Friday, January 04, 2008

Are Extroverts Better Liars?

I occasionally find something of interest in my trade magazine--Monitor on Psychology--that is worth sharing. In a section entitled "Science Watch," I found an informative article entitled, "Liar, liar, neurons fire" about how as we get older, we often learn to lie more convincingly. The article also points out that extroverts and the socially adroit are better liars:

Gombos found that lying places a high cognitive load on a person's executive functioning, especially working memory and decision-making. Just as Sam Rayburn implied, if you tell a lie, you have to keep careful track of what you say. But some people are naturally better at this than others. Gombos cites some earlier research by British psychologist Aldert Vrij that shows that "socially adroit" people make better liars.

"People who are natural actors are especially good at lying because of their abilities at social control and role-playing," Gombos says. "And extroverts lie more often—and better—than shy people."

Gombos thinks it may have something to do with people's ability to mentally detach themselves from the truth while telling the lie.

"If they believe the lie, it's easier to be convincing," Gombos says. "I think it really underscores just how complex lying can be."

What I find puzzling is that our society often rewards those who are extroverts who are good at manipulating people over those who are shy but honest. Think about it, a good looking man or woman who is an extrovert gets away with a lot more than the rest of us who are average looking and more reserved. It should be the reverse.


Blogger Cham said...

What is should be and what it is are two different things. People are drawn to good looking extroverted people. Extroverted people don't necessarily happen naturally. Extroverted personalities can be crafted by individual that wish to be perceived as extroverted. Perhaps acting is somewhat like lying. If one teaches themselves to be outgoing and personable then being able to lie better would probably be a natural progression.

Not to change the subject but I have become fascinated by this recent APA finding about those that view themselves as moral but are actually prone to be more immoral (ie, liars, cheaters) than the rest. I can't read the APA article because I don't have a subscription.

10:43 AM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Conversely, it explains why geeks like myself are astonishingly unable to lie convincingly.

10:51 AM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger Mike said...

A lot of extroverts are good at managing people, and by managing people I mean keeping them happy and interested in the extrovert. It only makes sense that manipulation and lying would be part of that behavior at some point. You can see all that you would need to see just by watching the dynamics of a typical high school or party college.

11:20 AM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger David Foster said...

Years ago, I read about an interesting experiment in hiring. Two groups of people were sent out to interview for jobs as electrical engineers. Group #1 was comprised of actual electrical engineers. Group #2 was comprised of actors who had been taught some EE jargon and given phoney resumes. Apparently, the interviewers thought that the actors were better candidates!

The article didn't specify who the interviewers were: HR recruiters, or actual engineering managers, who themselves would have had engineering backgrounds.

11:47 AM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...


Of course the interviewers would think the actors would be better candidates. The interviewers weren't giving these people electrical engineering exams, but judging whether the interviewees would make good team players and be able to communicate well. The actors were probably more extroverted and talkative, seeing that their specialty was acting.

12:00 PM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

The flaw in Dr. Helen's thinking is that average looking, more reserved people aren't trying to get away with anything! They're just trying to live their lives.

It is true that extroverts are better liars. It's also true that only a fool would believe anything a liar says. Does that make introverts fools? Only those who believe liars.

In the end, the bottom line is this. No one is going to help you, man. No one is going to protect you. You have to help youself, and you have to protect yourself. That begins with educating youself and protecting your money.

It's that simple and that obvious.

12:02 PM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger David Foster said...

Cham...A good interviewer (and they are not in great supply) will do more than judge whether people "communicate well" and "make good team players." He will also be interested in what the individual has accomplished and how he has accomplished it, and he will pursue this knowledge via a conversation that is highly interactive and will uncover someone who only knows the catch phrases.

I can imagine the actors making a good impression on an HR recruiter, but if a person who has never done or studied engineering convinces an engineering manager that he is a real engineer--or if a person who has never worked in graphics arts convinces a marketing communications manager that he is an experienced designer--then the company has serious problems.

12:25 PM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

gawinsghost --

Disagree. Everybody's trying to get away with something on some level. It's just accomplishing the task that's at question here.

helen -

"Think about it, a good looking man or woman who is an extrovert gets away with a lot more than the rest of us who are average looking and more reserved. It should be the reverse."

You, average looking and reserved? Please.

To the point though. Why? Why on earth should anyone 'getting away' with anything be acceptable? Exo, intro, conning is conning.

1:14 PM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


I agree with you, conning is conning. One of the things that bothers me most is that some people actually like being duped by those who they see as charming (think Bill Clinton.) They see those skills as secretly enviable. I don't. I have a radar for con artists and have since I was a kid and always called people on their con games.

