It never seems to go away. You know. The colleague you're never sure you can trust. Or the one who regularly promises but rarely fulfills. And most of us are bad about spotting liars and deception. But there are a few things we know for certain about that tough subject. And for business folk, there's one reality about deception that always rings true.
Powerful people are better liars and more difficult to spot. And Dana Carney of Columbia University as proved that. Those of us with a background in rhetoric and nonverbal research have believed this for years, but we're glad to see that someone has at last validated our well-educated hunches.
Carney's subjects were not politicians, at least not governmental politicians, but business bosses and employees. The bosses, with larger offices and more power were tasked to do such things as assign employee salaries. Half of all the research subjects were instructed by a computer to steal $100, and, if they could convince an interviewer that they didn't take it, they could keep it. The other subjects were also questioned in the interviews. The interviewers were trained to identify deception. (Although the article didn't say so, it reflects the work of Paul Ekman, the expert in deception, who I referred to in a previous blog: Reflections on BSing.)
The subjects were measured on five variables that indicate lying, variables that can't be easily measured in any other context.
What the research shows is that "if you give people power, they're more comfortable lying, and it will be harder to tell they're doing it."...