Paltering viewed as harshly as intentional lying

New York, Dec 15 (IANS) Creating a mistaken impression by telling the truth is not only possible, it has a name – paltering. But the results of being found out can be just as harsh as intentional lying, warns a study.

“Rather than misstating facts or failing to provide information, paltering involves actively making truthful statements to create a mistaken impression,” said lead study author Todd Rogers of Harvard University.

Paltering is used by politicians commonly, according to Rogers.

One famous example Rogers cited was when former US President Bill Clinton said “there is not a sexual relationship” between him and former White House intern Monica Lewinski.

The Starr commission later discovered that there had been a sexual relationship but it had ended months before Clinton made that statement — thus, it was technically true but clearly misleading.

“To date, research has primarily focused on two types of deception: Lying by commission — the active use of false statements — and lying by omission — the passive act of misleading by failing to disclose relevant information,” Rogers said.

“In this study, we make a novel contribution to the deception literature by identifying a third, and common, form of deception,” Rogers noted.

The researchers conducted two pilot studies and six experiments involving over 1,750 participants.

The first pilot study confirmed that people in general could distinguish paltering as a distinct form of deception, different from lying by commission or omission.

In the second pilot study, the researchers determined that it is a common form of deception, with over 50 per cent of business executives enrolled in an advanced negotiation course at Harvard Business School admitting they had paltered in some or most of their negotiations.

In the experiments, the researchers discovered that people preferred paltering to lying by commission, but the results of being found out can be just as harsh.

While palterers tended to think of their actions as more ethical because they essentially told the truth, when the deception was revealed, they were graded as harshly by their counterparts as if they had lied by commission, said the study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“When individuals discover that a prospective negotiation partner has paltered to them in the past, they are less likely to trust that partner and, therefore, less likely to negotiate with that person again,” Rogers said.

–IANS

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