5% of the sample. Serota et al. (2010)
obtained and reanalyzed the student datasets from DePaulo et al. and George and
Robb (2008) and found similarly skewed distributions. Finally, in a third study,
Serota et al. (2010) reported college student data, finding that students reported more
lies than the representative adult sample, but that the positive skewed distribution
was again evident. Studies by Cole (2001), Ennis, Vrij, and Chance (2008), and Horan
and Booth-Butterfield (2011), which measured both age and lying frequency, indi-
cated that various individual differences may alter the rate of lying but, consistent
with Serota et al. (2010) and Serota et al. (2012), incidences of lying by young adults
are generally high.
Research Focus and Hypotheses
Although research on the prevalence of lying is scarce relative to research on topics
such as deception detection, previous research provides a coherent picture of decep-
tion prevalence in American adult and college student populations. Most striking are
the individual differences. For most people, lying is an infrequent activity. But, there
are a few prolific liars. The result is that the distribution of the frequency of lying
among liars is positively skewed, and can be modeled as a power function that holds
across college student and adult samples and across survey, diary, and experimental
methods (Serota et al., 2010). When including non-liars, the model can be further
refined using a combination of Poisson and power distributions to separate everyday
and prolific liars (Serota et al., 2012).
Further, age appears to be a reliable predictor of frequency of lying. Older people
appear to lie less often than their younger counterparts. The age effect showed up
reliably in the difference between student and adult samples in both the DePaulo
et al. (1996) and Serota et al. (2010) studies, and age was a significant predictor of
the rate of lying in Serota et al.’s nationwide adult sample (b ¼0.18).
What is undocumented is if general trends of the nonnormal distribution and
increasing prevalence with younger samples extend to adolescent populations.
Nevertheless, we expect this trend will hold. There are good reasons to believe that
Communication Research Reports 213
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high school students will lie more frequently than college students. One reason is
simply moral development. Lying is generally socially disapproved and is a morally
questionable act (Bok, 1999). Foundational research by developmental psychologists
such as Piaget and Kohlberg indicates that morality develops with age (Crain, 1985;
Piaget, 1932). Therefore, one might expect younger people to lie more. For example,
Jensen, Arnett, Feldman, and Cauffman (2002) found that college students rated aca-
demic dishonesty as less acceptable than did high school students. A similar finding
might be expected for lying.
Adolescence is also a time when individuals seek to establish autonomy from
parents, and lying to parents may be a means to covertly establish such autonomy
(Jensen, Arnett, Feldman, & Cauffman, 2004). Jensen et al. (2004) found that high
school students lie to parents more often than college students. Therefore, there
are good reasons, and some supportive empirical data, to suggest that high school
students might lie more than older people.
Although it is expected that mean levels of lying will be statistically higher for this
sample of high school students than for previous samples of college students or
non-student adults, it is also expected that the skewed distribution observed in pre-
vious studies will be evident in data from younger participants. Serota et al. (2010)
showed that the power function for the distribution of lies was robust across previous
datasets. We expect the findings regarding the shape of the distribution to replicate
because positive skew is typical in a variety of socially undesirable behaviors, not just
deception (Serota et al., 2010).
To summarize, these research predictions can be described with two hypotheses:
H1: The average number of lies per day observed in a sample of high school students
will be higher than that observed in previous studies sampling college students
and adults.
H2: The distribution of the number of lies told by high school students will not be
normally distributed around the mean. Instead, the distribution of liars will
(a) have a strong positive skew and (b) fit a power function similar to those
described by Serota et al. (2010).
The data were collected in class from 58 high school students at a suburban New York
high school. The sample was evenly split between males and females. Participants’
ages ranged from 14 to 17 years old (M ¼ 15.45, SD ¼ 0.81), with a slight majority
of the sample being 15 years of age. All the students were enrolled in a class where
students gained college credit for conducting university professor-mentored science
projects, and the data were collect as part of one such project. The data collection
was institutional review board approved at both the high school and the supervising
professor’s university. Demographic data were collected separately from the lie preva-
lence data to maintain anonymity.
