A new study reports that women find it harder to lie, whereas men tend to stretch the truth more across the board.
The reasons why people lie are rarely black and white. There’s a difference between “fudging the truth” and purposefully misleading someone and the reason why people do one over the other tend to come down to a myriad of reasons—usually selfish ones. But scientists wanted to know what happens when you lie in order to benefit someone else and found the answers fell on clear gender divisions.
In an article for Harvard Business Review, organizational psychologist Maryam Kouchaki explained how she conducted four studies to examine whether people were more likely to lie when negotiating on behalf of others rather than for themselves. Kouchaki and her colleagues recruited 1,337 participants to help determine what would happen when people were asked to lie for themselves, then again on behalf of someone else. What they found was that women found it harder to lie in general, whereas men tended to stretch the truth more across the board—in altruistic lies and falsehood for self-preservation.
What Kouchaki’s researchers show is that there are exceptions to the rule. When researchers asked the women why they decided to lie when it came to negotiating a deal when they weren’t the main beneficiaries, the participants explained it was because they didn’t want to let anyone down. “When we asked why participants made the decisions they did, we saw that women were more likely to report feeling guilty about letting down those they were advocating for,” said Kouchaki.
Other studies have shown that people can perceive women as being too ethical for their own good. Last year, a paper based on interviews with over 100 physicists, revealed that many scientists think women are more likely to make ethical decisions which hold back their career progression, such as being more cautious with conclusions gaged from data.