Correlates of narcissism, self‐reported lies, and
self‐assessed abilities to tell and detect lies, tell
truths, and believe others
Department of Criminology, Ariel University,
Department of Behavioral Sciences, Ariel
University, Ariel, Israel
Liza Zvi, Department of Criminology, Ariel
University, Ariel, Israel.
This novel research focuses on the relations amongst narcis-
sistic features, self‐assessed communication abilities related
to lies and truths, and reports about actual lying. One hun-
dred twenty‐five participants rated their ability to succeed
at telling lies, telling the truth convincingly, detecting lies,
and believing others. The participants also completed the
Narcissistic Personality Inventory and reported their weekly
lying frequency using designated questions. Results indi-
cated a positive link between narcissism and self‐ratings
of the lie‐telling ability. High narcissistic scorers further
exhibited confidence in their abilities to detect lies and to
convince listeners using truthful communication. Finally,
narcissism correlated with reports of telling frequent lies.
Different narcissistic subscales correlated with telling
different kinds of lies. The theoretical significance of the
present results and their importance to the legal system
deception, lie‐telling, narcissism, perceived lying ability, trust
The abilities to convince others with veracity, to identify when others are truthful or untruthful, and to successfully
lie to others are important aspects of human social life in general and of the legal process in particular (Elaad, 2015).
These abilities are mainly the product of the subjective way a person perceives oneself and others and may therefore
be biased. Our perception is inherently influenced by various internal and external factors (e.g., Dror & Murrie, 2018;
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© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Received: 12 February 2018 Revised: 16 May 2018 Accepted: 21 July 2018
J Investig Psychol Offender Profil. 2018;1–16. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/jip 1
Shechory‐Bitton & Zvi, 2015, 2016, 2018; Zapf & Dror, 2017). The perceived ability to deliver the truth convincingly
is especially important in the interrogation situation. Recent admissibility of DNA evidence in court has led to the
exoneration of innocent individuals who were convicted after confessing to a crime they had never committed
(Kassin, Bogart, & Kerner, 2012). In all these cases, suspects failed to convince the interrogators that they told the
truth. It is currently unclear whether overconfidence or lack of confidence in the truth‐telling ability is partly respon-
sible for these outcomes. When it comes to guilty suspects, their perceived ability to persuade when telling lies is
important to combat accusations of the legal system and avoid being tried and convicted. The perceived ability to
trust others when trust is justified and the perceived ability to detect lies when they are directed to the suspect dur-
ing the interrogation are equally important. This paves the way to the following questions: Can we identify people
with perceived high and low lie–truth‐related abilities? And if so, what drive such people? The present study was
designed to consider these questions.
In a more general sense, studying perceived abilities is important because such perceptions influence thinking,
behaving, and feeling (see Bandura's self‐efficacy theory, 1977, 1986). The concept of self‐efficacy refers to people's
belief in their ability to accomplish their goals. Drawing from the self‐efficacy theory, extreme ratings of the lie‐and
truth‐telling abilities point at how such people may feel, behave, and think.
Earlier research has focused on studying the effects of actual lying and lie detection abilities on social life,
neglecting the impact of subjective lie–truth ability assessments (e.g., DePaulo, Kashy, Kirkendol, Wyer, & Epstein,
1996; Halevy, Shalvi, & Verschuere, 2014; Serota & Levine, 2015; Serota, Levine, & Boster, 2010).
The few studies that targeted these perceived abilities showed that people tend to rate high their ability to
detect lies (Ekman & O'Sullivan, 1991; Elaad, 2018). It was also evident that people tend to rate high their ability
to convince receivers of their truthful communications (Elaad, 2009; Elaad et al., 2012) and their tendency to
believe others (Elaad, 2011). In contrast, the perceived ability to convincingly tell lies was not overestimated (Ekman &
O'Sullivan, 1991; Vrij, 2008). A recent meta‐analysis conducted on nine studies and 1,169 participants (Elaad, 2018)
clearly demonstrated these perceived lie‐telling and lie‐detecting tendencies.
Theoretical explanations of these self‐assessed lie–truth‐related tendencies are grounded in how people per-
ceive or wish to perceive themselves and others. The “above average effect”suggests that people tend to rank their
positive qualities above average and their negative ones below average (e.g., Williams & Gilovich, 2008). Specifically,
lying and dishonesty are considered undesirable attributes, and people are reluctant to think of themselves that way.
By lowly rating their ability to tell lies successfully, they consider themselves honest people and maintain a positive
self‐image (Elaad, 2015).
