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Science Politics

Study Shows People In Power Make Better Liars 265

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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  • by DanTheStone ( 1212500 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:22PM (#31575618)
    RTFA. There's an actual experiment here, not just observations like the summary here implies.
  • by ShadowRangerRIT ( 1301549 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:30PM (#31575738)
    RTFA. The study wasn't done on people in power already, it was done by assigning people to leader and subordinate roles. Your point may or may not be valid, but it has nothing to do with this study.
  • by Mindcontrolled ( 1388007 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:30PM (#31575746)
    You just put up another correlation-causation-problem here. Yet another alternative: While you are in power, your lies are a matter of controlling people, when you are not in power, you gotta lie to cover your arse. Different motivations for the lies, different reactions.
  • by migla ( 1099771 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:32PM (#31575756)

    What you say about getting into power is undoubtedly so. All other things being equal, the ruthless person will have an easier time climbing the ladder.

    But, i actually rtfa (well, almost all of page one, so correct me if I'm wrong).Here's a snippet:

    "Carney and the other researchers, Andy Yap, Brian Lucas and Pranjal Mehta, used volunteers who were told they were either leaders or subordinates. The leaders were given a large office, and the subordinates given a small windowless space."

    So, it wasn't that the ones "in power" got there by being ruthless. So not a chicken/egg/correlation/causation thing.

  • by Bodrius ( 191265 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @05:37PM (#31575822) Homepage

    I'm guessing you're just being snarky, but taking your comment at face value: that's a hasty assumption to make; even if you assumed all politicians are liars (which isn't very scientific either) it doesn't follow that all leaders, or even most important leaders, are politicians. If you also consider all the differences between political processes in different countries and cultures, in terms of public exposure, accountability, and levels of direct and indirect power - there are a lot of variables that would account for the usual complaint.

    The experiment design seems to reduce this to few enough variables, in a general enough context, to legitimately say "power makes people better at lying".

    Note that from TFA this wasn't a survey among known leaders - they randomly assigned power relationships to equivalent populations in an experiment, and found a correlation. So this rules out many of the alternative arguments: self-selection ('better liars acquire power'), specialized populations ('publicly elected politicians need to be better liars'), or learned behavior ('people in power become desensitized to lying').

  • Re:No kidding (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2010 @06:10PM (#31576290)

    How do you think they got in power?

    In the experiment: by being randomly selected.

  • by spazdor ( 902907 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @07:12PM (#31577080)

    actually "born" and "bred" come kinda hand in hand. You might have been thinking of "made"?

  • Re:That makes sense (Score:5, Informative)

    by StrategicIrony ( 1183007 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:04PM (#31577586)

    You do realize that during the Reagan years, top marginal rates were 50% and anyone making over $60k was paying at least 42%. When he took office, the top marginal rate was 70%.

    When Bush Sr left office, the top marginal rate was 40%. In fact, Bush Sr raised that rate several times.

    During the fastest period of economic growth in US history (from 1945-1983) the top marginal rate bounced between 90% and 70%.

    The last 4 years were simply an aberration in the last century. This directly contradicts your assertion that a 44% top marginal rate is "simply too much".

    History begs to differ.

  • by electrons_are_brave ( 1344423 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:14PM (#31577718)
    In the study, the lies told were the same for the same motive. "Power" was the independent variable.
  • by PachmanP ( 881352 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @11:59PM (#31579292)

    And who shall have the power to prevent people from attaining positions of power?

    I will. I promise not to abuse the power at all.

  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:04AM (#31579322)

    80% of people will give someone what they believe to be a lethal shock (despite the person begging them to stop) with slight prompting.

    So I'd say 80% of people are ready to be psychopaths-- they just lack the opportunity.

    (sources are the original study and the recent french TV program that duplicated it).

  • Re:Business Schools (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cryacin ( 657549 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:02AM (#31579946)

    doing a good job around dating Pamela Anderson

    He MUST be telling the truth. Who'd want to date a broke over the hill soft pr0n actress?

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling