New research indicates that we’re likelier to lie if we’re in groups than alone
Honesty is the best policy — but, in groups, it doesn’t always reign supreme.
According to a recent study published in the journal Management Behavior, people are more likely to lie when they’re in a group of people rather than when they’re in a one-on-one setting.
The researchers studied the responses of 273 students who were shown a video of a dice being rolled, and were asked to report the result; the number they reported determined their pay-off. People who were asked the number when they were conversing with a group were more likely to lie about that number.
“Even groups composed of participants who reported truthfully when being asked individually frequently decided to misreport,” the study found. “There is a stronger inclination to behave immorally in groups than individually,” the research suggested.
Part of this may come down to peer pressure to lie for a higher payout or a better result. “Humans are largely social individuals, and they’re influenced by their peers and the people around them,” said Dr. Curtis Reisinger, a senior psychological services official at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York.
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Plus, Reisinger says a factor known in psychological circles as the “diffusion of responsibility” could be to partly blame. Defined as a “phenomenon in which people are less likely to take action when in the presence of a large group of people,” it may make it easier for us to let another get away with lying.
It’s not just the group setting that spurs lying: Studies have long documented the kinds of things we’re likeliest to lie about in the workplace. In 2014, researchers at the UK’s Institute of Leadership and Management surveyed 1600 managers to learn what they believed were the most common instances of unethical behavior in the workplace, and 72% of managers reported that “lying to hide mistakes” was one of the most frequent and difficult to detect.
What’s more, 63% of managers reported that “lying to hide your colleagues’ mistakes” was also frequent.
So how can you spot when someone is telling a lie or spinning a story? Reisinger says it’s all in the art of the interrogation — asking questions in a probing way “from different angles or perspectives,” which “the police are experts at,” he says.
“One of the clues is, sometimes, the consistency of a story,” Reisinger told Moneyish. “Poke holes in a story,” he recommends, if you suspect that your colleague or direct report is lying to you. “People who are lying often have a very hard time remembering details of their lies.”
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