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Lying politicians and leaders influence others be more dishonest

Friday 6 April 2018

POLITICIANS and leaders who lie influence others to be less honest, new research has revealed. And politicians with worse reputations have a bigger impact.

In a paper just published in the journal Psychological Research the researchers from the University of Salford found that people who perceive leaders to be dishonest are more likely to lie themselves.
To make their findings the team at Salford got teams of volunteers to play dice games where they were allowed to lie about the number they rolled. Before the start one group was asked to think about and describe the characteristics of more seemingly honest politicians such Francois Hollande, another group to describe the characteristics of less honest politicians, such as David Cameron and Nicholas Sarkozy, and the other group were asked to think and describe the characteristics of clergymen.

Then all groups played a dice game where they self-reported the results of their roles. They found that those who were influenced by thinking about politicians lied a lot more than those who had been describing the clergymen. And the group that described Nicholas Sarkozy lied most of all..
When participants regard their target person as more dishonest, they are more likely to demonstrate lying behaviour, both in gravity (i.e., bigger lies) and frequency (i.e., lying more frequently).

Professor Kirk Chang, who led the research at the University of Salford, said: “Lying is one of the most controversial abilities that humans possess. On the one hand, people dislike being lied to and are keen to know why people lie. On the other hand, those same people may lie if they think it is worth of doing so.

“Most people think of lying as a conscious thing ….  Lying is seen by many as essential for self-preservation and if people have something to gain from a lie and think they won’t get caught then many will do so. We have seen many politicians caught out in lies in the past. For example David Cameron and Nicholas Sarkozy have both been fund to have lied at various times.

“Different from conventional views of conscious lying, our research has found that lying can happen unconsciously as well through a process called priming. That means that, in simple terms, people copy what they see others do.

“Politicians are generally thought of as being untrustworthy and our research has discovered that people can be influenced by these negative characteristics to be more dishonest themselves. It was quite a big effect that we found.

“Maybe if we want to create a more honest society then our politicians and leaders need to lead the way!”

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Sam Wood

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