People further believe that most communications are truthful, and lack of veracity can be unveiled when not
(Kwan, Kuang, & Hui, 2009; Levine, Park, & McCornack, 1999). Such thinking sustains (a) the tendency to believe
others; (b) the understanding that the truth should be believed; and (c) the impression that detecting other people's
lies is an easy task. Further, people are disinclined to think that they can be easily deceived (Tyler, Feldman, &
Reichert, 2006), which motivates them to believe that they are above average lie detectors (Elaad, 2003).
These tendencies are further explained by the fact that difficult lies and simple truths are more available than easily
formulated lies or hard‐to‐tell truths (DePaulo et al., 2003). Telling a lie is believed to be a difficult task whereas telling
the truth is believed to be a simple matter of “telling it like it is”(Buller & Burgoon, 1996; G. R. Miller & Stiff, 1993).
Another explanation is related to the “illusion of transparency”(Gilovich, Savitsky, & Medvec, 1998), namely, the
tendency to think or feel that our emotions leak to other people. The illusion of transparency suggests that in com-
munication situations, senders are anchored to their own internal experience. When they realise that recipients are
not exposed to the same information as they are, they make an adjustment. However, the adjustment is insufficient
(Tversky & Kahneman, 1974), and they tend to return to the anchor, believing that receivers can discern their internal
states; specifically, while their truths shine through, their lies are transparent and easily detectable (Vrij, 2008).
As people vary in the way they generally perceive themselves and others, individual differences are anticipated in
the self‐assessed lie–truth‐related abilities (Elaad & Reizer, 2015). For example, although most individuals believe that
most communications with others are truthful (Kwan et al., 2009), the propensity to trust other people varies
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amongst people as a function of “different developmental experiences, personality types and cultural backgrounds”
(Mayer, Davis, & Schoorman, 1995, p. 715). In its extreme form, the tendency to believe others does not apply to
people with paranoid personality disorder, who are characterised by pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others
(American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
People also differ in how they value lies as good or bad. Some people may categorise lies as dishonest and truths as
honest. In its extreme form, people may view lies as utterly unacceptable and may refrain from lying. Others may see
lies as an acceptable conduct in social interactions and use them frequently. The latter individuals may invest positive
valence to lies and dishonesty (Oliveira & Levine, 2008). It is not surprising that the self‐assessed ability to successfully
tell lies is negatively associated with conscientiousness (Elaad & Reizer, 2015) and actual lying is positively associated
with psychopathy and lack of concern for others and merged with violent criminal behaviour (Halevy et al., 2014).
The correlation between personality features and ratings of own lie–truth‐related abilities is understudied. Elaad
and Reizer (2015) showed that ratings of different lie–truth‐related abilities were associated with some Big Five
personality dimensions. The current study aims to appraise for the first time the correlations between narcissism
and the various lie–truth ability assessments.
A pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and empathy deficits typifies narcissism. Narcissistic
people possess a sense of entitlement. They show unreasonable expectations to receive preferential treatments
and admiration from others. Yet their self‐esteem is fragile and vulnerable; when their ego is threatened, they may
respond with fury and hostility (Kohut, 1978; Ostrowsky, 2010; Raskin & Terry, 1988; Sadock, Sadock, & Ruiz, 2015).
Previous research has focused on the association between narcissism and deception of others (Azizli et al., 2016;
Baughman, Jonason, Lyons, & Vernon, 2014; Giammarco, Atkinson, Baughman, Veselka, & Vernon, 2013; Oliveira &
Levine, 2008). Oliveira and Levine (2008) associated narcissism and positive attitudes towards deceptive communi-
cation. Giammarco et al. (2013) found that narcissistic individuals believe themselves to be better liars than the
average person, and some recent studies linked narcissism to lying or unethical behaviour in various everyday life
situations (Azizli et al., 2016; Baughman et al., 2014; Jonason, Lyons, Baughman, & Vernon, 2014). In some of these
studies, narcissism has been assessed as part of the dark triad, a personality cluster composed of Machiavellianism,
psychopathy, and narcissism (Azizli et al., 2016; Baughman et al., 2014; Giammarco et al., 2013).
Like psychopathy, narcissism is considered a predictor of violence and aggression and is, therefore, an important
personality construct to be addressed in forensic contexts (Kohut, 1978; Larson, Vaughn, Salas‐Wright, & Delisi,
2015). Nevertheless, because personality traits are dimensional by nature, the continuum of narcissism includes vary-
ing degrees of manifestations of narcissistic features and, in fact, includes varying degrees of adaptive and maladap-
tive forms of narcissism. Bearing in mind that narcissism can also be adaptive, connections to other aspects of human
communication aside from “dark”ones are also important, specifically narcissists' tendency to trust or mistrust others,
perceived ability to convince others with their veracity, and perceived ability to detect others' lies. Such knowledge
can be useful both in forensic contexts (e.g., police interrogation) and in the context of understanding the mundane
communication style of narcissists.
