Lies: tendency to dishonesty depends on gender and age
"Honesty lasts the longest!" This saying probably best expresses how important honesty is to most people. But some people find it harder than others to always tell the truth. A study has now shown that men lie more often than women.
Not everyone takes honesty so seriously
Honesty plays a central role in social and economic life. Without them, promises will not be kept or contracts will not be fulfilled. Scientific studies have shown that not all people in different situations take honesty equally seriously. Years ago, scientists from the Universities of Regensburg and Hamburg reported an experiment in which it was found that women in groups were more honest, while men in groups increased lying. A new study has now shown that the tendency towards dishonesty in the so-called “strong gender” is more pronounced anyway.
Provide personal benefits
From cheating on tax returns to the big corruption scandals - people lie again and again to gain personal benefits.
Experimental studies explore the factors that make people liars.
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Educational Research and the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology have now carried out an extensive meta-analysis on lies, summarizing the findings from 565 studies.
According to a message from the institute, the results show, among other things, that the tendency towards dishonesty depends on age and gender.
The study was recently published in the Psychological Bulletin.
Personal factors and environmental factors play a role
The basic conflict of any lie is the choice you have. Either you are honest and forego advantages or you lie to gain more money, power or fame, for example.
Why people lie depends on personal factors and environmental factors. In order to investigate these empirically, many published studies have simulated this basic conflict in simple experiments, for example in the form of the coin toss game.
Test subjects flip a coin without anyone watching them. For example, they give the result to the experimenter by computer. With heads they get money, with numbers they go empty-handed.
If this experiment is carried out more often and with many test subjects, the ratio of head to number should total fifty to fifty.
However, almost all studies show that the participants call head more than number more often. That means: at least some test subjects lie to "earn" more money.
Data from 565 studies analyzed
Over the past decade, researchers have conducted numerous studies using this or similar basic structure to investigate the various factors that lead to dishonesty.
Do nuns lie more often than inmates? Do you lie online or on the phone? Are you more likely to lie if you expect more money?
For the current meta-analysis, the scientists from Germany and Israel considered the data from 565 studies with a total of 44,050 subjects.
"Although there are numerous studies that investigate who, when and why lies, the results are not clear, sometimes even contradictory," explains Philipp Gerlach, Associate Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
"With the large amount of data from all studies, we can now make clearer statements about some factors," said the first author of the study.
Younger people lie more often
In the experiments examined, a total of 42 percent of all men and 38 percent of all women lied.
This confirmed the assumption that men lie more often than women - even if the difference is only slight.
It was also found that younger people lied more often than older ones. According to the information, the likelihood of someone lying decreased by 0.28 percentage points each year.
While it is around 47 percent for a 20-year-old, it is only 36 percent for a 60-year-old.
However, the study was unable to confirm other factors that were repeatedly discussed. For example, the scientists found no evidence that economics students lie particularly often.
Structural differences in the experimental setup influenced subjects
According to the information published for the meta-analysis as well as not yet published studies from psychology as well as from economics were used.
This work examined the extent of dishonesty with the help of a few, but very different, experimental arrangements. In some cases dishonesty related to a random result, such as the coin toss game.
In others, dishonesty related to the level of your own skills, for example whether a math puzzle was solved correctly.
The researchers were able to show that such structural differences in the experimental setup influence the behavior of the test subjects and thus lead to different results on the extent of dishonesty.
"If you want to know the extent to which people are inclined to behave dishonestly, it is essential to take into account the experimental situations and temptations that people are confronted with," says Ralph Hertwig, director of the "Adaptive Rationality" research area at the Max Planck Institute for educational research.
"This suggests that dishonesty is not just a person's quality, but that it interacts systematically with the environmental conditions," said the expert. (ad)