Trusting people make better lie detectors

Not pollyannas: Higher generalized trust predicts lie detection ability

From Social Psychological and Personality

Trusting others may not make you a fool or a Pollyanna, instead it can be a sign that you are smart. This study analyzed participants responses when they viewed interview tapes of people applying for a job, where half the individuals recorded were being honest and the other half incorporated lies. The results revealed that perhaps surprisingly, people high in trust were more accurate at detecting the liars, the more people showed trust in others, the more able they were to distinguish a lie from the truth. The more faith in their fellow humans they had, the more they wanted to hire the honest interviewees and to avoid the lying ones. Contrary to the stereotype, people who were low in trust were more willing to hire liars and they were also less likely to be aware that they were liars. The interpersonal accuracy of trusting people may make them particularly good at hiring, recruitment, and identifying good friends and worthy business partners.


This research used a job interview context to investigate the relationship between peoples’ degrees of generalized trust—their default assessments of the likely trustworthiness of others—and their ability to detect lies. Participants watched videos of eight simulated job interviews: Half of the interviewees were completely truthful; half told a variety of lies to make themselves more attractive job candidates. Contrary to lay wisdom, high trusters were significantly better than low trusters were at detecting lies. This finding extends a growing body of theoretical and empirical work suggesting that high trusters are far from foolish Pollyannas and that low trusters’ defensiveness incurs significant costs.

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Article details:
Carter, N., & Mark Weber, J. (2010). Not Pollyannas: Higher Generalized Trust Predicts Lie Detection Ability Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1 (3), 274-279 DOI: 10.1177/1948550609360261

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