Background. A growing body of evidence shows that people's attitudes toward lies could be predictive of their actual deceptive behavior. However, few studies have examined both attitudes and deceptive behavior, and none have related attitudes toward the likelihood of self-reported deception as it develops over people’s lifespans.
Objective. Our study addresses attitudes toward lies and the likelihood of deceptive behavior in a variety of contexts, relating them to self-reported frequency of lying. We were also interested in whether individual differences in social desirability and social anxiety predict self-reported frequency of lying across lifespans.
Design. Using a cross-sectional design that included children as well as young adults, we assessed a total of 177 participants with the same questionnaire about deception, adapted from Lundquist et al. (2009).
Results. The age differences in the frequency of self-reported lying followed an inverted U-shape trend over time. Children’s lower social desirability and more lenient attitudes toward white lies predicted higher lying frequency, whereas for adults, a greater likelihood of telling prosocial lies predicted higher lying frequency.Children with decreased anxiety were less likely to tell prosocial lies, implying that anxiety might be a key factor in children’s development of deception.
Conclusion. Our work offers an integrative view into people’s attitude towards deception and their self-reported lying as they mature. Attitudes toward white lies and the self-reported likelihood of telling prosocial lies were the most relevant predictors involved in self-reported lie-telling. Individual differences in anxiety and social desirability also played a relevant role in children’s and young adults’ attitudes toward deception.
Keywords: attitudes; deception; lying frequency; anxiety; social desirability; prosocial lies; white lies