A 75-nation study shows that Americans think they can get away with lying more than half the time. Protestants are most likely to think they can lie without detection. Catholics slightly less. Muslims are least likely to feel that way.
Americans think they can detect a lie less than half of the time. Norwegians and Swedes rate themselves even worse. Turks and Armenians, however, say they can spot a liar upwards of 70 percent of the time. Worldwide, people surveyed say they can detect 53 percent of lies.
Those are among the findings of work done by Texas Christian University Psychology Professor Charles F. Bond, and fellow researchers. Bond helped to explain research into international deception at a Congressional briefing session in Washington, DC recently.
"We have conducted a 75-nation study with 4,800 participants," says Dr. Bond. "Eye contact, or lack of it, was mentioned more than any other cue as an indicator that a person is lying."
And all that shows, apparently, is just how often people can be wrong.
"This belief is most likely inaccurate," says Dr. Bond. "At least in western research, eye contact has only a weak relationship to deception."
While shifty eyes are regarded with suspicion across the globe, the researchers did find some international differences.
"Around 15 percent of respondents say that liars actually make more eye contact," says Dr. Bond. "We were interested in this minority view."
In lands where Islam is the dominant religion, just under 30 percent of respondents said that people make more eye contact when they are lying. Fewer than 15 percent of residents of lands where Protestant Christianity was the dominant religion felt the same way and the figure was about 11 percent in nations where Roman Catholic Christianity was dominant.
People who live in the poorest nations tend to believe that they are most effective at spotting whoppers, Dr. Bond notes.
There are differences among cultures in the estimation of how many lies are being told. Taiwanese and Portuguese believe they are hearing about four fibs per week. Americans think they are exposed to eight prevarications weekly. Pakistanis and Algerians tend to be less trusting. Those surveyed in those nations think they are mislead between 12 and 16 times weekly.
There are also differences among nations in peoples' evaluations of their own abilities to lie. In the United States, people believe they can get away with lying 56 percent of the time. Chileans and Argentines, by contrast, believe that they will be caught about 60 percent of the time. Those living in Moldova and Botswana think they are detected lying fewer than 25 percent of the time.
Protestants think they get away with lying about 55 percent of the time while Catholics believe that about half of their lies are detected.
"Muslims rate themselves the worst at lying," says Dr. Bond.
Muslims think they get away with it only 47 percent of the time.
Dr. Bond outlined his research in a presentation titled "International Deception," earlier this year at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC as part of a congressional briefing titled "Detecting Deception: Research to Secure the Homeland."
The event was sponsored by the Consortium of Social Science Associations, the American Psychological Association and the National Communication Association with funding from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.