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This is what makes a good liar, according to science

Posted by
Lauren Geall
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A new study has revealed the traits shared by those people who think they’re good liars, and it could tell us a thing or two about how they get away with it. 

However much we don’t like to admit it, the ability to tell a few white lies every now and then – and get away with it – is an essential life skill.

Whether it’s avoiding telling your boss the real reason you were late (you stopped at Pret on the way) by replacing it with a slightly more palatable version (“The train was delayed, again!”) or telling a little fib to get yourself out of an uncomfortable decision, we’ve all done it.

Some of us, however, are slightly more talented than others when it comes to telling lies. And those who think they’re better than average at obscuring the truth seem to share a few key traits, according to new research from Brianna Verigin and her team at Maastricht University. 

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The research, which was published in PLOS One, surveyed 194 participants about their lying habits. First, the participants were asked to score their lying abilities on a scale of one to 10, estimate how many lies they had told in the last 24 hours and answer some multiple-choice questions about their lies, including who they had told them to and how they had told them. Finally, they were asked to share the strategies they use to tell lies, and score how important they felt those strategies were. 

After this had been completed, the study identified three characteristics common among those who were self-reported good liars – and they could give us greater insight into how the prolific liars among us continue to get away with their deception. 

Someone with their fingers crossed behind their back lying
What makes a good liar? A new study has found that good liars tend to “embed” their lies in truthful information.

Firstly, the researchers found that people who believe themselves to be good liars “may be responsible for a disproportionate amount of lies in daily life”, meaning they tell a lot of lies while some (39% of the participants) told no lies at all. Secondly, the study found that good liars “tend to tell inconsequential lies, mostly to colleagues and friends, and generally via face-to-face interactions”, and thirdly, that they “highly rely on verbal strategies of deception”.

Strategy wise, there were several popular techniques. 17.6% of participants preferred to keep the statement “clear and simple” when they were lying, while 13.2% said that “being vague about details” was their go-to lying strategy. Perhaps most fascinatingly, good liars also reported embedding their lies “into truthful information” – making it that much harder to pick out the lie from the truth. 

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When it came to the identity of those who believed themselves to be good liars, there was also a clear trend. Among the 194 participants, only 27.3% of the women considered themselves to be “good liars”, compared to 62.7% of men.

While, of course, many of us do not spend much of our time calculating how to tell the perfect lie, it’s interesting to get an insight into the minds of those who believe they’ve mastered the art of deception.

And if the information helps you to get away with a few more white lies here and there? It’s a win-win situation!

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