"You, average looking and reserved? Please."

It depends on your criteria.

1:28 PM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger Parker Smith said...

I fully agree with all of the posted comments.

And I would never lie to you about such a thing.

1:31 PM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger Misanthrope said...

I don't know about lying, but as an introvert, I have no poker face.

But it's much the same thing, isn't it? The ability to play cards well consists of preventing others from figuring out your hand, i.e. lying to others for financial gain.

2:44 PM, January 04, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Introverts don't usually have to lie. They can keep others at a distance, act shy, keep quiet or give cryptic answers. It's expected. Extroverts have to cultivate their lying skills (along with their other social skills) because they have to deal with people more frequently and directly. An extrovert has to hide in plain sight; an introvert just has to hide.

The best and biggest liar I've ever known was an actor.

One man's manipulativeness is another mans "team-building skills."

3:19 PM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger Eric said...

People are more likely to believe a convincing lie than a difficult-to-believe truth. Unfortunately, what people WANT to believe means that they will often prefer a pleasant lie to a difficult truth. Those with a predilection to lie soon learn that what your audience wants to hear is the most important factor in determining whether it will be believed. Thus, the process that we call "lying" is often hopelessly contaminated by not only the liars, but by those who enable and encourage lies. I realize that this is beyond the scope of the post or the thread, but I think moral culpability for lying is not exclusively limited to the liar.

As Helen said, "One of the things that bothers me most is that some people actually like being duped by those who they see as charming (think Bill Clinton.)"

P.T. Barnum made a fortune by correctly discerning that people didn't mind being conned as long as they had a good time.

3:27 PM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger Serket said...

I am an introvert and people tend to view me as honest, although I don't express my views very often. There have been a few times when I was telling the truth and people thought I was lying.

Cham - I remember seeing that article. Here is an interesting paragraph from it: "Students who scored high on moral identity and also considered cheating to be morally wrong were the least likely to cheat. In contrast, the worst cheaters were the "moral" students who considered cheating to be an ethically justifiable behavior in certain situations."

Major-General - I still haven't figured out poker, but I have noticed in other games that it is hard for me to not reveal whether I am satisfied or not.

4:05 PM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger Joe said...

I'm among the world's worse liars and an die-hard introvert to boot (and getting more introverted with age.) I'm extremely, perhaps absurdly, honest. I can't lie without feeling guilty. Add in a low tolerance of pain and I'd made a horrible spy.

My oldest--19 year old girl--is VERY extroverted and VERY manipulative, but is as bad a liar as me and has inherited my guilt genes. My other kids are more introverted and also terrible liars.

On the flip side, I've worked with liars that are amazingly good. I've worked with people who can slip a knife between your ribs and even as your life bleeds away, you still think they're your friend. (The scary part is several of those people wouldn't hurt a fly and are bizarrely honest in their non-business dealings. However, I wouldn't deal with them professionally without a contract and inch thick and armed guards.)

6:14 PM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger Carteach said...

First, average looking does not apply to you, but that is only my opinion.

Second, I think many people prefer o be manipulated, coerced, or perhaps even used. After all, it is contact, and a chance to feel needed, even if only in a dysfunctional kind of way.

To a starving person, even a spoiled meal looks good. Brought by a good looking waiter... the diner might even convince them self it tastes good too.

9:09 PM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger DADvocate said...

By almost any measure I'm quite extroverted but a lousy liar and not worth a damn at poker. Although, most liars I know are extroverts (or Account Managers trying to get me to do something).

9:41 PM, January 04, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

I am a very good liar, but it isn't easy. Lying should be done very sparingly and I plan quite a bit before I do it. I often write out the lie beforehand and then work out any details in case someone should question me thoroughly. I watch my body language, and make sure I look people in the eye. Just about all my lies are excuses for something I am choosing not to do or events I plan not to attend. I never bring anyone else into my lies because don't trust others to be able to carry them off. A good liar is careful.

7:31 AM, January 05, 2008  
Blogger Jeff Y said...

I'm good looking, athletic and an introvert. You'd think that would put me in the mean between reward and punishment in society. It doesn't.

By my looks, I'm supposed to be a conformal socialite. Instead, I'm a non-conformal introvert. The jarring clash of stereotypes causes people to interpret my every act as insincere or dishonest. When I box or train hard, people think Is he really a model theorist? When I work, people think Is he really a boxer?

Extroverts get ahead by conforming to social stereotypes. Introverts, relying on an internal decision-making process, don't conform to reliable social stereotypes. In this age of barbarism, the barbarism of specialization, society distrusts people who fail to conform (in the least degree) with social stereotypes.

