Do women lie more than men?

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So sayeth no less an authority than the New York Post. In an article yesterday titled “Miss-Leading: The Truth About Gals’ Serial Fibbing,” the tabloid begins:

Deceit, thy name is woman.

What Hamlet actually said was “Frailty, thy name is woman.” But whatever. I quibble not. What brought on this slanderous accusation? Ah: no less a fine piece of art than the new Fox TV show, The Moment of Truth.

Have any of you watched this revolting thing? We’ve caught glimpses of it in teasers while we watch other Fox shows we like, including Idle American (my husband’s one-liner) or The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It’s a reality-slash-game show that sort of resembles the pajama-party game Truth or Dare, except without the dare part, and with lie detectors. The motive: a pot of cash.

One recent and heavily promoted episode involved a young, married woman:

Lauren Cleri, 26, admitted on air she had cheated on her NYPD cop husband and preferred an ex-boyfriend. But she failed a polygraph, and lost $200,000, by answering “yes” when asked if she believed she was a good person.

The Post, being the Post, decided this was a good reason to call upon a lying expert named Susan Shapiro Barash, author of a book, Little White Lies, Deep Dark Secrets: The Truth About Why Women Lie. According to her research, conducted on 500 women she found on Craig’s List,

• 75 percent lie about how much money they spend. For instance, they sneak purchases inside their homes after shopping or hide the price tags.

• 50 percent harbor “mixed feelings about mothering.” One told Barash, “I look at these children and I crave sleep and free time. They wear me out and make me jealous of working women who have no children, no husbands.”

• More than 60 percent cheated on their husbands. A 32-year-old mother conducted her trysts while telling her trusting husband she was working late. Even in asking for a divorce, she withheld the truth: “I didn’t say I had fallen for another man. He was better off with my lies.”

Okay. I have such a problem with each of these so-called findings. That three-fourths of us lie to our husbands about how much we shop assumes three-fourths of us are living off our hubbies’ income, don’t you think? …which simply doesn’t hold up to Census figures that show 77% of adult women work.

Secondly: so half of women say they have mixed feelings about parenting. What the hell does that have to do with lying? I’d venture to say all parents have mixed feelings about parenting; who can summon up cheer and joy when we’re about to leave for work and the kid decides to start a paintball fight in the playroom?

As for the last, I just don’t believe it. Other surveys don’t support it, either. This from MSNBC.com:

About one in five adults in monogamous relationships, or 22 percent, have cheated on their current partner. The rate is even higher among married men.

So what, you ask, makes the Post conclude from all this that women are liars? I haven’t the foggiest. The fact is, we all lie—including at work. According to studies by actual lying expert Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., described in Psychology Today,

• [Working adults] lied in one-fifth of their social interactions; students, one-third.

• Lying was more common in phone calls than in face-to-face chats.

• One lie in seven was discovered–as far as the liars could tell.

• A tenth of the lies were merely exaggerations, while 60 percent were outright deceptions. Most of the rest were subtle lies, often of mission: “He and I discussed sex acts that I had performed, but he assumed they had been performed with a woman.”

• More than 70 percent of liars would tell their lies again.

If you know of a study that shows women lie more than men, tell me. Otherwise, we’re just perpetuating ugly stereotypes by painting one gender as innately deceitful.

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