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Study Shows People In Power Make Better Liars 265

Posted by Soulskill
from the practice-makes-perfect dept.
oDDmON oUT writes "MSNBC is reporting that a Columbia Business School study shows those who hold power over others make better liars. According to one of the study's coauthors, 'It just doesn't hurt them as much to do it.' For the average liar, she said, the act of lying elicits negative emotions, physiological stress and the fear of getting caught in a lie. As a result, she added, liars will often send out cues that they are lying by doing things like fidgeting in a chair or changing the rate of their speech. But for the powerful, the impact is very different: 'Power, it seems, enhances the same emotional, cognitive, and physiological systems that lie-telling depletes. People with power enjoy positive emotions, increases in cognitive function, and physiological resilience such as lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Thus, holding power over others might make it easier for people to tell lies.'"
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Study Shows People In Power Make Better Liars

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  • Business Schools (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:15PM (#31575490) Journal

    Why am I not surprised that Columbia Business School is researching ways to lie more effectively? They must be trying to catch up to Harvard.

  • by selven (1556643) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:16PM (#31575498)

    Or maybe the people who don't have moral or emotional problems with lying are more likely to get into power.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:17PM (#31575544) Journal

    Maybe it's because most leaders are psychopaths, so they have absolute no problem telling lies at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:21PM (#31575602)

    If there were no lies, this plan would have overwhelming support. Everyone except the very rich and the insurance companies would support it.

    Unfortunately, we have Fox News and conservative politicians pumping out lies day and night and a bunch of idiots that believe the lies.

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:22PM (#31575622) Journal
    Or maybe you could RTFA where in the study they control for that... because the participants in the study were randomly assigned "leader" and "subordinate" roles.

    Fricking knee-jerk "Correlation != Causation".

    It's quite possible that both claims are true (TFA's and yours) -- but in this case, it appears from the study simply that:

    Causation = Causation.
  • by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:22PM (#31575630)

    Delegating! Good leaders know how to delegate better than lesser leaders. Thus, they delegate the lying to the professionals. Rent 'Wag the Dog' for a good example. There's also 'plausible deniability'. By not actually educating themselves on anything, they 'rely on what their researchers told them', when their handlers tell the researchers to tell them what the money men want them to say.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:23PM (#31575638)

    Wait, Columbia did a study that just figured out that Politicians are better liars?

    Wow, no wonder so many MBA's we hire are so ineffective at their jobs. You really need to perform a study to determine this?

    Next study: Do females have an advantage in child rearing?

    Reading things of this nature just reinforces my decision to discontinue structured learning, and go at it myself.

  • Makes sense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Cyko_01 (1092499) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:23PM (#31575644) Homepage
    People who are in power are generally very confident people. When you lie you need to be confident or people will not be convinced.
  • by santax (1541065) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:25PM (#31575674)
    I am no expert, but I have a feeling this has more to do with this. Especially in todays companies where there is a culture of promoting the biggest assholes and creating a play-field where you actually get rewarded if you F%@* somebody over. The elbow-way of making career gets you more. Unfortunately for those companies that work like this, they are actually selecting people to be liars and when you don't lie and so you come 2% of your target short, you're out. That guy next to you, who actually stole several sales from you... he is getting a new office. These companies are breeding bastards and often they don't see that. But by selecting management on these traits (what they effectively are doing) I am no surprised at all by this.
  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:26PM (#31575676) Journal

    If there were no lies, this plan would have overwhelming support. Everyone except the very rich and the insurance companies would support it.

    Are you kidding? The insurance companies are ecstatic over the bill that is being passed. They get 30,000,000 additional clients, and practically none of the restraints that have been bandied about. The only big thing they'll be upset about is pre-existing conditions, and you can bet your bottom dollar that their friends in high places will ensure they continue to be profitable nonetheless.

    Sure, there will be some headaches with implementation and compliance... but they stand to make even more money off the new legislation. Make no mistake... there's a reason insurance companies' stocks have been on the upswing over the past week.