Although the association between narcissism and deception has been previously established (Azizli et al., 2016;
Baughman et al., 2014; Giammarco et al., 2013; Oliveira & Levine, 2008), the contribution of narcissism to self‐
assessed lie–truth‐related abilities is scarce. The goal of the present study is to investigate for the first time the asso-
ciation between narcissism and various self‐reports of lie–truth‐related abilities. It is expected that self‐assessed
truth‐telling, believing other people, and lie detection abilities will be rated as high, whereas the lie‐telling ability will
be rated around average. Drawing from clinical descriptions of the narcissistic character and studies on self‐
aggrandising tendencies typical of narcissists (e.g., John & Robins, 1994; Paulhus, 1998), the following predictions
are suggested: (a) More narcissistic participants will rate their lie‐telling ability higher than less narcissistic
participants; (b) higher narcissism scorers will self‐assess their lie detection and truth‐telling abilities higher than
lower narcissism scorers; and (c) as for trusting others, trust is positively associated with agreeableness (Elaad &
Reizer, 2015; McCrae & Costa, 1997; Zvi & Elaad, 2016). Agreeable people consider themselves to be nice, friendly,
and trustworthy (McCrae & Costa, 1997). Because narcissism is negatively associated with agreeableness (Costa &
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McCrae, 1990; J. D. Miller et al., 2011; Paulhus & Williams, 2002), the prediction is that narcissistic participants will
not exhibit higher levels of trust in others than less narcissistic participants (see also Campbell, Bosson, Goheen,
Lakey, & Kernis, 2007).
The lie–truth‐related abilities were recorded using the lie–truth ability assessment scale (LTAAS). The LTAAS
(see Appendix A) is a self‐report questionnaire that was recently developed to individually assess each of the four
Relevant research on narcissism and deception has been frequently performed in the context of studying the
dark triad and using the short‐D3 measure (e.g., Azizli et al., 2016; Giammarco et al., 2013). No relation of the dark
triad traits with actual ability to detect deception was found (Wissing & Reinhard, 2017; Wright, Berry, Catmur, &
Bird, 2015). However, total dark triad scores were positively associated with confidence in deception detection
ability. Specifically, high dark triad scorers judged their success in detection deception task to be better than their
actual performance (Wissing & Reinhard, 2017).
The short‐D3 consists of 27 items, of which only nine items measure narcissism. To isolate narcissistic features,
the present study used the 40‐item Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin & Hall, 1979; Raskin & Terry,
1988) features. The 40 items represent seven dimensions: Authority, Self‐sufficiency, Superiority, Exhibitionism,
Exploitativeness, Vanity, and Entitlement. A recent research indicated that the NPI can be divided into three factors
composed of 25 items from the original questionnaire: Leadership/Authority, capturing feelings of superiority and
desire for power; Grandiose Exhibitionism, capturing vanity and exhibitionism; and Entitlement/Exploitativeness, cap-
turing entitled beliefs and exploitative behaviours (Ackerman et al., 2011). Correlations of the different dimensions of
narcissism with lie–truth‐related ability assessments, as well as reports of actual lying, were analysed.
The following is a summary of our predictions:
To establish internal validity of the LTAAS, it is hypothesised that the lie detection, truth‐telling, and believing
abilities will be assessed above average. The lie‐telling ability will show the lowest ratings and the truth‐telling ability
Significant positive correlations are expected between the assessed abilities to tell lies and truths convincingly,
and to detect lies. The truth‐telling ability will correlate positively with believing.
The lie‐telling, lie‐detecting, and truth‐telling abilities will correlate positively with the overall narcissism score,
the nine narcissistic dimensions, and the three narcissistic factors that Ackerman et al. (2011) suggested. As trust is
not associated with narcissism, narcissistic participants will not exhibit higher levels of “believing others”than less
Both narcissism and lie‐related abilities (tell and detect) will correlate positively with the reported total lies, the
number of people lied to, and self‐gain lies.
2.1 |Participants and procedure
The present study was approved by the University Ethics Committee. We used the statistical power analysis tool
G*Power (Faul, Erdfelder, Buchner, & Lang, 2009), to estimate our sample size. Using a one‐tailed test, a medium
effect size of 0.3, α= 0.05, and power (1 −β) = 0.95, the recommended number of participants is 111. One hundred
twenty‐five undergraduate male students (mean age = 25.71, SD = 2.83, years) volunteered to participate in the
study. The participants were promised anonymity and were given the option to end their participation in the study
at any time. Upon completion of the questionnaires, the participants were thanked and debriefed. The questionnaires
were completed individually, in a predetermined order, first the LTAAS and then the NPI.
