Sex, Lies and…Polygraphs

Lies-and-TruthWhat is the one thing people are most likely to lie about?  No prizes for guessing –  the answer, more often than not, is sex.

And, why do people lie?

Well according to new research – people lie about their sexual behavior to match cultural expectations, even though they don’t distort other gender-related behaviors.

The study, published in the journal Sex Roles, included 293 heterosexual college students between the ages of 18 and 25. Students completed a questionnaire that asked how often (from never to a few times a day), they engaged in 124 different behaviors.

Polygraph_TestOne group of students was hooked up to a lie detector while they filled out the questionnaire, but were not informed that the lie detector did not actually work. The use of the bogus polygraph was intended to make participants feel pressured to tell the truth. The other group was connected to the apparatus before the study began, supposedly to measure anxiety, but the machine was removed before they completed the questionnaire.

In general, the results showed that both men and women tended to act as would be expected for their gender. Men reported more typical-male behaviors and women reported more typical-female behaviors, regardless of whether they were attached to the lie detector or not.

But for non-sexual behaviors, the participants didn’t seem to feel any added pressure to respond in stereotypical ways for their gender.

In other words, women who were hooked up to the lie detector and those who weren’t were equally likely to admit to bench pressing weights – a stereotypical male activity, while the men happily admitted to reading and writing poetry – a stereotypic female activity.

Men and women didn’t feel compelled to report what they did in ways that matched the stereotypes for their gender for the non-sexual behaviors,” said lead author Terri Fisher, professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

gender rolesHowever when it came to sex, everything changed!

Men wanted to be seen as “real men:” the kind who had many partners and a lot of sexual experience. Women, on the other hand, wanted to be seen as having less sexual experience than they actually had, to match what is expected of women.

There is something unique about sexuality that led people to care more about matching the stereotypes for their gender,” said Terri Fisher “Sexuality seemed to be the one area where people felt some concern if they didn’t meet the stereotypes of a typical man or a typical woman.”

The one exception was sexual behavior, where, for example, men reported more sexual partners when they weren’t hooked up to the lie detector than whey they were. Women, on the other hand, reported fewer partners when they were not hooked up to the lie detector than when they were. A similar pattern was found for reports of ever having experienced sexual intercourse.

art_sex2-Men and women had different answers about their sexual behavior when they thought they had to be truthful,” Fisher said.

This suggests that unless there is extreme pressure to be honest, both men and women will continue to lie about their sex lives. Shocker!

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