We all lie a little bit—but the operative phase there is “little bit”. Most of us don’t lie that much. A tiny minority, however, lie constantly, and they’re responsible for most of the lying in the world.
A study published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology surveyed over 3,000 people in the UK to find a tiny minority of extremely prolific liars. People surveyed (fifty-one per cent female, average age of forty-four) were asked how many and how often they told small lies, the same for big lies, and a few general questions about their attitude towards lying. 9.7% of those surveyed ended up being classified prolific liars, with an average of 6.32 small lies and 2.86 big lies per day. Comparatively, the rest of the people surveyed averaged only 1.16 small lies and 0.15 big lies daily (so, one big lie a week). If we do that math, prolific liars are telling about nineteen big lies per big lie told by others (which, by the way, is a really effective way to lie).
Other fun facts: prolific liars are slightly more likely to be younger, male, and working in senior positions. Also, they don’t see lying as something one grows out of; they also tend to assume that everyone else is lying. They’re also more likely to lie to their spouse and children, compared to the non-prolific liars, who are most likely to lie to their mothers.
Of course, the main problem here is relying on liars to be honest with a survey. On the one hand, what might one gain by lying to a survey? On the other hand, some people just seem to enjoy lying. If you’re one of these people, you’ll be happy to know that you can do better. And if you’re not, you’ll be happy to know that there are ways of spotting liars.