214 T. R. Levine et al.
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The instructions and survey question format was identical to that used in previous
research (Serota et al., 2010) except that the survey was done with paper and pencil,
rather than online. Participants were told that the research was about lies in everyday
communication, and they were provided with a definition of lying. Lying was defined
as intentionally misleading another person. It was explained that lies can be big or
small, that lies can be completely false statements or subtle omissions, and that lies
can be told for a variety of reasons. Participants were asked how many times they
had lied in the past 24 hr, and were provided with a grid to complete. The grid
crossed the face-to-face or mediated (writing, phone, Internet, etc.) message format
with the target of the lie (family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and strangers).
Participants were asked to write in how many lies they had told in each of the 10
categories, and to write in a ‘‘zero’’ if no lies of a particular type were told.
The high school students in this sample reported, on average, telling M ¼ 4.1 lies in
the past 24 hr (SD ¼ 3.62, Mdn ¼ 3.0, mode ¼ 2.0, minimum ¼ 0.0, maximum ¼ 17.0,
and 95% confidence interval [CI] ¼ 3.15–5.06 lies per day). The mean was statistically
greater than the means reported by Serota et al. (2010) for college students (M ¼ 2.34,
SD ¼ 2.94; N ¼ 225), t(281) ¼ 3.86, p < .01; and adults (M ¼ 1.65, SD ¼ 4.45;
N ¼ 998), t(1,054) ¼ 4.11, p < .01. Thus, the data were consistent with H1. Means
and 95% CIs for the three groups are visually depicted in Figure 1.
The data were substantially positively skewed (skew ¼þ1.88, standard error of
skew ¼ 0.31) and Kolmogorov–Smirnov and Shapiro–Wilk tests for normality
showed statistically significant and substantial deviation from normality at
p < .0001, as did the visual examination of Quantile–Quantile plots. Curve fitting
found that a power function (y ¼ 4.3316
1.4647) fit the distribution.
skews and significant deviations from normality were also evident for face-to-face
lies, mediated lies, and lies told to all targets. In all, the top 10% of liars accounted
for 33% of the lies and 50% of the reported lies were told by 29% of the sample. Thus,
the data were consistent with H2, which predicted nonnormally distributed results. A
plot of this curve and a comparison with curve fitting of the Serota et al. (2010) adult
and college student samples are provided in Figure 2.
The participants reported telling more face-to-face lies (M ¼ 2.66) than mediated
lies (M ¼ 1.45), t(57) ¼ 3.55, p < .001. There was a nonsignificant trend toward tell-
ing more lies to friends (M ¼ 2.03) than family members (M ¼ 1.41), t(57) ¼ 1.84,
p ¼ .07 (two-tailed). By far, more lies were told to friends and family than to other
potential targets such as acquaintances or strangers (all ts > 5.0, p < .001).
Addition Data on Teenage Liars
As a check on the validity of the results reported in this study, the authors compared
teenager and adult results from the U.K. data analyzed by Serota et al. (2012). That
Communication Research Reports 215
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Figure 1 Comparison of Results With Serota, Levine, and Boster (2010) findings for college students and
adults. Note. CI = confidence interval.
Figure 2 Similar Power Functions Observed in the Data and Serota, Levine, and Boster (2010). Note. Intercept
values are inversely related to the means. The similarity of the slope values indicates that the distribution of
behaviors is similar across samples.
216 T. R. Levine et al.
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study only reports results for adults (18 years and older) but the survey, which was
conducted for the London Science Museum, obtained the same data from parti-
cipants aged 16 and 17 years (cf. Serota et al., 2012, for a complete description of
the methodology and data weighting).
Participants 16 to 17 years old reported telling M ¼ 3.82 lies per day (SD ¼ 3.73;
unweighted n ¼ 122), whereas those 18 years and older reported M ¼ 2.08 lies per
day (SD ¼ 3.57; unweighted n ¼ 2,981). The teenage sample reports telling significant
more lies than adults, t(3,006) ¼ 2.57, p ¼ .01.
This research investigated the prevalence of lying among a sample of high school
students. It was predicted that (a) high school students lie more often than college
students or adults, but (b) the nonnormal, positive skew observed in college student
and adult lie prevalence data would also be observed in the distribution of high
school student lies. The data were consistent with both hypotheses.