  • by jmyers (208878) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:29PM (#31575724)

    To become a leader you have to be able to look people in the eye and tell them exactly what they want to hear. The better you are at this the higher up the ladder you will climb. For some reason people will always believe what they want to hear. It seems to apply across all ideologies.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:33PM (#31575778) Journal

    It seems more appropriate applied to the EU Parliament or the US Congress. "We will not ratify the Lisbon Treaty without a popular referendum." - "We will have more open government watchable on CSPAN, not hidden behind doors."

  • No kidding (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SilverHatHacker (1381259) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:38PM (#31575840)
    How do you think they got in power?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:38PM (#31575842)

    RTFA?

    You must be new here.

  • by Anonymous Freak (16973) <[prius.driver] [at] [mac.com]> on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:39PM (#31575844) Journal

    And therein lies the problem.

    The Republican party (as a generalization,) feeds on "this will hurt anyone who wants to get ahead in life." They make it seem like taxes that target the rich will hurt everyone, because it will cut down on the desire to be rich.

    Bollocks. When a tax, by definition, only affects the top 2%, it ONLY AFFECTS THE TOP 2%! The fact that the "no taxes" people use this as a red herring to convince people that "If you desire to be rich, you should vote against this" is ridiculous. If you desire to be rich, you should be happy in the fact that you now have to pay a little more taxes. It's proof that you're rich! It's not like someone who makes $5 million a year is going to be taxed so heavily, they take home less than someone who makes $25,000 a year. THEY'LL STILL MAKE MILLIONS! You show me a single person who makes $5 mil a year who spends the same percentage of their net income on physical products as someone who makes $25k a year. There are very few "rich" people who put as high a percentage of their income "back into the economy" as poor people. Poor people HAVE to spend a large percentage of their money on food, housing, etc. For a rich person, the required "reinvest in the economy" percentage is far lower. Yes, the raw dollars is higher, but that same income figure, spread among a larger number of middle-class persons, will put a higher dollar value back in to the economy.

    P.S. I'm not a fan of unfair taxes, by any means, I'm all for a "graduated flat tax", where people below the poverty line pay no income tax, and it ramps up to a flat amount (whatever amount that has to be to cover the government expenditures,) at a certain point, say, 2x poverty line. No deductions, no 'bulk credits' that 90% of the population qualifies for every year, no loopholes, no untaxed income. ALL income is taxed at the same rate, as long as you are above 2x poverty line. (Or whatever value makes sense.) Short term credits that are meant to promote certain activities into the mainstream, are just fine, as long as they are VERY targeted, and temporary. If you want people to buy houses instead of rent, you make a short term credit, like the one that is about to expire. If you want people to invest in alternative energy, you make an expiring credit, like the one that is in effect for hybrid cars. You use short-term, targeted credits to "shift the herd", not permanent ones that turn into entitlements to do it. Two dogs can shift a herd just as well as tens of miles of fencing.

  • by Recovery1 (217499) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:39PM (#31575854) Homepage

    They must have missed the study by another university that also reads that sociopaths tend to be in some position of power. Must be easy to miss too because not remembering a lot about the study I couldn't find the link to it with Google either. It still has to be somewhere on this vast web we call the internet. Anyone else happen to read and bookmark it?

  • Job skill (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:39PM (#31575856)
    Lying is an important job skill for people in power. Either people are born with the aptitude, they learn it, or they are at a disadvantage to good liars at acquiring and holding power.
  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:44PM (#31575916) Homepage Journal
    "If there were no lies, this plan would have overwhelming support. Everyone except the very rich and the insurance companies would support it."

    Are you kidding?

    The insurance companies were FULLY behind this. They're gonna make a killing off of Obamacare. Think about it..now EVERYONE has to have insurance. This will increase their roles by nearly a magnitude (ok, exaggerating there a little). And, best of all, they can likely now raise their rates since everyone will be mandated to have it or face fines.

  • by InsaneProcessor (869563) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:54PM (#31576056)
    Oh yes, we have Fox News pumping out information like: This bill will increase taxes on everyone that pays taxes, and, This bill will increase the entitlements thusly increase the base of voters that will vote for politicians that will increase entitlements even more, and, This bill will do more to ruin jobs that to improve the lives of citizens. Bye the way, if you read the bill, these are all facts. My son and I poured over the documents for two days.

