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Tuesday, Jan 23rd

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You are here News Politics Bella De Paulo: I study liars. I’ve never seen one like President Trump.

Bella De Paulo: I study liars. I’ve never seen one like President Trump.

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De Paulo: Trump lies more than anyone

I spent the first two decades of my career as a social scientist studying liars and their lies. I thought I had developed a sense of what to expect from them. Then along came President Trump. His lies are both more frequent and more malicious than ordinary people’s.

In research beginning in the mid-1990s, when I was a professor at the University of Virginia, my colleagues and I asked 77 college students and 70 people from the nearby community to keep diaries of all the lies they told every day for a week. They handed them in to us with no names attached. We calculated participants’ rates of lying and categorized each lie as either self-serving (told to advantage the liar or protect the liar from embarrassment, blame or other undesired outcomes) or kind (told to advantage, flatter or protect someone else).

At The Washington Post, the Fact Checker feature has been tracking every false and misleading claim and flip-flop made by President Trump this year. The inclusion of misleading statements and flip-flops is consistent with the definition of lying my colleagues and I gave to our participants: “A lie occurs any time you intentionally try to mislead someone.”

In the case of Trump’s claims, though, it is possible to ascertain only whether they were false or misleading, and not what the president’s intentions were. (And while the subjects of my research self-reported how often they lied, Trump’s falsehoods were tallied by The Post.)

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