9:15 AM, January 05, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

g's ghost wrote: "It's also true that only a fool would believe anything a liar says."

I think that good liars deceive lots of people, many more than just fools. That is what makes them proficient liars!

Attractive introverts are often perceived as snobs or conceited. There is a cognitive dissonance between attractive and shy that leads to the error by most people.

I am an introvert, but I play an extrovert when that helps the situation. Does that make me a liar?????


11:35 AM, January 05, 2008  
Blogger Flash Gordon said...

I'm a great liar in situations where anybody would be a great liar. That is, when I am telling someone a lie that they really want to believe. It's telling someone the truth when they don't want to hear it is where I'm not very good. That's when they think I'm lying.

3:32 PM, January 05, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everything I said in my previous comment was a lie.

8:52 PM, January 05, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

serkat said:

"I am an introvert and people tend to view me as honest, although I don't express my views very often. There have been a few times when I was telling the truth and people thought I was lying."

Me too. I go beyond being a just a little bit introverted, though. I'm so shy at times that I blush and stammer when asked a direct question. Then I feel like a fool for days wondering if the other person thought I was lying. *I* certainly would have thought so if someone had that much difficulty looking me in the eye.

Sigh. It would probably be much more comfortable to be a really good liar than an honest person who is hard to trust.

3:28 PM, January 06, 2008  
Blogger Soccer Dad said...

Shortly after reading this post, I saw this at FoxSports.

Your observation seems consistent with Ken Rosenthal's, even as he notes the limitations on lying.

10:48 AM, January 07, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

Soccer Dad:

People have the capability to convince themselves they are telling the truth. Sports figures, politicians, religious leaders, lawyers and CEOs can look people straight in the eye and believe in their hearts that they are as honest as the day is long. I believe in video, audio, email, IM, urinalysis and mass spec, but not a word out of people's mouths.

11:10 AM, January 07, 2008  
Blogger Soccer Dad said...


Don't you figure that a disproportionate number of famous folks are extroverts?

I also expect that most people are capable of shading the truth rather than telling outright lies and that's how they justify their actions.

However, I figure that what Dr. Helen is discussing are people who flat out lie and know it.

11:24 AM, January 07, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

Famous people are generally extroverts, as acting, politicking, and business leadership tend to be outgoing and personnable. But everyone is capable of lying.

For example, I have an excellent real-life situation going on right now about lying. A friend of mine has a social club that has a database. 4 people other than him have access to manage the database. In the last 2 weeks someone has gone into this database and changed data, this was not done accidentally as the process to change the data was pretty complex My friend has confronted all 4 people, all 4 people have denied any data changing activity. One of them is lying. I wouldn't call these people leaders or extroverts, just regular middle class people, solid citizen types.

11:39 AM, January 07, 2008  
Blogger Soccer Dad said...


Here's a nice way of putting what you describe:
A model of self-assurance, Mr. Romney expressed his astonishment at the questions, at the idea that a man couldn't develop new positions. And what kind of a leader, he wanted to know, would he be if he never changed his mind about anything, etc., etc. What one remembered most about this scene, which had all the makings of one of Hollywood's cruder Washington satires, was Mr. Romney's easy aplomb--the air of a man who, it was quite conceivable, had come to believe in the fantastic rationales he'd offered up for all the flip-flopping.

11:41 AM, January 07, 2008  
Blogger Serket said...

soccer dad,

Thanks for sharing the editorial, I think they are exactly right and I do not trust Romney. I hope McCain wins in New Hampshire. Romney received 50% of the vote in Wyoming and I'm afraid Mormons around this area (Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona) will mostly vote because of his religious beliefs. I was pleasantly surprised when I asked my uncle's friend his opinion of Romney and he said Romney is too liberal. Glenn Beck seems a big fan of him and the only reason I can think of is his religious beliefs. Although Romney does appear to be good with running businesses.

2:13 PM, January 07, 2008  
Blogger Serket said...

tmink: Attractive introverts are often perceived as snobs or conceited.

I would consider myself to be about average on looks, but from my experience most introverts are treated this way.

2:20 PM, January 07, 2008  
Blogger thisandthat said...

Reading all these responses as an introverted person a few comments struck deeply.
If you are a person that posseses an inherent honesty and integrity towards yourself and others, then ten to one you'll be classed as "introverted".
If you are a person that posseses an inherent honesty and integrity towards yourself and others, then ten to one you will allow yourself to feel inferior to those people considered "extrovert".
Extroverts consider themselves to be superior. If you are superior, you are by default better in every department, including looks.
The SHINING, OUTSTANDING DIFFERENCE between these people and us is that :
THEY have the confidence to tell us they are great and good looking whether they are or not, and
WE have a corresponding lack of self confidence to do the same SO we choose to believe them.

