Friday, 9 May 2008

A positive kind of lying?

Telling lies about our past successes can sometimes be self-fulfilling, at least when it come to exam performance. That's according to the New York Times, which reports on studies by Richard Gramzow at the University of Southampton and colleagues.

Their research has shown that, when asked, many students exaggerate their past exam performance, and that those students who do this tend to go on to perform better in the future.

What's more, a study published in February (rtf doc) showed that when these exaggerators are interviewed about their past academic performance, they don't show any of the physiological hallmarks associated with lying, but rather their bodies stay calm. It's almost as though this is a different kind of lying, aimed more at the self, with the hope of encouraging improved future performance.

As the New York Times says:

"...such exaggeration is very different psychologically from other forms of truth twisting. Touching up scenes or past performances induces none of the anxiety that lying or keeping secrets does, these studies find; and embroiderers often work to live up to the enhanced self-images they project. The findings imply that some kinds of deception are aimed more at the deceiver than at the audience, and they may help in distinguishing braggarts and posers from those who are expressing personal aspirations, however clumsily."
Link to New York Times report
Link to rtf of study showing that students stay calm when exaggerating.

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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