Relatively speaking, high school students lie a lot. On average, the high school
students in this sample reported telling 4.10 lies in the past 24 hr. Previous research
with an identical question format found means of 2.34 and 1.65 lies per day for col-
lege students and adults, respectively. These means reflect 75% and 150% increases
over previously reported means, respectively. A comparison with similar data from
the United Kingdom provides convergent validity; U.K. teens reported telling 84%
more lies than U.K. adults.
The few prolific liar pattern was also observed in the distribution of these high
school student lies. The positive skew was six times the standard error, and a power
function curve fit the data. As with other lie prevalence datasets, most participants
reported lie frequency below the mean (71% in these data), and most lies were told
by a relative few high-frequency lairs.
As previously observed, the existence of the strong positive skew renders the mean
misleading. In the Serota et al. (2010) adult nation sample, although the average was
1.65 lies per day, 60% of the sample reported no lies at all. The mode was also zero in
the Serota et al. (2010) college student data. Although the college student mean was
2.34 lies per day, 29% of the students reported telling no lies in the past 24 hr. In these
high school data, only 3 of 58 participants (5%) reported telling no lies at all. The
mode (26% of the sample) was two lies per day, and 52% of the sample reported tell-
ing one to three lies. Clearly, the mean does not reflect the average participant. How-
ever, whereas most adults report no lies in the past 24 hr, most teenagers do report a
few lies, albeit fewer than suggested by the mean.
Interesting questions raised by these findings include why high school students
report lying more than college students and adults and why the prevalence of decep-
tion is nonnormally distributed. It is suspected that there is more than one answer to
the first question. As speculated previously, part of the answer likely involves cogni-
tive, emotional, and moral maturity. Because lying is socially disapproved, there are
long-term social sanctions for becoming known as a liar. Younger people may more
Communication Research Reports 217
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often opt for the short-term advantage that can be gained through deception, whereas
older people may see the long-term benefits of avoiding socially disapproved
It was also speculated that adolescents lie to parents as a means of establishing
autonomy. Some evidence consistent with this speculation was obtained. Students
reported telling an average of 1.41 lies per day to family members (34% of their total
lies). Presumably, many of those lies were told to parents. However, lies to parents are
insufficient to explain teenage lying because teens also lied frequently to friends (2.03
lies per day; 50% of their total lies). Notably, teenagers reported telling more lies to
people they know than to strangers. This is in direct opposition to the Ennis et al.
(2008) study of individual differences, which found that adult students, 18 to 44 years
(M ¼ 23.1 years), told more lies to strangers. This is fertile ground for future explo-
ration, but the teenagers’ greater tendency to test credulity with friends and family is
consistent with developmental psychologists’ views on moral growth and learning.
Also in need of explanation is the robust observation of nonnormally distributed
individual differences. At a macrolevel, lying must be infrequent otherwise it would
not be effective in achieving deception, and if it were ineffective, there would be little
point in lying. If everyone lied about everything, it would make no sense to believe
others, and people would not be fooled. So, for lying to function, most people must
believe others and that belief must be functional. This provides the few prolific liars
with dupes to fool, but precludes lying from becoming ubiquitous. If lying were the
rule, rather than the exception, then little would be gained from either lying or honest
communication because little trust in others’ words would be warranted.
Lie prevalence data has important implications for deception detection experi-
ments. Deception detection experiments report that people are only slightly better
than chance at correctly distinguishing truths from lies (Bond & DePaulo, 2006).
However, in most experiments leading to this conclusion, (a) participants judge an
equal number of truths and lies, (b) participants are truth-biased and guess truth
more often than lie, and (c) accuracy is calculated as an average across truths and lies
(Levine, Park, & McCornack, 1999). As a consequence, the truth–lie base rate makes
a critical difference (Levine, Kim, Park, & Hughes, 2006). If most people lie
infrequently and if most people tend to believe others most of the time, then detec-
tion accuracy outside the lab will be underestimated by deception detection experi-
ments that present equal proportions of truths and lies.
As with all self-report data on sensitive topics, concern exists with the accuracy of
reporting. Presumably, the anonymity of the data collection helps in obtaining accu-
rate responses as does the carefully created instructions (for a more detailed descrip-
tion and discussion, see Serota et al., 2010). Nevertheless, these levels of reported lies
may be underestimates. It is unlikely, however, that social desirability biases explain
the key findings that (a) younger people lie more often than older people, and (b)
lying is nonnormally distributed in the population.
Social desirability may affect responses on surveys, but it also affects behavior. If
older people find lying less socially desirable than teenagers, then they will report
fewer lies, but they are also likely, in actuality, to tell fewer lies.
218 T. R. Levine et al.
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In conclusion, teenagers lie a lot (relative to college students and old adults). However,
a few teens lie a l ot more than most teens. These results provide initial evidence that the
negative correlation between deception prevalence and age extends backward to high
school students. The finding that most lies are told by a few prolific liars is as evident
among high school students as it is among college students and adults.
[1] To fit a power function, it is necessary to exclude those participants who told no lies, as a
power curve requires all positive values of x. Therefore, the prevalence curves are plotted
for liars only. In this research, there are a small number of high school students who reported
telling one lie; relative to the mean of 4.1 lies, this is nearly the equivalent of telling no lies at
all. To improve the goodness of fit, those telling one lie were treated as non-liars. For the
reported power function, r
¼ .900, indicating a strong fit. More important, if those who told
one lie are included, the data still show a pattern, with the majority of lies being told by a few
prolific liars; however, the goodness of fit is weaker, r
¼ .426.
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... Previous self-report findings suggest that lie-telling is most frequent during adolescence (Debey et al., 2015;Levine et al., 2013); however, only lies to avoid spending time with friends were significantly positively related to age. This suggests that the types of lies that are greater in adolescence compared to childhood may specifically be those told in an attempt to manage or avoid conflicts within their relationships. ...
... Thus, it is likely that adolescents are only able to report on the more serious lies that they told, as these lies may be easier to remember over a long period of time. In contrast, studies that ask about the previous 24 h, such as Debey et al. (2015) and Levine et al. (2013), may be better able to capture all lies regardless of severity because of the shorter time frame. Future research using diary or experience sampling methodologies would help address memory issues that may be influencing the differences in reported frequencies across studies. ...
Introduction: Lie-telling appears to peak during adolescence; however, previous research has not yet examined lie-telling frequency in adolescents' friendships. Increased lie-telling may be problematic given that honesty is crucial for trust within positive relationships, and more positive relationships lead to more positive well-being. The present study examined adolescents' lies to friends and longitudinal associations between lying, friendship quality, and depressive symptoms. Methods: Canadian adolescents (Time 1: N = 1313, Mage = 11.65, SD = 11.75, 50% male) reported how often they lied to their friends about their mental health/mood, possessions, romantic relationships, school, and to avoid spending time with them. Participants also completed measures of friendship quality and depressive symptoms. Participants completed these measures at two time points one year apart. Results: Poorer friendship quality predicted more frequent lie-telling over time. Greater depressive symptoms predicted more frequent lie-telling over time, and more frequent lie-telling predicted greater depressive symptoms over time. Lies about mental health in particular were bidirectionally associated with both friendship quality and depressive symptoms over time. Conclusions: These findings highlight the developmental importance of lie-telling during adolescence. More negative friendships lead to greater lie-telling over time. Additionally, increased lie-telling predicted and is predicted by depressive symptoms, suggesting that lie-telling may be an important indicator of poor mental health.
... But as this study shows, the tendency to tell more lies than normal is a combination of situational influences and individual differences. Based on previous research, we know that some groups of individuals generally tell more lies; for example, college students and especially teenagers (Debey et al., 2015;Levine et al., 2013;Serota & Levine, 2015). However, the average is not the primary metric for classifying lie behavior; rather it is where the individual response falls within a distribution. ...
Testing truth-default theory, individual-level variation in lie frequency was parsed from within-individual day-to-day variation (good/bad lie days) by examining 116,366 lies told by 632 participants over 91 days. As predicted and consistent with prior findings, the distribution was positively skewed. Most participants lied infrequently and most lies were told by a few prolific liars. Approximately three-quarters of participants were consistently low-frequency liars. Across participants, lying comprised 7% of total communication and almost 90% of all lies were little white lies. About 58% of the variance was explained by stable individual differences with approximately 42% of the variance attributable to within-person day-to-day variability. The data were consistent with both the existence of a few prolific liars and good/bad lie days.
