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Why Men Lie More Than Women and More Often to Other Men

Men behave more unethically towards other men, but other if they're attractive enough.

Men lie more than women during business negotiations, but not because they’re necessarily more dishonest. It could be that they’re just more competitive, a new study suggests. “We found that men are more likely to act unethically in situations of high intrasexual competition,” study coauthor Margaret Lee, a PhD candidate a at London Business School, told Fatherly.

Prior, informal surveys suggest that men lie about three times per day, compared to women, who lie about twice per day. More rigorous findings analyzed dishonesty diaries for men and women, and found that they lie with about the same frequency, just about different things. Men tend to lie in a self-serving way — either to deflect blame, embarrassment, or simply to avoid getting their feelings hurt. Women instead lie in a way that’s meant to make others feel better. 

For this new study, researchers first surveyed 138 adults who worked in jobs that require negotiation. The questionnaire mainly consisted of benign inquiries about work/life balance, but also asked pointed questions about romantic and sexual interests, as well as ethics in negotiation scenarios. After controlling for variables such as age and mood, the data indicated that men were more willing to lie in situations that pitted them against other men. Interestingly when asked to respond to a negotiation scenario with a person they did not know, men were even more willing to act unethically if they perceived their negotiation partner as attractive.

“Our results suggest that men do lie more to attractive men than unattractive men in negotiations,” Lee says. “The theoretical basis is that men are in competition with other men to be the more formidable mate choice, so the competitiveness is in order to be more favorable.”

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This may mean that when a man lies to another man, it’s not an insult to his intelligence but a compliment to his eligibility in the mating marketplace. They don’t think you’re stupid—they think you’re hot. As for whether men are the more dishonest sex, the researchers remain unsure. “It is difficult to make a generalized statement about whether men lie more than women,” Lee concludes. “People should be aware of potential competitive dynamics when negotiating with same-sex opponents.”