Study: Lying Influenced by Time and Justification

By: Jenna Savage

Though evidence from research studies have shown that facial cues do not indicate a person is lying, thereby making it more difficult to discern whether or not a person is lying, as we’ve reported previously, lying is still bad for your health. In a past blog article, we addressed research that indicates that lying is stressful, and takes a toll on both body and mind. But even if they can have a negative effect on health, lies – especially white lies – are still common. According to an article on Medical News Today, a new study that will be printed in the journal Psychological Science explores the factors that cause people to lie.

Conducted by psychological scientists Shaul Shalvi, Ori Eldar, and Yoella Bereby-Meyer, the study had 70 participants participate in rolling a die three times. The participants were told that they would earn money for their first roll – the higher the roll, the more money they would earn. However, they were asked to only report that first roll, rather than all three rolls. Some had to do so in a short amount of time, while others did not have a time limit. The researchers did not look at the rolls as the participants performed them.

Those who only had 20 seconds to report their results lied more often than those who were not under a time limit. Because the participants were able to roll all three times before they had to report their outcome, many were able to justify lying – they reported the highest number they rolled, even if it wasn’t the first number.

When the experiment was then repeated, participants could only roll once, and then they would report the outcome. Once again, the time constraint influenced whether or not people would lie – under a time limit, participants were more likely to lie.

The scientists came to the conclusion that when time is a concern, individuals are more likely to lie. If time isn’t a concern, whether or not the lies can be justified often plays a role in an individual’s decision to lie. Without a time constraint and without the opportunity to justify a lie, individuals are more likely to be honest.

The researchers also suggested that individuals may need some time to think through their options before they make a decision. In fast-paced business or education settings, it may not be wise to have an individual provide a snappy response to an accusation. Rather, giving the individual time to make an honest decision and to the right thing may be a better, more productive choice.