There are two paths we can take.

Number one is by far the easiest path to take! (I'll put my hand up in admitting this one), and therefore almost always the first chosen.

1. We can spend a large amount of our time being angry and filled with a huge sense of injustice regarding life's unfair balance of power. We can dwell so much on our sense of inadequacy that it increases tenfold .. We can take every comment regarding our quietness and compound it to an indescribable self-torture pain level.
We can be aware of / informed of /imagine even, erroneous, hurtful, deliberately spiteful comments said about /to us, merely due our quiet therefore seemingly suspicious and underhand nature AND WE CAN LET THESE THINGS DESTROY OUR PERSONALITY.
Like I said, this is the easiest path to take; but PURELY BECAUSE OF OUR NATURE.

2. This is called the bitch hike !

Some of us have developed a stubborn streak a mile wide. Some of us have constructed an outer shell tougher than steel, some of us have withdrawn to the point where we just want to be a grain of sand on a beach. Any beach. And it can be worse than that too - way worse.
SO - it's called the bitch hike because you have to slog and sweat up mountains and over obstacles THAT DON'T EXIST .....Sounds hard already yeah ? No sweat, all you have to do is spend time in your head and use your imagination while feeling good about it!
Start warming up cos we're going straight into it: ... if you haven't quite got your hiking head on, go back and think a while, warm up, start when you're ready....

Gonna jog for a while to get us puffing ..... (not too long}...

here we go, bit of flat ground before a little bit of a hill rising in front of us - at the top we can lie down and look over the rocks towards the sea -
say very fast in 5 words or less why you love your best friend /mum/dad/brother/sister/girlfriend/boyfriend/dog/whatever and whoever you choose to think about ...


Are you keeping up?!

You;re at the top of the hill now, laying down at first but soon sitting up hugging your knees and looking down to the sea - you can feel the dying sun warming your back while the increasing coastal wind tries to get under your crossed arms from the front. You experience feelings of regret that you didn't get here sooner because the complete peace and contentment you feel now will only last as long as the last half circle of light stays above the horizon. Subconciously you rebel against ever having to move from your spot, on top of the hill, looking out over the rocks, hearing the crashing waves far below , realising with an internal happiness that your nose has gone numb long ago and the whip of the salt on the wind has been making it run freely without you even noticing. You protect your front from the wind with your knees, while you subconsciously will the sun to stay over the horizon for just another minute so you can preserve that feeling - it's so perfect your heart feels like it's bursting and a wave of emotion so strong sweeps over you that your hands lift themselves in accordance

What scenerio / situation/sight/smell/people/places etc makes YOU feel euphoric inside - describe one to yourself out loud - take heaps of time over this one - if you want to, include how it affects you emotionally. If you don't want to, don't !! Just think, mutter, shout, drift off, whatever. BUT - this is the only BUT I promise - you're already on top of the world (on the hill, remember?) ya kinda need to make it your good space and thought, whether it's on that hill or that time you spent playing with next door neighbours dog, it doesn't matter what it was, where it was, who was or wasn't there, but it HAS to be a moment that touched YOU and stuff everyone else.

Oops - sun's gone down, it's pretty cold in the wind and you don't have a coat on - getting dark and we have to get back by climbing over the rocks - the spit of land with our hill has been surrounded already - shit, tides coming in real fast, and we're all getting sprayed - rocks are pretty slippy, very sharp, and we can't see. You fall on a rock and twist your ankle - we all try to pick you up, we are getting cut off this way as well. The pain is indescribable - you cannot deal with it for 1 second longer, you have to scream to make us put you down. We want to keep going cos we're getting scared now.
We put you down.
What do you say to us?

giving you a bit of think time for a change -no right answer - scroll on after you have spoken YOUR yourself ...

If you have thought about any scenerio on a personal level, congrats, you are an imaginative creative thinking individual.
Whether taking my scenarios and thinking about them, changing them completely and making up better ones or just spending time in your head without feeling bad about it - YOU ARE ONE OF MANY MANY PEOPLE - without whom society would no longer include empathy, tolerance, kindness, imagination, fairness, loyalty, forgiveness, environmental concern, humility, the list is endless and all the qualities are good. Imagine the human race without any of those?

We'll usually be in the background, because that is our nature. We'll usually be the ones that are taken advantage of because of our nature again.
We will always be the prime targets for those who have to deflect blame away from themselves.

Which one would you rather be?

The good one or the envied one ?

I'm not aloof, I'm shy !
I'm smart & quiet - equalls scheming bitch

6:05 PM, March 23, 2008  

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