    There is more to harm this country than to help. Since when does the federal government reduce waste and fraud? Really. When?

    The congressional leaders have done nothing but lie the the public about their intent. They don't give a rat's ass about improving healthcare or anything about our lives. They only want total control over everything in this country. Then, they will have all the power and lots of our money.

    If you read the constitution, you will find that the 10th amendment makes a good portion of this bill illegal anyway.
  • by Hatta (162192) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:55PM (#31576068) Journal

    The terrifying conclusion of this research is that when you randomly assign normal people to positions of power, they become psychopaths.

  • by thewils (463314) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:55PM (#31576076) Journal

    Because this is exactly what high priests in religion have been doing for centuries.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday March 22, 2010 @06:17PM (#31576418) Homepage

    Heck they used to say no more taxes for those making less than $250K (per couple I think). Well, in many parts of the US, that is NOT being wealthy. I think those living in SF and NYC might could vouch for that.

    Whereas I think being able to afford to live in the parts of SF or NYC that cost that much means you're wealthy. If you make $250k you're wealthy. If you choose to spend most of that on an apartment in lower Manhattan, that's your choice.

    I forget the exact statistic, but something along the lines of the top 10%-15% or so already pay > 80% of the US's taxes.

    Yes but they also have over 90% of the wealth. Funny how that works out.

    At some point, you can't squeeze more money out of them and have to hit lower hanging fruit.

    We aren't even squeezing them. They sure as fuck aren't paying 80% of their own income as taxes if that's what that factoid above was meant to imply. They aren't even paying the proportionally greater amount that our progressive taxation system is supposed to make them pay!

    As Warren Buffet noted, he pays less in taxes than his secretary.

    There's plenty of squeezing left that can be done, and Mr. Buffet agrees. But really, I'd be happy just ensuring that our tax system is in fact progressive.

  • Cops lie alot too (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DABANSHEE (154661) on Monday March 22, 2010 @06:17PM (#31576434)

    I doubt there's many people that lie as much as cops do on a daily basis & get away with it. & I've yet to see a polices facts statement or brief that wasn't full of lies. No wonder bugger all trust coppers these days

  • The Boxer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by handy_vandal (606174) on Monday March 22, 2010 @06:33PM (#31576628) Homepage Journal

    Furthermore, a man "carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down, or cut him 'til he cried out in his anger and his shame ..."

    I know I do, anyway ... and I'm not even a fighter.

    But sociopaths are another matter -- they don't give a shit about shame. Anger, yes. But not shame.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday March 22, 2010 @06:39PM (#31576706) Homepage

    How can millions of people who cannot afford health care get free health care?

    By waiting until their conditions are serious or critical and then going to the ER, which is much more expensive than traditional care for the same condition, and ludicrously more expensive than preventative care. And that's not even counting that prices are already higher for the uninsured!

    The added costs by the health care companies will be passed down to the customers.

    You mean they are passed down to the paying customers. You and I are already paying for the uninsured! So given that, would you rather pay for ultra-expensive emergency care, or pay for cheaper regular care?

    Locking people out of the regular health care system and forcing them to use emergency services because they can't afford insurance is a serious case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    Health care costs could have been cut more by stopping all the frivolous health care related law suites.

    I'm not saying it isn't a good cause, but that is a trivial amount of savings.

    No, we're going to save more money by reducing the amount we are paying for health care for the poor. Just because that cost is now coming out in the open doesn't mean we weren't paying for it before. We were, and paying more at that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2010 @06:55PM (#31576894)

    Very easy to stand aside and point to THEM as the problem. But in this study, just as in Zimbardo's prisoner study at Standford (check out The Lucifer Effect), the people in charge were selected randomly. The more reasonable conclusion is that power tends to bring out the worst in most people or, as put more succinctly, power corrupts. Couple this with the Dunning-Kruger Effect (roughly, ignorance is positively correlated with confidence) and our tendency to want confident leaders and you have an almost perfect storm. We select the confident over the capable for our leaders, and then the power we give them makes them worse.