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2.2.1 |Narcissistic personality inventory
The NPI (Raskin & Hall, 1979; Raskin & Terry, 1988) was used. The NPI is currently the most widely used measure of
narcissism in the general population (Muris, Merckelbach, Otgaar, & Meijer, 2017). Although it is commonly used in
nonclinical settings, NPI scores are positively correlated with narcissistic personality disorder (e.g., J. D. Miller,
Gaughan, Pryor, Kamen, & Campbell, 2009). The NPI's 40 narcissistic statements (e.g., “I like to look at myself in
the mirror”;“I am an extraordinary person”; and “I find it easy to manipulate people”) were rated by the participants
on a 5‐point scale ranging from 1 not at all true)to5(very much true). Generally, the NPI has a high internal
consistency, which is also demonstrated in the present sample: α= 0.94.
2.2.2 |Lie–truth ability assessment scale
The LTAAS (see Appendix A) is a new scale based on previous single question tests (e.g., Elaad, 2009, 2015). The
purpose was to learn more about perceived lie–truth‐related abilities: telling lies successfully, telling the truth con-
vincingly, detecting lies successfully, and believing other people. The LTAAS was developed to widen the scope of
examples to which the four lie–truth‐related abilities can be applied and to respond to the requirement for reliability
recording of the various questions. The four original questions were included in the scale, and four other questions
were added. Answers were given on a scale ranging from 0 (much worse than others) to 100 (much better than others),
with 50 (as good as others) serving as the midpoint. In an analysis of the questions, it turned out that one question was
misunderstood by several participants who answered a negatively formulated question as if it was presented
positively. It was therefore decided to omit the four negatively formulated questions. The final LTAAS consisted of
16 questions, four questions for each self‐assessed ability (Appendix A).
2.2.3 |Reported lying
The items for lying reports were taken from Jonason et al. (2014). The participants were asked to report the following:
How many lies they had told during the last 7 days; how many different people they had lied to; how many lies they had
told were for self‐gain; how many lies they had told were in order not to hurt another person; and how many lies they
had told were just because they felt like it. Internal consistency between the five questions was α= 0.79.
3.1 |Ratings of self‐assessed abilities to tell and detect lies, tell truths, and believe others
First, the four questions presenting the self‐assessed lie‐telling ability were correlated. All correlations were signifi-
cant (N= 125, p< 0.001) with a rage of 0.643–0.742. Similar significant correlations were computed for lie‐detecting
‐a range of 0.606–0.769; truth‐telling ‐a range of 0.527–0.627; and believing ‐a range of 0.392–0.634, indicating
that every block of four questions aimed at the same ability.
Next, the means, standard deviations, confidence intervals, and other statistics of the participants' self‐assessed
abilities were computed and are displayedinTable 1. Table 1 shows that all lie–truth‐related abilities were overestimated
(the lower bound of the 95% CI is larger than the midpoint —as good as others). Previous studies (e.g., Elaad, 2011;
Elaad et al., 2012) have shown that people self‐assessed their truth‐telling, believing, and lie‐detecting abilities similarly
as high. The perceived ability to tell lies varies (Elaad, 2018) and in some cases is significantly underestimated. The
present results are not in accordance with this latter finding. An examination of the participants' total narcissism scores
may help account for thecurrent results. The prediction of this study was that high narcissism scores would be linked to
an overestimation of the lie‐telling ability. It appears that the mean narcissism score of the entire sample was 3.17 (out of
5), which is rather high, and suggests that the participants exhibited narcissistic tendencies to a large extent.
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A one‐way analysis of variance with repeated measures was used to examine the differences amongst all four self‐
assessed abilities. The analysis of variance showed a significant overall ability effect, F(2.3, 286.2) = 19.6, p< 0.001,
= 0.14, ε= 0.77, indicating substantial differences in the assessments of the various abilities. As the lie‐telling
ability is usually rated lower than the other abilities (Elaad, 2009, 2015), the lie‐telling average was compared with
the average of the three other abilities. Towards this end, a planned orthogonal Helmert contrast was performed on
the mean assessments. It turned out that the difference is significant, F(1, 124) = 31.7, p< 0.001, η
As the truth‐telling ability is often assessed higher than the other self‐assessed abilities, we proceeded with the
contrast procedure and compared the truth‐telling assessment with the mean assessments of the remaining two
abilities (lie‐detecting and believing). A significant difference emerged, F(1, 124) = 23.8, p< 0.001, η
indicating that the observed ability difference rests also on the highly assessed truth‐telling ability. Finally, the lie
detection and believing abilities were contrasted with no significant differences, F(1, 124) = 0.7, ns.
