Everybody else is doing it: exploring social transmission of lying behavior.


Journal Article

Lying is a common occurrence in social interactions, but what predicts whether an individual will tell a lie? While previous studies have focused on personality factors, here we asked whether lying tendencies might be transmitted through social networks. Using an international sample of 1,687 socially connected pairs, we investigated whether lying tendencies were related in socially connected individuals, and tested two moderators of observed relationships. Participants recruited through a massive open online course reported how likely they would be to engage in specific lies; a friend or relative responded to the same scenarios independently. We classified lies according to their beneficiary (antisocial vs. prosocial lies), and their directness (lies of commission vs. omission), resulting in four unique lying categories. Regression analyses showed that antisocial commission, antisocial omission, and prosocial commission lying tendencies were all uniquely related in connected pairs, even when the analyses were limited to pairs that were not biologically related. For antisocial lies of commission, these relationships were strongest, and were moderated by amount of time spent together. Randomly paired individuals from the same countries were also related in their antisocial commission lying tendencies, signifying country-level norms. Our results indicate that a person's lying tendencies can be predicted by the lying tendencies of his or her friends and family members.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Mann, H; Garcia-Rada, X; Houser, D; Ariely, D

Published Date

  • January 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 9 / 10

Start / End Page

  • e109591 -

PubMed ID

  • 25333483

Pubmed Central ID

  • 25333483

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1932-6203

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1932-6203

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1371/journal.pone.0109591


  • eng