The truth about lying and laughing

truthFrom media darling, psychologist Prof Richard Wiseman, writing in this weekend’s Guardian Magazine (21 April):

[…] A few years ago I carried out a national survey into lying, focusing on adults. Only 8% of respondents claimed never to have lied. Other work has invited people to keep a detailed diary of every conversation that they have, and of all of the lies that they tell, over a two-week period. The results suggest that most people tell about two important lies each day, that a third of conversations involve some form of deception, that four in five lies remain undetected, that more than 80% of people have lied to secure a job, and that more than 60% of the population have cheated on their partners at least once.

[…Can we catch liars?] Psychologists have been exploring this question for 30 years. The research has studied the lying behaviour of salespeople, shoppers, students, drug addicts and criminals. Some of my own work in this area has involved showing people video tapes of instances in which people have made high-profile public appeals for information about a murder, only later to confess and be convicted of the crime themselves.

The results have been remarkably consistent – when it comes to lie detection, the public might as well simply toss a coin. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, young or old; very few people are able reliably to detect deception.

Photo credit: jasoneppink, Creative Commons License

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