3.2 |Correlating narcissism and self‐assessed lie–truth‐related abilities
The correlations between the total narcissism scores and lie–truth‐related ability assessments were computed and
are displayed in Table 2, which shows that all the presented abilities correlated positively with narcissism. The four
abilities also correlated with each other, with the exception of telling lies who did not correlate with believing others.
3.3 |Correlating narcissism facets and self‐assessed lie–truth‐related abilities
Correlates of narcissism should be further examined at the facet level, focusing on narcissistic subscales
(Ackerman et al., 2011). Ackerman's three factors—Leadership/Authority, Grandiose Exhibitionism, and Entitlement/
Exploitativeness—correlated positively with the lie‐telling, lie‐detecting, and truth‐telling abilities (Table 3).
Leadership/Authority and Grandiose Exhibitionism were also positively correlated with believing.
Similarly, Raskin and Terry's (1988) original seven subscales of narcissism and participant lie–truth‐related
abilities were computed and appear in Table 4. All subscales correlated positively with self‐assessed lie‐and
TABLE 2 Correlations between narcissism and self‐assessed lie–truth‐related abilities
Narcissism Tell lies Detect lies Tell truths Believe
Narcissism 0.574** 0.539** 0.528** 0.234**
Tell lies 0.575** 0.533** 0.120
Detect lies 0.640** 0.299**
Tell truths 0.389**
TABLE 1 Total means, standard deviations (SD), and other statistics of self‐assessed abilities to tell and detect lies
Tell lies Detect lies Tell truths Believe
Mean 55 63 68 62
SD 21.3 17.0 14.7 15.2
95% CI 51.5–58.9 60.5–66.4 65.3–70.4 59.3–64.7
Cronbach α0.894 0.896 0.844 0.804
Note.N= 125; CI = confidence interval based on standard error units.
6ZVI AND ELAAD
truth‐telling abilities and with the lie detection ability. Excluding Sufficiency and Superiority, all other subscales
correlated positively with believing (see Table 4).
3.4 |Correlations between narcissism and frequent lying tendencies
The correlations between narcissistic features and the reported tendency to lie are displayed in Table 5, which
shows that, overall, narcissism is linked to telling frequent lies and lying to more people. Looking at Ackerman
TABLE 4 Correlations between Raskin and Terry's (1988) seven subscales of narcissism and self‐assessed lie–truth‐
Tell lies Detect lies Tell truths Believe
Authority 0.415** 0.428** 0.455** 0.289**
Sufficiency 0.470** 0.381** 0.322** 0.148
Superiority 0.427** 0.449** 0.431** 0.132
Exhibitionism 0.558** 0.548** 0.534** 0.177*
Exploitativeness 0.480** 0.485** 0.451** 0.197*
Vanity 0.597** 0.415** 0.448** 0.203*
Entitlement 0.492** 0.478** 0.477** 0.234*
*p< 0.05. **p< 0.01.
TABLE 5 Correlations between narcissism and reports of frequent lying
Total lies People lied to Self‐gain lies Altruistic lies Lies for no reason
Narcissism 0.296** 0.248** 0.162 0.119 0.167
Leadership/Authority 0.204* 0.126 0.114 0.094 0.184*
Grandiose Exhibitionism 0.318** 0.317** 0.166 0.146 0.116
Entitlement/Exploitativeness 0.294** 0.211* 0.198* 0.121 0.171
Authority 0.216* 0.165 0.112 0.096 0.103
Sufficiency 0.331** 0.327** 0.181* 0.165 0.115
Superiority 0.188* 0.138 0.092 0.059 0.087
Exhibitionism 0.268** 0.226* 0.166 0.056 0.201*
Exploitativeness 0.232** 0.226* 0.111 0.112 0.149
Vanity 0.318** 0.238** 0.205* 0.099 0.160
Entitlement 0.223* 0.168 0.111 0.126 0.169
*p< 0.05. **p< 0.01.
TABLE 3 Correlations between Ackerman et al.'s (2011) three factors of narcissism and self‐assessed lie–truth‐
Tell lies Detect lies Tell truths Believe
Leadership/Authority 0.483** 0.545** 0.545** 0.169*
Grandiose Exhibitionism 0.502** 0.316** 0.339** 0.181*
Entitlement/Exploitativeness 0.445** 0.466** 0.388** 0.157
*p< 0.05. **p< 0.01.
