File under: Counterintuitive. From ScienceDaily:
Researchers asked study participants to watch taped job interviews of 2nd year MBA students. Interviewees were all told to do their best to get the job. Half of the interviewees were completely truthful; the other half told at least three significant lies to appear more attractive for the job. All interviewees were guaranteed $20 for making the job interview tape, and both the liars and truth-tellers hoped to receive an additional $20 if a supposed “lie detection expert” watched the tape and believed they were telling the truth.
Several days before the participants watched the tapes, they filled out a questionnaire that measured their trust in other people, with questions such as “Most people are basically honest,” and “Most people are basically good-natured and kind.” They then watched the videos, and rated the truthfulness and honesty of the interviewees.
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.
“Although people seem to believe that low trusters are better lie detectors and less gullible than high trusters, these results suggest that the reverse is true,” write co-authors Nancy Carter and Mark Weber of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. “High trusters were better lie detectors than were low trusters; they also formed more appropriate impressions and hiring intentions.
Admittedly I have a bit of a hard time getting my head around this, but we’ll leave what that says about me aside. Assuming the results are borne out (and if you dismiss them out of hand, ask yourself why), here are my five hypothetical explanations:
- People who are raised in dysfunctional families frequently don’t learn how to recognize truth.
- Distrustful people tend to be more dishonest themselves, and psychologically project it out onto the rest of the human race.
- Those who are naive naturally seek out other naive people.
- Those who are bad at judging honesty will be exposed to more dishonest people, and thus become distrustful through experience.
- That’s what “They” want us to believe! (Or is that what I want to believe?)
Here’s the rub. If these results prove true, don’t they indicate that if you distrust a certain group, you should be more wary of those who say what you want to hear? For instance, if you distrust big business, perhaps you should be less so, and more skeptical of government. Or if you distrust Marxists, perhaps you should be less so, and more skeptical of Capitalists. Or if you are distrusting of religion, perhaps you should be less so, and more skeptical of science. And, for all these, vice versa.
Or does that make us even more distrusting, and thus even more likely to believe lies? There’s the rub.
Read more here.