arrow-downarrow-leftarrow-rightarrow-upchevron-upchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-upclosecomment-newemail-newfullscreen-closefullscreen-opengallerygridheadphones-newheart-filledheart-openmap-geolocatormap-pushpinArtboard 1Artboard 1Artboard 1minusng-borderpauseplayplusreplayscreensharefacebookgithubArtboard 1Artboard 1linkedinlinkedin_inpinterestpinterest_psnapchatsnapchat_2tumblrtwittervimeovinewhatsappspeakerstar-filledstar-openzoom-in-newzoom-out-new

What Kind of Liar Are You? Take This Quiz to Find Out

Lying seems to be a deeply human trait. Science suggests our reasons for deceit might be something else we share.

Call me a liar, and you’re probably right. In fact, one study suggests that my fellow 18- to 44-year-olds tell as many as five lies a day. (Find out if you lie more or less than your age group.)

As for my own lying habits … no comment. But it’s certainly true to say that most humans lie with skill and regularity. We learn young, and only get better as we grow. But what motivates us to lie, when society so often frowns on deception? (Learn about the science behind why we lie.)

Research suggests that people don’t lie for lying’s sake, but rather to achieve goals we couldn’t achieve by telling the truth. And those motivating goals seem to be shared across cultures.

In a 2016 paper, behavioral scientist Timothy Levine asked almost 500 participants from five different countries to describe a time when they told a lie or were lied to. He found that from Egypt to Guatemala to the United States, people’s motivations for deceit could be boiled down to four categories: to protect oneself, to promote oneself, to impact others, and for unclear reasons.

Personal

transgression

Economic

advantage

Cover up a

mistake or

misdeed

Gain financial

benefits

16%

22%

WHY LIE?

Personal

advantage

15%

We all lie, but not all lies are the

same. People lie and tell the

truth to achieve a goal: “We lie

if honesty won’t work,” says

researcher Tim Levine.

Bring benefits

beyond money

Avoidance

14%

Escape or

evade other

people

8%

Self-impression

Shape a

positive image

of ourselves

7%

Unknown

5%

2%

Motives are

unclear, even

to ourselves

4%

5%

2%

Humor

Make people

laugh

Social or polite

Pathological

Altruistic

Malicious

Uphold social

roles or avoid

rudeness

Ignore or

disregard

reality

Help people

Hurt other

people

WHY

LIE?

We all lie, but not all lies are the

same. People lie and tell the

truth to achieve a goal: “We lie

if honesty won’t work,” says

researcher Tim Levine.

TO PROTECT YOURSELF

Personal transgression

22%

Cover up a mistake or misdeed

Avoidance

14%

Escape or evade other people

TO PROMOTE YOURSELF

Economic advantage

16%

Gain financial benefits

Personal advantage

15%

Bring benefits beyond money

Self-impression

8%

Shape a positive image of ourselves

5%

Humor

Make people laugh

TO IMPACT OTHERS

Altruistic

5%

Help people

4%

Social or polite

Uphold social roles or avoid rudeness

Malicious

2%

Hurt other people

UNCLEAR

7%

Unknown

Motives are unclear, even to ourselves

2%

Pathological

Ignore or disregard reality

Personal

transgression

Economic

advantage

Cover up a

mistake or

misdeed

Gain financial

benefits

16%

22%

WHY LIE?

Personal

advantage

15%

We all lie, but not all lies are the

same. People lie and tell the

truth to achieve a goal: “We lie

if honesty won’t work,” says

researcher Tim Levine.

Bring benefits

beyond money

Avoidance

14%

Escape or

evade other

people

8%

Self-impression

Shape a

positive image

of ourselves

7%

Unknown

5%

2%

Motives are

unclear, even

to ourselves

4%

5%

2%

Humor

Make people

laugh

Social or polite

Pathological

Altruistic

Malicious

Uphold social

roles or avoid

rudeness

Ignore or

disregard

reality

Help people

Hurt other

people

These categories establish a basis for cross-cultural comparison, but there’s still plenty of wiggle room. A personal transgression, for example, might mean something different in Guatemala, where people described covering up romantic infidelities, than in Saudi Arabia, where the most reported offense was breaking a social taboo against drinking alcohol or attending parties.

Take the quiz at the top of this page to guess what your motives for lying might be, then check the chart to see how you compare to Levine’s study.