Yes, Virginia, Trump Really Is a Bigger Liar Than Others

Yes, Virginia, Trump Really Is a Bigger Liar Than Others December 11, 2017

A social scientist who has studied liars and lying for decades has an op-ed in the Washington Post about Donald Trump’s penchant for lying about virtually everything. As I’ve been saying all along, he really does lie more often and more shamelessly than anyone I’ve ever seen.


I categorized the most recent 400 lies that The Post had documented through mid-November in the same way my colleagues and I had categorized the lies of the participants in our study.

The college students in our research told an average of two lies a day, and the community members told one. A more recent study of the lies 1,000 U. S. adults told in the previous 24 hours found that people told an average of 1.65 lies per day; the authors noted that 60 percent of the participants said they told no lies at all, while the top 5 percent of liars told nearly half of all the falsehoods in the study.

In Trump’s first 298 days in office, however, he made 1,628 false or misleading claims or flip-flops, by The Post’s tally. That’s about six per day, far higher than the average rate in our studies. And of course, reporters have access to only a subset of Trump’s false statements — the ones he makes publicly — so unless he never stretches the truth in private, his actual rate of lying is almost certainly higher.

But it isn’t just the number of lies he tells, it’s the utterly shameless nature of them and the fact that his lies are usually intended not to spare someone’s feelings but to attack them.

About half the lies the participants told were self-serving (46 percent for the college students, 57 percent for the community members), compared with about a quarter that were kind (26 percent for the students, 24 percent for the community members). Other lies did not fit either category; they included, for instance, lies told to entertain or to keep conversations running smoothly.

One category of lies was so small that when we reported the results, we just tucked them into a footnote. Those were cruel lies, told to hurt or disparage others. For example, one person told a co-worker that the boss wanted to see him when he really didn’t, “so he’d look like a fool.” Just 0.8 percent of the lies told by the college students and 2.4 percent of the lies told by the community members were mean-spirited…

Trump told 6.6 times as many self-serving lies as kind ones. That’s a much higher ratio than we found for our study participants, who told about double the number of self-centered lies compared with kind ones.

The most stunning way Trump’s lies differed from our participants’, though, was in their cruelty. An astonishing 50 percent of Trump’s lies were hurtful or disparaging.

Trump doesn’t do “little white lies” that spare others from embarrassment or make them feel better. He lies for two reasons: Because it serves his purposes in the moment and because he’s attempting to tear someone else down. When you combine the pathetic insecurity that requires him to constantly be told how great he is with his innate dishonesty and bullying personality, you have the perfect recipe for a sociopathic dictator.

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