Men and women lie with about the same frequency, but they lie for different reasons. Men lie to make themselves look better in the eyes of others, while women tend to lie to spare feelings and make other people feel better. For example, 25 percent of men have admitted lying to their mothers, but only 20 percent of women said they have lied to their moms [source: BBC].
Studies on lying vary regarding the reasons men and women lie and who lies more often. One reason that studies vary so much is that they often have to rely on people's self-reports. Even in studies about lying, people don't always answer questions truthfully. We're more likely to be honest about things we don't want to admit in anonymous, paper or electronic surveys than in interviews, for example. Another reason that studying lying is tough is that it's hard to define lying: There is outright deceit and then there's exaggeration, for example. A series of studies compared students' reported grade-point averages with their actual GPAs and found that up to one-half of students exaggerated their GPAs in interviews. But they were calm and confident in their statements and researchers believe that this lying was more about goal-setting and healthy overconfidence than about deceit [source: New York Times].
What about when lies are more than exaggeration? A study in England showed that women were better at lying and keeping their affairs secret when cheating on spouses. Men still cheated slightly more -- 20 percent compared with 15 percent for women. The difference was that women were more likely to lie to keep the affairs secret [source: Rice]. The reason may be that even with all of the advances women have made in the workplace and society in general, their sex lives stand in harsher judgment than men's.
No matter the type of lie or which sex tells it, psychologists say that lying stresses out the deceiver physically or psychologically. Trained observers can probably spot the signs of tension in someone telling an outright lie.
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