  • by John Saffran (1763678) on Monday March 22, 2010 @07:12PM (#31577074)
    That's one highly likely cause, but probably not the only one .. there's been some experiments that demonstrated that people in power change, generally for the worse. The Standford experiment is the classic example, though it's not definite (is anything in psychology definte though?), but it's a good indicator that power also changes normal people. Another good example would the Abu Ghraib occurrences, I doubt the prison guards would've pictured themselves that way when they were normal civilians.
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday March 22, 2010 @07:13PM (#31577090) Journal

    I was being a bit facetious, although I do think psychopaths do excel at politics, mainly because their easy charisma, insanely over-the-top goals and absolute lack of empathy or a conscience, but with the ability to mimic those emotions, make them perfect for a line of work where goals can evaporate and reformulate in days.

    There's no doubt that giving someone power can lead to all sorts of nasty side-effects on their egos. It doesn't even take much power. Some of the worst I've seen are mall cops and beach patrols, small time jobs for small time people, and yet give someone a uniform or a big fancy job title with even just moderate responsibility, and they'll go a little nuts.

    Myself, I hate being in management. I was there once for a small firm and it sucked. All I got was a small raise, a whole lot more responsibility, a bunch of miserable bastards for underlings, and I was glad when the whole thing was over and I found a job where my responsibilities over others was limited.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2010 @07:27PM (#31577250)

    The Republican party (as a generalization,) feeds on "this will hurt anyone who wants to get ahead in life." They make it seem like taxes that target the rich will hurt everyone, because it will cut down on the desire to be rich.

    Bollocks. When a tax, by definition, only affects the top 2%, it ONLY AFFECTS THE TOP 2%!

    Your argument is very common, but it is out of sync with reality.

    The problem with taxing the "rich" is precisely that it keeps people from trying to become rich. About a year ago I had two career paths that I could go down, I am a fairly skilled programmer. I could take the easy route, get a job with some corporation, and probably retire in about 20 years. I've worked in corporations before, it's not a bad lifestyle. Instead I decided that I would try to become rich by making a startup company. The thing is, it risks a lot of my money, a lot of my time, and is a whole heck of a lot harder, and more stressful than working at a corporation. Also, there's no guarantee that I'll make a dime for all of the work I've put into it.

    Not that working on this thing isn't rewarding. It is rewarding, but the primary reason I'm putting forth that effort is to get rich. If I succeed, I don't want to have to work another day in my life if I don't feel like it. If the government was taxing the top 2% of people 20% more than it was when I got brought on as a partner in this company, I would not have gotten involved in it.

    So, back to the point. Taxing the rich does reduce the amount of people that are willing to try to become rich. If fewer people are trying to become rich, there will be less startup companies providing competition in the market, which will definitely hurt everyone.

    The real answer is that all taxes hurt everyone, some hurt less noticeably than others, but the effects are still there. What really needs to be done is the government needs to stop spending money unless it's really worth it. Not that it's possible to make the government do that, but it would be nice.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday March 22, 2010 @07:40PM (#31577386) Homepage

    Kill the upper class and you kill the middle class.

    That would be an interesting and relevant comment if MY WHOLE POINT wasn't that we AREN'T "killing" the upper class with progressive taxes. Not anywhere close! They aren't even paying the tax amount that they should be. And even if they were, it wouldn't even come close to ending the upper class. They'd still be ridiculously rich!

    No, instead we're killing the middle class directly, and letting the rich shirk their responsibility with accounting tricks. Kinda makes your argument moot, in as much as it applied in the first place.

    Class warfare never ends well.

    Quoting Buffet again: "There's class warfare all right, and my class is winning."

    But I forgot, the kind of class warfare where the wealthy suck up all wealth from the middle and lower class, creating ever-escalating concentration of wealth in their hands, is good for us. It's only when we want to stop this from happening that it's bad.

  • by ffreeloader (1105115) on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:02PM (#31577580) Journal

    You need to exchange US Congress for US President. It was Obama that promised open, transparent government and that the process would be aired on CSPAN.

