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Deceit as a function of sex of subject and target person

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Thirty male and female undergraduates were run in same- and opposite-sex pairs to determine if the extent of experimentally sanctioned deceit would be influenced by sex pairings and potential for harm to another's self-esteem. Ss, who all believed they were playing the role of a “teacher” in a learning experiment, were instructed to provide false feedback (lie) at least three times during 30 trials to a “learner,” the other S. Consistent with hypotheses derived from a consideration of the potential harm to another's self-esteem and a suggested norm of “white lying,” perceived relative importance of male and female sex roles, and greater female concern for the social welfare of others, it was found that “white lies” occurred significantly more often than lies, that males were significantly more likely to give false feedback than females, that females were the target of false feedback significantly more often than males, and that the interaction between sex of S and sex of target person was also significant in that males lied to females more than any other sex pairing.

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Author information

Correspondence to Kenneth E. Mathews Jr..

Additional information

This research was partially supported by the New Mexico Highlands University Institute of Scientific Research. A brief version of this report was presented at the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association meeting, Denver, May, 1974.

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Mathews, K.E., Cooper, S. Deceit as a function of sex of subject and target person. Sex Roles 2, 29–38 (1976). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00289296

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  • Social Psychology
  • Target Person
  • Female Undergraduate