The negative effects of lying

NPO Radio 1 and De Morgen
Erasmus School of Economics

The saboteur in the Belgian edition of ‘Wie is de Mol?’ (Who is the Mole?), has decided to quit the program. He could no longer handle the pressure of lying about his sabotage activities. Sophie van der Zee, Assistant Professor of Applied Economics at Erasmus School of Economics, explains the consequences of lying in interviews with De Morgen (30 April 2022) and NPO Radio 1 (11 April 2022).


The Assistant Professor focusses her research on lying and unfair behaviour. For her, this news was therefore very interesting since it is rare to observe the effects of lying in media. She states that the consequences of lying can quickly be observed. People start acting more nervously, frightened, and guilty. A salient detail van der Zee shares, is that most people are unaware of their own lies. In studies where people had to report how many times a day they lie, they state that they lie two times a day. However, in experiments where individuals are asked to have a conversation with a stranger for only ten minutes, it is found that they have already lied twice within those ten minutes.


Van der Zee explains that people differ in their susceptibility to the consequences of lying. Firstly, by lying more often, it becomes easier for people to deal with an additional lie. Secondly, certain personalities enjoy the challenge of lying, such as psychopaths and narcissists. Thirdly, certain people are better at lying since they are easier believed. For instance, physically attractive people are more easily believed than physically unattractive people.

Long-term consequences

Most research has focused on the short-term consequences of lying. Thus, the long-term consequences of lying are not that well documented. Van der Zee speculates, that lying for a longer period could lead to structurally high levels of stress. This can have mentally and physically devastating consequences. Insomnia, for example. Another example the Assistant Professor gives, is that lying people find it hard to conduct unconstrained conversations, since they are afraid of being discovered.

Assistant professor
More information

For the whole item by De Morgen, 30 April 2022, click here.

For the whole item by NPO Radio 1, 11 April 2022, click here.

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