UMass researcher finds link between lying and popularity

December 12, 1999

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."
-end-
Robert S. Feldman can be reached at 413-545-0130.

University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Related Lying Articles from Brightsurf:

Lie detection -- Have the experts got it wrong?
Researchers led by the University of Portsmouth carried out a critical analysis of the Model Statement lie detection technique and the results have been published today in the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling.

Wuhan study shows lying face down improves breathing in severe COVID-19
In a new study of patients with severe COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) hospitalized on ventilators, researchers found that lying face down was better for the lungs.

Baldness gene discovery reveals origin of hairy alpine plants
Scientists have solved a puzzle that has long baffled botanists -- why some plants on high mountainsides are hairy while their low-lying cousins are bald.

People may lie to appear honest
People may lie to appear honest if events that turned out in their favor seem too good to be true, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

Lame sheep adjust their behavior to cope with their condition, says a new study
Using novel sensing technology, experts from the University of Nottingham have found that lame sheep adjust how they carry out certain actives, such as walking, standing or laying down, rather than simply reducing the amount they do.

Men think they're better liars
Men are twice as likely as women to consider themselves to be good at lying and at getting away with it, new research has found.

Children told lies by parents subsequently lie more as adults, face adjustment difficulty
'If you don't behave, I'll call the police,' is a lie that parents might use to get their young children to behave.

Heating pads may lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure when lying down
In people with supine hypertension due to autonomic failure, a condition that increases blood pressure when lying down, overnight heat therapy significantly decreased systolic blood pressure compared to a placebo.

More time spent standing helps combat effects of sedentary lifestyle
A study conducted by scientists from the University of Granada and published in the journal PLOS ONE recommends that people spend more time standing, to increase energy expenditure and thus avoid the negative health problems associated with a sedentary li

New test to snare those lying about a person's identity
A new test developed by the University of Stirling could help police to determine when criminals or witnesses are lying about their knowledge of a person's identity.

Read More: Lying News and Lying Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.