Are Liars Attractive? |

3 min read
mohamedmatar / Pixabay

Source: mohamedmatar / Pixabay

A recent study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (ten Brinke et al., 2023) examined if people were judged as more attractive when they were lying or telling the truth.

Participants were shown videos of people lying and telling the truth and asked to rate them on physical attractiveness, warmth, and openness. The results suggested that people were rated more attractive when telling the truth than when lying. There was some evidence that warmth and openness ratings mediated the attractiveness ratings.

Why might people appear more attractive when telling the truth, as opposed to lying?

Our research on nonverbal cues may provide some of the answers. In an early study of the nonverbal cues associated with ratings of honesty and deception, we found that persons rated as more truthful had a more rapid speech rate, more animated faces (including smiling more), and exhibited fewer stereotypical nervous behaviors, such as hand rubbing and face scratching (Riggio and Friedman, 1983).

In another study (Riggio and Friedman, 1986), persons were rated on likability, and we found that these same nonverbal behaviors, animated faces, and faster and more fluent speech led to higher ratings of likability. Although this is not physical attractiveness per se, likability and appearing attractive tend to be correlated.

In another study (Riggio, 1986), we found that persons who appeared more poised and socially skilled were rated as more likable.

Taken together, this all makes sense. When lying, as the new study suggests, people engage in behaviors that give a negative, rather than a positive, impression to others. They may speak more slowly with more speech disturbances (“uhs” and “uhms”).

They may pause while they concoct a deceptive narrative. The arousal associated with deception may cause them to emit cues of nervousness. This then leads to lower ratings of attractiveness.

Research has shown that humans are very poor at knowing when we are being lied to. There are many reasons for this:

(1) we tend to trust more than mistrust what others are telling us

(2) we use inaccurate nonverbal cues when trying to detect deception

(3) the liar tries hard to cover up any cues that may give away the deception

The authors of this new study suggest that people may be more accurate at detecting lies if they focus not on the veracity of what they are being told but on positive cues of attractiveness and warmth. Research on those rare people who can identify liars above chance levels (O’Sullivan and Ekman, 2004) suggests they are successful “wizards of deception” because they focus not on the lie or the stereotypical deception cues.

Still, they get a general impression that “something is amiss,” leading them to greater than chance levels of identifying liars.

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours