Gender Differences in the Ability to Remember Truths and Lies
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
THOMPSON, J. W. (1999). Gender Differences in the Ability to Remember Truths and Lies . National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 2. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

Gender Differences in the Ability to Remember Truths and Lies

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (
The nature of this research is three fold. First, the study looks at gender differences. In this case, the differences are in gender and memory by testing the ability to remember in a post-information-acquisition mode. Second, a clustering of memory items in a gender specific schema is a noted effect of these types of tasks and will be regarded. Finally, truth and lies are addressed as memory items. Looking specifically at the gender differences in the ability to remember self directed truth and lie statements without prior knowledge of the memory task at hand.

Someone once said that a lie was the most sincere form of flattery and often lying is referred to as the "art Gender of deception." Everyone lies. People lie to themselves and others about any number of things. We lie simply in the process of re-remembering events. Baurmeister (1993) describes lying in the everyday settings of life, by alluding to the fact that truths and lies are not a black and white proposition. In this manner, lies and truths are shades of gray ebbing and flowing between two extremes. This permits the able liar to reevaluate and perform selection of proofs. The able liar, through this process, will come to believe in the lie (Anolli and Ciceri 1997). In other words, the act of retrieving memory is a very subjective adventure. A memory is retrieved, mentally reviewed, and replaced in the mind`s storehouse and in this way rewritten. Subsequently, because of review, for the "able liar" the memory is changed. Most people are willing to lie about themselves. In a study that examined lying to attract an attractive date, people lied in about 25 percent of all attraction interactions (Rowatt, Cunningham, and Druen, 1999). The fact that physical attraction is a key in dating further accentuates the deception process. The participants showed an overall willingness to lie about personal attributes, such as personal appearance, personality, income, past relational outcomes, career skills, and course grades. This evaluation suggests attractions as strong motives for the use of lying. When doing research on motivated lying, an Amsterdam study couldn`t isolate a motivating factor. This study focused on 180 women shoppers as participants and attempted to evaluate the acceptability of telling lies (Backbier, Hoogstraten, and Terwogt-Kouwenhoven, 1997). These social researchers held the position "that lying is a functional communication strategy, albeit sometimes a reprehensible one." (Backbier, Hoogstraten, and Terwogt-Kouwenhoven, 1997, 1050). By arranging acceptability motives into three categories (social motives, individualistic motives, and egoistic motives), and by evaluating the lies with three factors (the goal, the situation, and the person) the researchers tried to find if the acceptability of telling lies was determined by any of these factors. They found a significant relationship between the acceptability of lying and motive was present although the relationship was not as strong as anticipated.Some research limits lying as intentional. Using 31 male law students as participants, researchers defined lying elementally (Anolli and Ciceri, 1997). By describing the main element, constituting a lie as the intention to lie -falsification of facts merely constitutes the condition necessary for the lie fulfillment. This work consisted of verbal interaction and a measurement analyzed by digitized acoustics. The subjects were then cast into categories depicting their deceptive abilities. This prospective described lying as a "highly demanding and articulated cognitive task. (Anolli, 260)." This notion was furthered by a description of the "able liar" who must be able to manipulate information so that it appears truthful. In essence, lying is a higher cognitive function. Anyone capable of abstract thought (the ability to manipulate information) is an able liar. The cognitive task memory must be involved, at least partially, with the natural acceptable presence of the lie. By knowing that we lie to ourselves (simply in the process of memory), we lie to others (when motivated and especially for personal reasons). I feel that the measure of the able liar is a function that can be measured and compared using memory. Studies regarding memory are far ranging and diverse. In narrowing the field of comparisons, I have looked to gender and deception finding very little research in this area (Canary and Dindia, 1998).Most gender related material is strained. To explain, the term strained in this case means scrutinized to a high degree -much like running flour through a sifter. Sex and gender no longer occupy the same space (if they ever did). Sex refers to biological difference, while, gender refers to a preferential or genetic type cast that are constructed (Canary, 1998). For future reference, all references -on my part- to sex or gender is to mean the role of biology.Many biases have occurred in the study of gender and sex (Bem, 1981; Caplan, Crawford, Hyde & Richardson, 1997; Canary, 1998) and much doubt are cast referring to the bias of studies regarding sex differences (Bem, 1981; Caplan, 1997; Canary, 1998). Most agree, in a true scientific spirit, that differences do exist and should be studied.Bem`s studies are aimed in the direction of gender and recall. She has devised an inventory the BSRI (Bem, 1974; 1981), which denotes the constructs of gender. Gender, in this construct is looked upon in four levels; gender schematic (holding many gender specific attributes (1) masculine or (2) feminine), non-gender schematic (3) androgynous (showing many masculine and feminine traits), or (4) undifferentiated (showing few masculine or feminine). In a recent article describing gender schema theory, a recall experiment was conducted. The experiment was designed to look at the clustering of memorized items in attempt to see if sex-typed individuals do organize materials in a gender schema. Individuals were given items to memorize and asked to recall them in whatever order they came to mind. It was found that those possessing gender specific criteria were in fact clustering gender based memory items (Bem, 1981). They (the gender specific) were also significantly faster at this task, showing schema consistency. In this regard, gender based material should be a good memory basing criteria. Other research techniques have been used pondering the deception gender question. "Two meta-analyses (Kalbfleisch in 1985; Zuckerman, DePaulo, and Rosenthal, 1981) have shown that female deception tends to be less successful (more readily detected) than male deception"(Canary, 1998). Burgoon and Buller (1994) have also done studies using dyadic interactions (interviews). Testing the deception of falsehoods with a suspicious verses not suspicious interviewer. This research yielded little significant evidence to the presence of a sex related difference (Canary, 1998).Therefore, the purpose of this study is to take an unbiased look at the possibilities of deception and the sexes. I believe that there is a gender difference in the way memory is assimilated and or sorted, and that difference is dependent on the gender of the individual doing the sorting and sifting.


Subjects for this study were 53 male and female college students participating in introductory level psychology courses. One large class, comprised of approximately 60 students, was offered extra credit for participation in the research.

The survey consisted of two parts. Part-One asked the subjects to fill in sentences. Part Two asked subjects to remember what they had written. The Part-One survey consisted of four separate pages. The first page (pg..1) required participants to write in their assigned number, age, sex, and answer two opinion questions regarding the acceptability of truth and lies. The next pages (pg..2) and (pg..3) of Part-One, requested participants to write one believable sentence regarding each of the eight imposed key words per page. These key words are a set of words from Bem`s gender inventory (Bem, 1974). This inventory is used to measure a persons gender orientation. Page two (pg..2) and page three (pg..3) each contained eight key words, four key words for masculine orientation and four key words for feminine orientation. Subjects were instructed to write a statement on one of these sentence-writing pages that was a lie and to write a true statement on the next (or vice versa for counter balance). Pages two (pg..2) and three (pg..3) are basically the same in construction. Both pages two and three request that participants write a one-sentence believable lie about themselves using the eight key words (for one page) and write a one-sentence believable truth about themselves using the eight key words (for the other page). These two pages are also counterbalanced in the fact the sequences of key words are mixed in respect to truth and lie direction. Words that "participant one" is directed to lie about on one page "participant two" will be directed to tell the truth about and so onů with subsequent participants.A filler survey (Wegner`s WBSI; Wegner and Zanakos, 1994) was used primarily to take up time and distract the participants attention. This form completes Part-One of the questionnaires.Part-Two was a copy of the first questionnaire`s (pgs..2 and 3), that requested participants to recall the sentences they created during the Part-One questionnaire.

The students were addressed at the beginning of the class period and instructed the surveys were part of a gender study. The subjects were assigned a number for the purpose of privacy (and matching forms) then instructed in the process of filling out the surveys. After gathering the completed Part-One forms, the students were asked if they would consider participation in subsequent research and most affirmed. A period of 25 minutes from completion of Part-One elapsed (during which time the class resumed their normal routine) then, Part-Two the key word recall list was administered and completed. The reduction of these data to numeric form used the following criteria; assigned numbers matched the eight questions on both pages of Part-One and Part-Two; the lies and truths were rated on a five-point scale; and acceptability was rated. The rating for the memory task consisted of five points per key word recall on Part-Two forms. Five points were awarded for perfect, word for word, recall even if transposed. Such as; "Sometimes I am dominant" is equivalent to "I am sometimes dominant". Four points were awarded for responses that had only one word different than that of the original sentence or had an extra word or words in the response while containing the original words. Three points were given for the memory sentences that used different words but were conceptually the same as the original statement. Two points were given for a concept match only. One point was given for an ambiguous or close concept. Zero points were given for no match. The scores were summed according to truths and lies. Also, the scores were split on the basis of the gender specificity of the key words.

The data were submitted to a 2 (sex) X 2 (gender specific terms M/F) X 2 (truth verses lie) repeated measures ANOVA design to examine the effect of sex (of the participant) on truth, lies, and gender specific terms (lies/truths and male/female). This makes a comparison of the difference between the genders and demonstrates in which measure(s) these differences lie. There was an overall difference in memory (between men and women) F(1,51)= 3.335, p<.074 which was close to significant. This was indicated by average group scores of 14.029 for women and 12.066 for men. There was also a significant difference in remembering gender specific terms (gender specific male terms verses gender specific female terms) F(1,51)=7.542, p<.008. With the average scores being higher for feminine gender specific terminology at 13.714, while masculine gender specific terms scores were lower at 12.381. A final significant result in remembering truths and lies was also calculated F(1,51)=10.582, p<.002. Thus indicating that on average all of the participants remembered truth statements (with average scores of 13.714 for truth) as opposed to average scores for lie statements (12.058 for lie). In all, there were no significant interactions.

The research indicates that people in general do remember truths better than lies and that women are better at this type of memory test (post-information-acquisition), although not significantly better. This is contrary to my idea that remembering the lie statements would be easier. I felt that because a lie must be created, not simply recalled, that the lie would be more accessible to recall. The use of deception by omission is a necessary aspect of post-information-acquisition. The idea of assimilating memory and retrieval after the fact are not new and are practical and theoretically important although little is known about these effects (Sorrentino, 1986). This research indicated that people are significantly better at recalling true statements than they are lie statements in this instance.The use of gender specific terms is in accordance with the idea that non-gender specific terminology is too evasive, subjective, and general for a study of this type. Gender specific terms given evenly should measure or create memory associations due to the gender of the participant (Bem, 1987). Also, a gender specific grouping was noted for everyone. People remembered gender specific female terms significantly better than gender specific male terms. This is the hardest significance to logically interpret. This brings to mind the question of why would people remember female terminology better?I think that the findings reflect social and cultural differences in the way the different genders approach life. The "art of deception" is a skill. Honing this skill is one manner of defense, offense, and existence for persons living in a structured society. Memory is a definite asset to anyone, for any number of reasons. Caution could be another aspect of these differences; because one is smaller or weaker, then greater caution would be exercised in performance of the art of deception. The difference could be simply attributed to caring; those who care more, deceptions bother more. This could be the sounding of a true optimistic note for our society by knowing that because of our truths, we are sufficient. Or it could be the mark of indifference to our lies. Which could indicate our lies -or these lies are so unimportant to us that we simply don`t remember them. The only element of time to be conscious of and consistent with for replication of this quasi-experiment is the length of time between Part-One and Part-Two. This factor could determine a variety of outcomes. Time and rehearsal are both key elements of long term memory (Loftus, 1980). Comparison distribution techniques and correlation could have better engineered the choice of key words (Aron, 1997). My planning of the overall structure of the experiment led to inefficient statistical inadequacies. For future research, I would like to develop a more stable key word recall list. I would also like to come up with a cleaner, clearer operational definition of the "able liar." Making this definition something more personal, that is within reasonable time constraints for testing. Or maybe, just compare Bem`s gender inventory to truths and lies, eliminating sex and looking to gender orientation.

Anolli, L. & Ciceri, R. (1997) . The voice of deception: vocal strategies of na´ve and able liars. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 21(4), 259-284.Aron, A., & Aron, E., N. (1997) . Statistics for the behavioral and social sciences: A brief course. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.Backbier, E., Hoogstraten, J. & Terwogt-Kouwenhoven, K., M. (1997) . Situational determinants of the acceptablity of telling lies. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 27(12), 1048-1062.Bem, S., L. (1981) . Gender schema theory: a cognitive account of sex typing. Psychological Review, 88, 354-364.Bem, S., L. (1974) . The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 155-162.Caplan, P., J., Crawford, M., Hyde J., S. & Richardson J., T., E. (1997) . Gender differences in human cognition. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.Canary, D., J. & Dindia, K. (1998) . Sex differences and simularities in communication: critical essays and emperical investigations of sex and gender in interaction. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Loftus, E. (1980) . Memory: Surprising new insights into how we remember and why we forget. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.Rowatt, W., C. (1999) . Lying to get a date: the effectiveness of facial physical attractiveness on the willingness to deceive prospective dating partners. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 16(2), 209-223.Sorrentino, R., M. & Higgins, E., T. (1986) . Handbook of motivation and cognition: foundations of social behavior. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Submitted 11/30/99 1:35:45 PM
Last Edited 12/2/99 1:02:35 PM
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