... It was expected that age would be positively related to lying. Specifically, given that the current sample ranged from late childhood to mid-adolescence and that adolescents report lying more often overall than other age groups (Debey et al. 2015;Levine et al. 2013), we expected that lying to and keeping secrets from parents would be positively related to age. As has been found in previous research, it was predicted that lying and secretkeeping would be negatively correlated with parentadolescent relationship quality (Engels et al. 2006). ...
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Lie-telling and secret-keeping are common behaviors during adolescence. Given the importance of honesty for building trust in positive relationships, the present study examined relations between lie-telling, secret-keeping, and relationship quality over time. Additionally, given the protective role of positive relationships in developing depression, the present study examined how lying to and keeping secrets from parents related to depressive symptoms over time. Children and adolescents (N = 1313; 8 to 15 years old at Time 1, Mage= 11.65, SD = 11.75; 50.04% male) reported on lying to parents, secret-keeping from parents, relationship quality with parents, and depressive symptoms at two time points one year apart. The results indicated that greater secret-keeping was bidirectionally associated with poorer parent-child relationship quality and greater depressive symptoms over time. Thus, keeping secrets from parents appears to be an important behavior to examine in the context of development between late childhood and adolescence.
... First, as noted by , one of the truths about deception is its ubiquity. Every study of naturally occurring deception (e.g., DePaulo, Kashy, Kirkendol, Epstein, & Wyer, 1996;Levine, Serota, Carey, & Messer, 2013;Serota, Levine & Boster, 2010;Turner, Edgley, & Olmstead, 1975) has found information manipulation to be a frequent facet of everyday talk. Given its prevalence, deceptive discourse must present cognitive efficiency advantages over truth telling within many contexts; otherwise, it would not be so widely practiced . ...
... Self-report research indicates that lie-telling increases throughout childhood, peaks during adolescence (13-17 years old,~3 lies per day; Levine et al. 2013), then decreases during adulthood (~1 lie per day; Debey et al. 2015). It is likely that lie-telling increases due to adolescents' desire for autonomy from parental control. ...
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Previous studies suggest parents lack knowledge regarding child and adolescent lie-telling; however, no study to date has examined children’s and parents’ reports of lying within parent–child dyads. The current study examined parents’ knowledge of and influence on children’s and adolescents’ lie-telling. Parent–child dyads (N= 351) completed self-report surveys. Children (8–14 years, 52.3% children female) reported on prosocial and antisocial lie-telling. Parents (Mage = 41.68, 89.5% parents female) reported on their child’s lie-telling, as well as their own honesty-targeted parenting strategies and modeling of dishonest behaviors. Parents’ reports were unrelated to children’s and adolescents’ reports of prosocial and antisocial lie-telling. Additionally, parents’ honesty-targeted parenting strategies and modeling of dishonesty did not predict children’s lie-telling. Parents’ behaviors predicted their reports of children’s lie-telling, suggesting parents’ behaviors bias their reports. Parents’ biased perception of adolescents lie-telling may have negative implications for parent–child relationships.
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Objective: Deception is a motivated behaviour, and there are individual differences in such behaviour. When deceiving others, we also try to offer a socially desirable image of ourselves. We have explored the different reasons associated with deception and lying. In doing so, we made use of the CEMA Questionnaire that evaluates variables associated with “deception, lying behaviour, concealment and self-deception”. We present a revision of Form A that evaluates reasons for lying (CEMA-A) and we link it to the factors for “Predisposition to Lying” of ATRAMIC. Method: The sample was formed of 730 adults from the Canary Islands, between 18 and 76 years of age (Mage = 37.45 years; SD =14.38). Results: Exploratory factorial analysis was obtained four factors: “IntrapersonalEmotionality Motivation”, “Interpersonal-Sociability Motivation”, “Selfish-Toughness Motivation” and “Malicious Motivation”. The reliability was Į .97 and Ȧj .79. Men scored more highly for “Selfish-Toughness Motivation”, “Malicious Motivation”, “Recognition and Acceptance of Lying” and “Emotional Coldness when Lying”; whilst women scored more highly for “Emotional Self-Control when Lying” and “Social Desirability”. The results of multiple regression suggest that people who “admit to lying”, recognise that they are deceiving themselves, that they are colder when lying, and admit to lying mainly for interpersonal (sociability) reasons. Conclusions: The CEMA-A behaves as a sufficiently valid instrument in content and empirically representative convergence. Keywords: reasons for lying; predisposition to lying; social desirability.
