According to a survey of 3,000 people by a British science museum, men lie more often than women, telling an average of three lies a day to women's two. Men are also less likely to feel guilty, with 72% feeling bad about their lies compared to 80% of women. Three lies a day seems like an awful lot, but men's "top 10 lies" apparently include white ones like "no, your bum doesn't look big in that" and "you've lost weight." These are annoyingly stereotypical — less so is the fact that some of the same lies appeared in the top 10 for both men and women. "It wasn't that expensive" (a popular lie for Jezebel staffers, according to our own survey last year) was number four for men and number three for women. And "nothing's wrong, I'm fine" was women's top lie and men's second.
Based on the lists, both genders seem to lie primarily to smooth over or avoid conflict in relationships with others — even if their techniques for doing so, like pretending they aren't mad, aren't that effective. But interestingly, the relationships most fraught with deceit aren't romantic ones. According to the Daily Mail, people are most likely to lie to their moms — 25% of men and 20% of women said they did this, while only 10% reported lying to romantic partners.
It would be interesting to see whether the kinds of lies we tell our mom differ from those we feed our significant others, and whether those lies change over time. I doubt I'm alone in the fact that my lying to Mom peaked in adolescence, when I often misrepresented where I was going, what I would do there, and who I'd be with. Nowadays I'm allowed to drink and go to parties with no parents present, so I have a lot less occasion to deceive my mother — and I've never been a big liar anyway. But I do notice that when talking to her, I omit details that make me seem flaky — a lost checkbook, a missed deadline — and I generally present to her the most responsible possible version of myself. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing — the very existence of Mom Persona makes the real me a little bit more on the ball, and also spares my mother the details of my various slipups.
Other studies on lying seem to bear out my experience — in one, lying increased until age 15 and began dropping off after that. Writes Shirley Wang of the Wall Street Journal,
Some studies suggest there is no long-term effect of parenting on lying behavior, but the work of Dr. Talwar and her colleague Angela Crossman at the John Jay College at the City College of New York shows that a certain type of parenting style seems to discourage lying. They suggest parents discuss why there are rules against lying. Also, parents who point out when kids lie-and also acknowledge when children come clean-can foster more truth-telling, says Dr. Talwar.
Or maybe parents should just give up, secure in the knowledge that their kids will probably always lie — but at least they'll bear the brunt of it.
Image via Collider.com.
Related: Survival Of The Fibbest: Why We Lie So Well [WSJ]