  • by StrategicIrony (1183007) on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:07PM (#31577630)

    Nobody is "killing" the upper class.

    The fact that the last four years have been the lowest taxed since the Spanish-American war makes them an aberration, not a rule.

    The average top marginal tax rate over the last 100 years is about 55%. It spent several decades at 90% during the greatest boom in the middle class (1950-1970).

    Your argument is bunk and smells like turd.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2010 @09:25PM (#31578328)

    Shows wny Jobs runs apple and Wozniak does not

  • by radtea (464814) on Monday March 22, 2010 @10:03PM (#31578598)

    The terrifying conclusion of this research is that when you randomly assign normal people to positions of power, they become psychopaths.

    And in other news, when you apply a force to something it accelerates in inverse proportion to its mass...

    Seriously, why is it in the sciences we can prove things by experiment and they stay proved, but in the social "sciences" every repeat of a well-known, empirically proven result is considered new and insightful?

    Is it the lack of sound biological foundation for the social "sciences", so that there is no notion that some truths--like those revealed decades ago by the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Experiment, as well as many, many actual field observations, from Auschwitz to Abu Ghraib--are in any way fundamental? The strong tendency of people in power to abuse that power is not a truism or "philosophical" observation, but an ordinary empirical fact.

    It's as if social "scientists" were continually running experiments in which they didn't give people food for a week and reported with breathless amazement at the end that the subjects were hungry! Isn't that amazing? No, it isn't, unless you haven't been paying any attention to anything for the past thirty or forty years.

  • by rtb61 (674572) on Monday March 22, 2010 @10:24PM (#31578730) Homepage

    You compete to gain positions of power. You are born a psychopath, you do not become one, although as a weak willed amoral person it is certainly possible to come under the influence of a psychopath and join them in their corrupt activities.

    The flip side of the report is that people get into modern capitalist based positions of power by being better liars, rather than be being competent managers. So being good a blaming other people for your mistakes and taking credit for other peoples work, all whilst showing no conscience or shame gives you a competitive advantage in the modern corporate and political structure.

    Unfortunately of course that results in the inevitable catastrophic collapse of the companies or political groups that the sociopath gains control of, as they are incompetent self serving schemers rather intuitive aware managers with a strong scene of personal integrity and conscience.

    Recently medical science has caught up with the sociopath and the condition can now be specifically tested for and those persons can be prevented from laying waste to what ever company, government agency, political party etc they gain control of to the their own seriously disturbed ego. How broad those tests will become is a very interesting question, obviously no sane parent would want their child to marry a smooth talking, charming, psychopath.

  • by Krahar (1655029) on Monday March 22, 2010 @11:46PM (#31579236)
    Let's try a car analogy. Researchers might in great detail measure how much more likely you are to get into a car crash if you use a mobile phone while driving, and they might measure this for several different kinds of phones, hand-free sets and so on. They might compare it to simply talking to someone else in the car. The newsstory will read "researchers conclude that being distracted is likely to get you into a crash than if you were paying attention," but that's a very unfair characterization. What you are doing is generalizing the results of this research to something that you don't think is surprising, while in fact the research is about something very specific. Another thing is that people report being unsurprised by results from the social sciences, however for some results people will report this no matter how you tell them the research came out. If the research had found that lying ability was greater in subordinates, would you also be here saying "that's so obvious that these people are morons for researching it."
  • by electrons_are_brave (1344423) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:23AM (#31579440)
    Yes, we all have the capacity to behave in a psychopathic manner at times. I'm sure most of us flinch at the thought of inflicting pain on others, but if we were attacked we'd gouge someone's f'ing eyes out. Empathy is an instinct and like all instincts it is weaker or stronger, top priority or subverted depending on the demands of our environments and our top priority needs at that time.

    But this doesn't diminish the point that some individuals are incapable of being anything other than psychopatic - they are simply born without the required hardware to have empathy as a feature of their cognitive architecture. They lack an instinct that most of us have, even if we don't always use it.

  • by vxice (1690200) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @08:34AM (#31581878)
    but the president is not the end all be all of government. Everyone else has to go along with him including people who just want him to fail no matter what so they can point out his flaws.

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