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Objective: Scientific tests confirm that certain personality features predict frequent lying. However, lying as a multidimensional construct still lacks a validated measure of dispositional deception to understand this heterogeneous behavioural pattern. Method: The ATRAMIC test was created in order to conceptualize and offer an objective and operational measure of lying as a dispositional trait. We wanted to know what factors from ATRAMIC (the variables of "Propensity to Lie", Personality, Attitudinal and the Sincerity and Social Desirability scales), of the EPQ-R and the IPDE-77, could predict the number of lies per day, in 475 adults of the general population aged 18 to 65 years (Mage = 36.97 years; SD = 13.39). Results: 52.65% of the participants reported that they lied one to three times a day. The ATRAMIC factors correlated more with neuroticism and psychoticism than with EPQ-R extraversion, suggesting different behavioural correlates associated with lying. Logistic regression shows that the variables that best predict the tendency to lie are "Recognition and Acceptance of Lying", "Paranoid Mistrust", "Empathy" and "Neuroticism". As the scores on these variables increase, the more likely it is that the individual will report lying daily. The variable "Acknowledgment and Acceptance of Lying" doubles the probability of lying daily. Conclusions: It is presented as a "dispositional trait" that underlies "the basic personality traits” that define liars. Keywords: predisposition to lie; personality; recognition and acceptance of lying; dispositional trait; frequency of lying.
Honesty is an important value that children acquire through socialization. To date, the socialization process by which children learn to behave honestly remains relatively unexamined. Researchers may have left this area of research relatively unexamined because there is no framework to understand how parents socialize honesty and lie-telling in their children. As such, we suggest that the domains-of-socialization approach, which organizes the socialization process into various domains based on different aspects of the caregiver-child relationship, may provide such a framework. Using this framework, researchers can operationalize vague parenting variables and identify gaps in the research, allowing them to investigate the relationship between socialization and developmental trajectories of honesty and lie-telling tendencies more thoroughly. In this paper, we review the literature on factors influencing children's lie-telling and honesty in relation to the five domains to demonstrate the applicability of the domains-of-socialization framework to research on the socialization of honesty. We also provide recommendations for future research on the socialization of honesty using a domain-specific approach, which will contribute to our understanding of how children develop into normative or problematic liars.
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"Lie acceptability is defined as an attitude toward lying that can vary along a continuum, from considering that lying is completely unacceptable, to a most lenient view upon deception. The present research focused on identifying factors associated with individual differences in lie acceptability in a sample of Romanian adolescents (N =167, 14-19 years). We investigated associations between variables with a preliminary documented theoretical and/or empirical association with lie acceptability (callous-unemotional traits or social desirability), along with exploratory age-specific measures of somatization. Our results revealed that male adolescents who displayed high callousness, uncaring, or somatization tended to view lying as more acceptable. Social desirability did not predict lie acceptability above and beyond these individual predictors. The implications of these findings for attempts to reduce problematic deceptive behavior in adolescence are discussed."
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This study explores individuals' reported frequency of lying to strangers and close friends as a function of (i) type of lie told (self-centered, other-oriented or altruistic) and (ii) attachment style in social relationships. One hundred university students (average age = 23.09, SD = 5.36) completed self-report questionnaires. The close friend could be either a best friend (N = 52) or a romantic partner (N = 48). Results revealed that frequency and nature of lies told to strangers differ from those told to close friends. Attachment-related anxiety was positively related to frequency of lying to strangers and best friends, while attachment avoidance primarily related to deception towards one's romantic partner. Results are discussed as contributing to understanding the use and function of deception in everyday life.