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et al.'s narcissistic scales, it turned out that all three scales are positively correlated with telling frequent lies;
Grandiose Exhibitionism and Entitlement/Exploitativeness are also positively correlated with lying to more
people; Leadership/Authority is positively linked to lying for no reason; Entitlement/Exploitativeness shows a
marginally significant correlation with lying for no reason (p= 0.05); and Entitlement/Exploitativeness is posi-
tively correlated with lying for self‐gain. As expected, none of Ackerman et al.'s narcissistic factors are correlated
with altruistic lies.
Looking at the seven subscales of narcissism (Raskin & Terry, 1988), all are positively correlated with telling frequent
lies; Sufficiency, Exhibitionism, Exploitativeness, and Vanity correlated positively with lying to more people; Sufficiency
and Vanity were associated with lying for self‐gain. Finally, an association was observed between Exhibitionism and lying
for no reason. In accordance with predictions, none of the seven subscales correlated with altruistic lies.
3.5 |Correlations between self‐assessed lie–truth‐related abilities and various lying
Correlations of the LTAAS dimensions with participant reports of actual lying are presented in Table 6. Lie‐telling ability
assessments are positively correlated with actual lying, indicating that participants who assessed themselves as
competent liars reported more lie‐telling than participants who assessed themselves as less competent liars. Higher
self‐assessed lying ability correlated positively with lying to a greater number of people. Self‐assessed competent lie
detectors lied more in general and lied more for no reason in particular than less competent lie detectors. Table 6 fur-
ther shows significantly more self‐gained lies amongst self‐assessed competent lie detectors relative to those who
assessed themselves as less competent lie detectors. Truth‐related abilities were not correlated with the lying scales.
This research focuses on relations between narcissistic features, self‐assessed lie–truth‐related abilities, and reports
of actual lying. Towards this end, a new self‐assessed ability scale, which replaces an earlier single‐question format
(e.g., Elaad, 2009), was introduced. As with previous accounts, it was observed that the lie‐telling ability is
assessed significantly lower than the other three abilities. It was explained that people may associate the ability
to lie with dishonesty and underscore their lying ability to maintain a positive self‐image. Still, the results of the
present study show that the lie‐telling ability was appointed a mean score that is higher than average, which is
indicative of the tendency to consider lying as a positive quality, which may serve a person well in social situations
(Kashy & DePaulo, 1996). It seems that the two opposite tendencies are active in lie‐telling ability assessments, as
was recently considered by Elaad (2018) who showed that religious females are inclined to rate their lie‐telling
ability very low whereas secular males tend to rate these abilities much higher. Occupations that require lying
skills (e.g., police interrogators, criminal prosecutors, spies, salespersons, and actors) may force people to raise their
lie‐telling ability assessments. On the other hand, applying for a job that requires above average lie‐telling skills
may activate self‐selection, and only people who consider themselves good liars will ultimately apply. The two
TABLE 6 Correlations between lie–truth ability assessment scale dimensions and actual reported lying
Total lies People lied to Self‐gain lies Altruistic lies Lies for no reason
Tell lies 0.236** 0.224* 0.161 0.081 0.160
Detect lies 0.248** 0.127 0.201* 0.118 0.210*
Tell truths 0.073 −0.016 0.061 −0.140 0.039
Believe 0.141 0.046 0.101 0.084 0.114
*p< 0.05. **p< 0.01.
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opposing lie‐telling ability assessment tendencies await further clarifications. A first step in this direction was made
in this study by correlating the lie‐telling ability assessments with the narcissism scale and its facets. The results
show strong relations between self‐assessments of the lie‐telling ability and narcissism. The high positive
correlations were found for the total narcissistic count and for each narcissistic facet. The results suggest that
narcissistic features motivate people to rate high their own lie‐telling ability assessments. Alternatively, perceiving
the ability to tell lies persuasively leads people to grandiosity and other narcissistic feelings and thoughts. Further,
high lie‐telling scorers reported having told many more lies in a period of a week than lower lie‐telling scorers.
They also told lies to many more different people. This replicates earlier results by Schneider and Goffin (2012)
who developed the Perceived Ability to Deceive scale and found an association between the perceived lie‐telling
ability and self‐reported counterproductive workplace behaviour.
The results suggest that there are strong bonds between the perceived lie‐telling ability, narcissistic features, and
frequent lie‐telling. In the opposite extreme, we can find people who find it difficult to persuade others to believe
their lies. These people have little or no narcissistic qualities and tend to stick to the truth.
It may be speculated that differences in narcissistic tendencies may account for the inconsistent results found in
previous studies on student and layperson self‐assessed lie‐telling ability (see Elaad, 2018).
