Entries in lying (5)


Safe Sex, Lies, and Past Partners

There are a lot of safe-sex behaviors that reduce sexually transmitted infections (e.g., consistent condom use, getting tested for STIs). In addition, open communication with your partner(s) about your respective sexual histories can help you assess the risk of a new (or established) sexual partner. Unfortunately, however, a recent a study of 183 college students published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships suggests that the majority of young adults may be dishonest when disclosing their sexual histories to sexual partners. Specifically, over 60% of respondents admitted to previously lying at least once when talking to a current partner about their number of past sexual partners, and 20% reported that they always lie about their number of previous partners. Those students who had previously lied about their sexual history were generally uncomfortable with talking about safe sex. So while open and honest communication is important in sexual relationships, you can’t assume you partner is telling you the truth.

tl;dr: Your new partner probably may not be completely honest, so using a condom is always a good idea.

Horan, S. M. (2016). Further understanding sexual communication: Honesty, deception, safety, and risk. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 33, 449-468.


Using The Science of Micro-Expressions to Predict Divorce: Sorry George and Amal, Your Outlook Is Not So Good

I try not to be a relationship cynic, but I see divorce in George Clooney’s future. It’s not the tabloids that I’m relying on to make this prediction. It is the science of micro-expressions - the very brief (i.e., micro) facial expressions that flash across a person’s face for mere fractions of a second.1 These unconscious expressions can be quite telling, and a careful examination of George’s nonverbal behavior during a recent interview leads me to believe that he and Amal may not be as happy as they claim. 

Much of the research on micro-expressions has been conducted by Dr. Paul Ekman, a psychologist who has spent his career studying emotions and facial expressions. He has shown that when people try to conceal how they really feel, their faces often leak true emotions. For instance, imagine being disappointed by a loved one’s thoughtful gesture (e.g., an elaborate home-made dinner of your least favorite food) or being jealous of something wonderful that happened to a close friend (e.g., getting engaged, think Bridesmaids). As you know, it would be inappropriate, not to mention rude, to express your displeasure. Rather, you may try to mask your true feelings with something more socially acceptable (e.g., a smile). In those brief and fleeting moments, a trained eye could detect the subtle and unconscious facial movements, like knitting of the eyebrows or narrowing of the lips, that express your actual discontent.

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The Rules of Deception in Romance

In the acclaimed TV drama Breaking Bad, high school chemistry teacher Walter White has a big secret—he doesn’t tell his wife Skyler that he and his former student Jesse Pinkman have begun “cooking” and selling meth. Lots and lots of meth.   

As is the case with many couples, Walt and Skyler may differ on what they consider to be deception. Walt isn’t hiding his criminal activity to hurt Skyler or damage their marriage; in fact, he started his meth lab as a way to ensure his family’s financial security, in the event that he dies from lung cancer. However, Skyler actually considers Walt’s deception quite problematic (his life of crime places him in great legal and mortal danger, after all!) and later pursues a divorce when he reveals the truth. Walt and Skyler’s different perspectives on Walt’s deception beg the question: how might beliefs about deceit differ between men and women in real life?

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Lying About Physical Attractiveness

I attended an interesting talk yesterday by Dr. Edward Lemay and his colleagues about how people use deception in their relationships. He wanted to know what motivates people to lie when their girlfriend or boyfriend asks how they look. For example, if you don’t think they look very physically attractive, do you tell the truth?

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Liars, and Letches, and Narcissists! Oh My!

Meeting new people and engaging in flirtatious banter are my favorite things about dating. In all honesty, the initial “getting to know you phase” was what I missed most when I was married. Unfortunately, occasionally there are dates that are excruciatingly painful to sit through. One such date involved someone whose on-line photographs depicted a youthful, attractive and successful man who apparently enjoyed scuba diving. At the very least, I thought we could swap travel stories.

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