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Power and the ability to detect lies

Dishonesty may have grave consequences in many areas of life, including the workplace and the judicial system. Aleksandra Cisłak-Wójcik, Ph.D. / Associate Professor from SWPS University's Institute of Psychology and Joanna Ultaowska, Ph.D. from the Nicolaus Copernicus Unversity in Toruń investigated whether having power in social relations impacts one’s ability to detect lies.

#social power #lying #social influence #attributes of power

What we researched:

  • Psychological dynamics in social interactions, such as those stemming from the hierarchical dimension of social relations as potential factors influencing one’s ability to detect lies.

How we did it:

  • The researchers carried out three studies. The participants (N = 502) were asked to identify truthful and lying candidates during mock job interviews. Study 1 was a field experiment involving employees who held managerial and non-managerial positions (N = 88). In the following laboratory experiments, the researchers manipulated power and asked participants to imagine themselves as managers (Study 2, N = 214) or provided them with control over resources and the ability to reward others (Study 3, N = 200).
  • They found that having power over others enhances the accuracy of one’s veracity assessment, although this increase is small and limited to lie detection or direct judgments. Together, power affects the processing of social information and what aspects of this information are taken into account.

Why is it important:

  • Although having power marginally increases veracity assessment, mangers and people in positons of power should still be aware of their limited ability to detect lies in situations such as job interviews.

“Powerholders should be aware of their limited knowledge and abilities in terms of veracity assessment. Their increased confidence accompanied by rather limited lie detection skills, which were both observed here, may have grave consequences in workplace, political, and legal contexts."