A Few Prolific Liars: Variation in the Prevalence of Lying

Academic Article


  • It has been commonplace in the deception literature to assert the pervasive nature of deception in communication practices. Previous studies of lie prevalence find that lying is unusual compared to honest communication. Recent research, and reanalysis of previous studies reporting the frequency of lies, shows that most people are honest most of the time and the majority of lies are told by a few prolific liars. The current article reports a statistical method for distinguishing prolific liars from everyday liars and provides a test of the few prolific liars finding by examining lying behavior in the United Kingdom. Participants (N = 2,980) were surveyed and asked to report on how often they told both little white lies and big important lies. Not surprisingly, white lies were more common than big lies. Results support and refine previous findings about the distinction between everyday and prolific liars, and implications for theory are discussed.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Serota KB; Levine TR
  • Start Page

  • 138
  • End Page

  • 157
  • Volume

  • 34
  • Issue

  • 2