Most lies are told by a few ‘superliars’ and the rest of people are fairly honest, finds study

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Most lies are told by a few ‘superliars’ and the rest of people are fairly honest, finds study analysing 116,000 fibs told by 632 students over 91 days

  • Academics discovered in a study that most fibs are told by ‘a few prolific liars’
  • The researchers analysed 116,336 lies told by 632 undergraduates over 91 days
  • The study found 75 per cent of people who took part were ‘low-frequency liars’  


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From little white lies to whoppers, it’s long been claimed that people on average tell two fibs a day.

But according to a new study, most untruths are told by a few ‘super-liars’ and the rest of us are in fact fairly honest.

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Social scientists trying to uncover the truth about lying analysed 116,336 fibs told by 632 undergraduates at a US university over a period of 91 days.

The academics discovered that most of the fibs were told by ‘a few prolific liars’ – while also concluding that only one person in a hundred never told a lie.

From little white lies to whoppers, it’s long been claimed that people on average tell two fibs a day. But according to a new study, most untruths are told by a few ‘super-liars’ and the rest of us are in fact fairly honest (stock image)

From little white lies to whoppers, it’s long been claimed that people on average tell two fibs a day. But according to a new study, most untruths are told by a few ‘super-liars’ and the rest of us are in fact fairly honest (stock image) 

The authors, who were led by communication expert Kim Serota at Oakland University, added: ‘Most participants lied infrequently and most lies were told by a few prolific liars.’ 

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They added: ‘Most people report telling few or no lies on a given day.

‘Over the past decade, the skewed distribution of lie prevalence has emerged as an exceptionally robust phenomenon.

‘The current understanding is that prolific liars are distinct and potentially identifiable people with particular characteristics that manifest through consistently telling an unusually large number of lies relative to the majority of people.’ 

Their analysis discovered that 75 per cent of those in the study were classed as ‘low-frequency’ liars. They also found that 90 per cent of all untruths were little white lies.

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Dr Serota, whose study was published in the journal Communication Monographs, said: ‘Above all, findings from the current study document that for most people lying is less prevalent than often believed.’ 

He added that his work could have implications for research seeking to link lie behaviour with specific personality traits or demographic characteristics.

Their analysis discovered that 75 per cent of those in the study were classed as ‘low-frequency’ liars. They also found that 90 per cent of all untruths were little white lies (stock image)

Their analysis discovered that 75 per cent of those in the study were classed as ‘low-frequency’ liars. They also found that 90 per cent of all untruths were little white lies (stock image) 

Dr Serota accepted that the study produced ‘inconsistent findings and has had limited success predicting who will lie’.

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Analysing the difficulty of identifying liars, he said: ‘On any given day, a person’s behaviour may reflect either their dispositions or their situational good or bad lie days or both… future research needs to further unpack the interplay of individual differences, situational features, and specific deception motives.

‘Presumably, individual differences such as demographics, occupation, and personality lead people to experience different situations where the truth will be more or less consistent with communication goals.’

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