Narcissism and the self‐assessed lie‐telling ability are relevant to both everyday social life and the forensic
context. People lie from time to time to maintain the plausibility of their messages. Overconfidence in the lie‐telling
ability by narcissistic people may lead to frequent lies and increased uncertainty in social interactions.
The perceived lie‐telling ability was found to be positively correlated with the perceived lie detection ability
(Table 2). Specifically, participants who rated high their lie‐telling skill rated high their lie detection skill, and vice
versa, those who assessed low their lie‐telling ability assessed low their lie detection ability as well. Unlike the lie‐tell-
ing ability assessment, the assessed lie detection ability is consistently biased in one direction—overestimation. The
overrated lie detection ability refers to the tendency of people to think positively of themselves. People do not like
to think that others can easily deceive them. By rating high their lie‐detecting ability, they protect themselves from
feeling gullible. The following question is what distinguishes between people who really believe that they are above
average lie detectors and people who rate high their lie detection ability simply because they are motivated to deny
being easily deceived by others? The question can be partly answered by the correlation between lie detection and
narcissism. On the individual level, one may speculate that people who rate high their lie detection ability and show
narcissistic features really believe that they possess the ability to detect lies. This speculation should be examined in
the future with a well‐designed study.
Results indicated that both the overall narcissistic count and the 10 individual narcissistic components are
positively correlated with the self‐assessed lie‐detecting ability. This may imply that in the present study, most male
participants really believed that they are above average lie detectors. Further support to this conclusion can be found
in a study by Williams and Gilovich (2008), which showed that people truly believe in their self‐enhanced ratings and
take their estimates seriously enough to guide their actions.
The assessed lie detection ability correlated positively with the number of lies told, self‐gained lies, and lies that
were told without any reason. This is another indication of the firm ties between the perceived lie‐telling and lie‐
The perceived truth‐telling ability emerged as the highest rated ability (Elaad, 2015). It seems that participants
were confident in their ability to convince when telling the truth. This is consistent with the belief that telling the truth
is a simple matter of “telling it like it is”(e.g., Buller & Burgoon, 1996) and that telling the truth is cognitively simpler
than lying (Gamer, 2011; Verschuere, 2016; Vrij, Fisher, Mann, & Leal, 2006). The relatively high rating of the truth‐
telling ability is also explained by the general assumption that we are often telling the truth and we are proud of it.
Therefore, we are anxious to be believed and are certain that there is no reason for other people to doubt our own
In the legal process, admissibility of DNA evidence in court has led to the exonerations of innocent individuals
who were convicted after confessing to a crime they had not committed. The Innocence Project has reported on
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more than 300 such DNA exonerations (Kassin, 2015). The present results suggest that innocent suspects may find
themselves trapped by police interrogators with narcissistic features, overestimated ability to detect lies, and
conviction in the suspects' guilt. In such a case, proving innocence is almost impossible.
Is self‐assessed ability to be convincing when telling the truth associated with false confessions? Interrogated
innocent suspects believe that truth will prevail and be ultimately validated (Kassin, 2005, 2008; Kassin et al.,
2012; Perillo & Kassin, 2010). The present study shows that overconfidence in the ability to convince when telling
the truth is associated with narcissism. Do innocent narcissistic suspects rely on their perceived ability to win with
their truth and vigorously try to convince their interrogators of their innocence? Alternatively, is narcissistic overcon-
fidence associated with an arrogant stance of making no effort to convince? Perhaps relying on the ability to per-
suade when telling the truth later on in court? Because narcissism is also considered a predictor of violence and
aggression and narcissists are over‐represented amongst criminals (Bushman & Baumeister, 2002; Larson et al.,
2015), the state of mind and behaviour of confident truth tellers with narcissistic features within the criminal justice
system deserve additional research attention.
At the same time, there are few people who rate relatively low their own truth‐telling ability. These people
achieve low narcissism scores (Table 2) and exhibit low scores in each of the various narcissistic facets (Tables 3
and 4). In the context of the criminal interrogation, such innocent suspects may feel that they are unable to deliver
their truth convincingly and find themselves trapped in a deadlock. False confessions may seem to be the only
way out. It is necessary to further explore the state of mind of such innocent suspects.
It appears that the self‐assessed ability to convince when telling the truth is related to participants' level of
believing others. Previous research showed that the tendency to believe others is overestimated (e.g., Elaad,
2011). It was found that the ability to believe others correlated with the overall narcissism score and with most
narcissism facets, excluding Sufficiency and Superiority, which diverges from the positive association between trust
and agreeableness (Elaad & Reizer, 2015; McCrae & Costa, 1997) and the negative association between agreeable-
ness and narcissism (J. D. Miller et al., 2011; Paulhus & Williams, 2002).