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The goal of this research was to explore the use of deception in romantic relationships and relate the use of such behavior to relational outcomes. Three possible explanations underlying the use of deception in romantic relationships were tested. It was expected that deception would be related to the reciprocal exchange of information, the desire to avoid punishment, and individuals' attachment beliefs. Two hundred and fifty-six individuals (128 couples) completed questionnaires regarding their own communicative behaviors, as well as their partners' behavior. Support for all three explanations regarding the use of deception was obtained. The results are discussed in terms of their theoretical and practical implications.
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Deception research has consistently shown that accuracy rates tend to be just over fifty percent when accuracy rates are averaged across truthful and deceptive messages and when an equal number of truths and lies are judged. Breaking accuracy rates down by truths and lies, however, leads to a radically different conclusion. Across three studies, a large and consistent veracity effect was evident. Truths are most often correctly identified as honest, but errors predominate when lies are judged. Truth accuracy is substantially greater than chance, but the detection of lies was often significantly below chance. Also, consistent with the veracity effect, altering the truth‐lie base rate affected accuracy. Accuracy was a positive linear function of the ratio of truthful messages to total messages. The results show that this veracity effect stems from a truth‐bias, and suggest that the single best predictor of detection accuracy may be the veracity of message being judged. The internal consistency and parallelism of overall accuracy scores are also questioned. These findings challenge widely held conclusions about human accuracy in deception detection.
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The principle of veracity specifies a moral asymmetry between honesty and deceit. Deception requires justification, whereas honesty does not. Three experiments provide evidence consistent with the principle of veracity. In Study 1, participants (N = 66) selected honest or deceptive messages in response to situations in which motive was varied. Study 2 (N = 66) replicated the first with written, open-ended responses coded for deceptive content. Participants in Study 3 (N = 126) were given an opportunity to cheat for monetary gain and were subsequently interrogated about cheating. As predicted, when honesty was sufficient to meet situational demands, honest messages were selected, generated, and observed 98.5% to 100% of the time. Alternatively, deception was observed 60.0% to 64.3% of the time when variations in the same situations made the truth problematic. It is concluded that people usually deceive for a reason, that motives producing deception are usually the same that guide honesty, and that people usually do not lie when goals are attainable through honest means.
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This study addresses the frequency and the distribution of reported lying in the adult population. A national survey asked 1,000 U.S. adults to report the number of lies told in a 24-hour period. Sixty percent of subjects report telling no lies at all, and almost half of all lies are told by only 5% of subjects; thus, prevalence varies widely and most reported lies are told by a few prolific liars. The pattern is replicated in a reanalysis of previously published research and with a student sample. Substantial individual differences in lying behavior have implications for the generality of truth-lie base rates in deception detection experiments. Explanations concerning the nature of lying and methods for detecting lies need to account for this variation.
This study examined the effects of self-presentation goals on the amount and type of verbal de- ception used by participants in same-gender and mixed-gender dyads. Participants were asked to engage in a conversation that was secretly videotaped. Self-presentational goal was manipu- lated, where one member of the dyad (the self-presenter) was told to either appear (a) likable, (b) competent, or (c) was told to simply get to know his or her partner (control condition). After the conversation, self-presenters were asked to review a video recording of the interaction and iden- tify the instances in which they had deceived the other person. Overall, participants told more lies when they had a goal to appear likable or competent compared to participants in the control condition, and the content of the lies varied according to self-presentation goal. In addition, lies told by men and women differed in content, although not in quantity.
This article presents a methodological critique of the predominant research paradigms in modern social psychology, particularly social cognition, taking the approach of Solomon Asch as a more appropriate model. The critique has 2 parts. First, the dominant model of science in the field is appropriate only for a well-developed science, in which basic, real-world phenomena have been identified, important invariances in these phenomena have been documented, and appropriate model systems that capture the essence of these phenomena have been developed. These requirements are not met for most of the phenomena under study in social psychology. Second, the model of science in use is a caricature of the actual scientific process in well-developed sciences such as biology. Such research is often not model or even hypothesis driven, but rather relies on “informed curiosity” to motivate research. Descriptive studies are considered important and make up a substantial part of the literature, and there is less exclusive reliance on experiment. The two parts of the critique are documented by analysis of articles in appropriate psychology and biology journals. The author acknowledges that important and high quality work is currently being done in social psychology, but believes that the field has maladaptively narrowed the range of the phenomena and methodological approaches that it deems acceptable or optimal.