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Description: Can you tell when someone is lying to you? If you do a You Tube search on lie detection you will find a great many postings showing versions of the classic lie detection game where someone tells you several things about themselves one of which is a lie and you have to figure out which one it is based on your “reading” of their body language, tone of voice eye contact or lack thereof etc. It is a hard thing to do with strangers but not quite as hard to do with people we know. Why do you think that might be? Well, of course, one possibility is that you simply know more of the truth about people you know well and can therefore check facts within your own memory. It may be that your knowledge of the other person will give you the ability to note atypical body language or vocal characteristics and thus to spot lying. But think about that a minute. What if the person you know well is simply a good liar? I am not suggesting that you conduct a psychological audit of all your friends in order to calibrate how you will think about them or act in response to them (that might not help your relationship with them if they found out) but think for a minute about what sort of data might help you sort out this question of just how honest the people you know actually are. Might there be some part of their personality profile that could be informative about this question? Which personality dimensions might be useful? Think about that, and about what sorts of dimensions would be useful if the standard Big Five dimensions do not seem to give you what you can use here, and then read the article linked below that makes use of the HEXACO personality model developed by a colleague of mine Kibeom Lee of the University of Calgary.

Source: Get to the Truth with This New Way to Spot a Liar, Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Fulfillment at Any Age, Psychology Today.

Date: February 24, 2018

Photo Credit: Pam Douglas, Huffington Post / Adam the Teacher WordPress

Links:  Article Link –

Kibeom Lee’s work with the HEXACO model includes the development of a dimension that seems to capture honesty-humility (Kibeom’s book on the subject is listed in the Further Reading section below). Certainly honesty, or the lack thereof, would potentially be related to lying and cheating but the way the personality dimension relates to real-world cheating and lying is a bit more complicated. In a two-part predictive process, the suggestion is that being honest translates to being fair and trustworthy and thus unwilling to gain through unethical means. When this is paired with humility, wherein people avoid being greedy because they do not feel entitled to special treatment, you have a personality combination that makes it less likely people who possess it will exploit, steal, lie or cheat. That is the hypothesis that the study discussed in the article/post linked above evaluated. The results supported the hypothesis. So, you now have an audit tool to use quietly. Consider a person’s sense of fairness and their greed avoidance and you will have a angle on their character in this area. You can do this without having to figure out how to get them to complete a HEXACO profile. Simply watch how they behave in situations with limited resources such as a shared meal or after a meal in a restaurant or an evening in a bar when it comes time to address the shared bill. Both of these situations are good sources of evaluative data related to the honesty-humility dimension.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are honesty and humility (in terms of personality dimensions)?
  2. How do honesty and humility relate to behaviors like cheating, lying, and stealing?
  3. Besides the ones noted in the paragraph above what are some social situations where you might be able to gather data from people on these dimensions? Be specific about the sorts of behaviors you would look for and how you would do so in ways that would not influence the behavior of the person or persons you are observing (and yes this sounds sneaky but, think about it, a LOT of personality data gathering IS rather sneaky, isn’t it?

References (Read Further):

van Rensburg, Y. J., de Kock, F. S., & Derous, E. (2018). Narrow facets of honesty-humility predict collegiate cheating. Personality and Individual Differences, 123199-204.


Lee, Kibeom, and Aston, Michael, C. (2012) The H Factor of Personality: Why some people are manipulative, self-entitled, materialistic and exploitive – Why it matters for everyone, Wilfred Laurier University Press.

Baiocco, R., Chirumbolo, A., Bianchi, D., Ioverno, S., Morelli, M., & Nappa, M. R. (2017). How HEXACO Personality Traits Predict Different Selfie-Posting Behaviors among Adolescents and Young Adults. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 2080.

Visser, B. A., Book, A. S., & Volk, A. A. (2017). Is Hillary dishonest and Donald narcissistic? A HEXACO analysis of the presidential candidates’ public personas. Personality and Individual Differences, 106, 281-286.