Nevertheless, some studies have failed to show negative correlations between narcissism and agreeableness
(Giammarco et al., 2013; Lee & Ashton, 2005) and assumed that this may be indicative of an adaptive and prosocial
elements of narcissism. It was further suggested that different facets of narcissism reflect different levels of adaptiv-
ity. For example, Authority represents an adaptive aspect of narcissism (Ackerman et al., 2011). Indeed, inspection of
the correlations between the self‐assessed believing ability and various narcissistic facets shows that most were
positively correlated including the Authority facet.
As to the relations between narcissism and actual lies that are reported by the participants, it turned out that
high narcissism scores are correlated with telling more lies than low narcissism scores. Results are consistent with
recent evidence on the link between narcissism and lying (Azizli et al., 2016; Baughman et al., 2014; Jonason et al.,
2014). Analysis at the facet level showed that all narcissistic subscales correlate positively with reported lying. Yet
different facets are associated with different kinds of lies. Sufficiency and Vanity are associated with lying for self‐
gain. Leadership/Authority and Exhibitionism are associated with lying for no reason. Entitlement/Exploitativeness
is associated with both kinds of lies. Consistent with narcissistic self‐centredness, none of the narcissistic facets is
correlated with frequent altruistic lies.
The present findings strengthen the need for additional research on self‐assessed lie–truth‐related abilities
within the context of individual differences. Personality correlates should be further examined as well as other factors
(i.e., research indicates possible effects of religiosity and in‐service occupational experience on the lie–truth‐rated
abilities; Elaad, 2018).
The present sample of participants consisted of male students, which does not necessarily represent the general pop-
ulation. Being a student may imply a degree of adaptive personality features, such as the ability to learn. Therefore, it
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is suggested to assess the contribution of narcissism to lie–truth‐related abilities with different samples of partici-
pants (e.g., lay people from the community). It is also suggested to use female and mixed samples. At present, it
remains unclear whether different samples of participants will show similar results.
The direction of association between narcissism and lie–truth‐related ability assessments cannot be inferred with
certainty. Specifically, it is not clear whether narcissism influences the ability assessments or vice versa. Future
research may clarify this point.
Further, narcissism is only one of many possible factors that influence self‐assessment of the lie–truth‐related
abilities. Future studies may examine whether stress situations, coping strategies, differences in stress appraisal,
different values, or professional expertise in lie‐telling and lie detection affect how narcissism relates to the
assessments of these abilities.
Finally, this is a self‐report correlational study. As such, it is impossible to present real effects. We already know
that self‐assessed lie–truth‐related abilities are biased and do not reflect actual abilities to tell and detect lies and
truths. Still, these biased assessments may affect behaviour, thinking, memory, emotional manifestations, and
achievements. The current lying behaviour was also based on self‐reports, which should be treated with caution
because estimates of lying may not be valid. Nevertheless, Halevy et al. (2014) demonstrated positive correlations
between actual lying and self‐reports about lying. Future research should further correlate actual lying with biased
assessment of lying ability.
The present results show that the new LTAAS is both reliable and valid. The validity can be extracted from
replications of previous results on lie–truth‐related abilities and from positive correlations with narcissistic features
and reported lies. Results re‐emphasise the prominence of the perceived truth‐telling ability amongst other perceived
lie/truth abilities. Truth‐telling is important in protecting existing relationships, pursuing new relationships, ensuring
product or service quality, and many other social contacts including legal and forensic circumstances. The lie‐telling
ability was assessed lower than all other recorded abilities. However, strong relations exist between the lie‐telling
ability assessments and various narcissistic qualities. Previous results emphasised the association between narcissism
and deception. We can now say that narcissism is also associated with the perceived ability to deceive.
Finally, the ability to convincingly lie is associated with frequent lying as reported by the participants.
The present results enrich our understanding of the contribution of the described abilities to deception.
However, research is now being built up, and there is room for many more studies to learn more about biases in
the self‐assessed lie–truth‐related abilities.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
None of the authors has any conflict of interest resulting from this study.
Liza Zvi http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4610-2275
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How to cite this article: Zvi L, Elaad E. Correlates of narcissism, self‐reported lies, and self‐assessed abilities
to tell and detect lies, tell truths, and believe others. J Investig Psychol Offender Profil. 2018;1–16. https://doi.
Carefully read the following questions and answer all of them. Mark your answer by circling the option that best
reflects your feeling. You may also select another option that is not listed in the questionnaire (for example, 45).
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