Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Lies are crafted to the audience


Do people cater their lies to their own beliefs or others' beliefs? One dominant individual-based account considers lying to be an internal tradeoff between self-interest, norms, and morals. However, recent audience-based accounts suggests that lying behavior can be better explained within a communicative framework, wherein speakers consider others' beliefs to design plausible lies---highlighting the role of theory-of-mind in strategic lying. We tease apart these accounts by examining human lying behavior in a novel asymmetric, dyadic lying game in which speakers' beliefs differ from those they ascribe to their audience. We compare participants' average reported lie (controlling for the truth) across conditions that manipulated the player's and the audience's beliefs. We find that people spontaneously tune their lies to beliefs unique to their audience, more than to their own beliefs. These results support the audience-based account of lying: estimates of how listeners will respond determine how people decide to lie.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View