Ivory Towers: But of Course I Love You

By Hartston, William | The Independent (London, England), March 16, 1994 | Go to article overview
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Ivory Towers: But of Course I Love You


Hartston, William, The Independent (London, England)


BIRDS do it, dogs do it, ministers and (maybe) frogs do it. Lord Callaghan vehemently denies doing it, but perhaps everyone should examine the academic research on lying before getting upset.

'Lying: see Deception' advises the index in Psychological Abstracts. 'Deception: see also Cheating, Confabulation, Faking, Malingering' it continues.

The prevalence of lying within personal relationships was established by D Knox, A Schacht, J Holt and J Turner, in the College Student Journal of North Carolina University last year. Of 137 students questioned, 92 per cent reported lying to a current, or potential, sexual partner. Most common was to lie about the number of previous partners. Other popular fibs include the evaluation of the sexual experience that just happened and the characteristics of, and feelings for, the current partner.

In 'Why professionals lie: The impact of professional role conflict on reporting accuracy' (Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 1993), S L Grover reports on the reporting accuracy of nurses.

'Subjects high in organisational commitment had a propensity to report more accurately to the organisation than subjects with low commitment to the organisation.' So perhaps ministers with outside directorships might be less accurate than career MPs.

'Lying in the public domain' is the title of a paper by W P Robinson in the journal American Behavioural Scientist. By considering bias and false information in legal, political and educational contexts, he observes that 'winning the argument receives higher priority than telling the truth'.

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