The ubiquity of long-tail lie distributions: seven studies from five continents

Kim B. Serota, Timothy R. Levine, Liza Zvi, David M. Markowitz, Tony Docan-Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Truth-default theory (TDT), a theory of human deception and deception detection, has two propositions that focus on the overall rate of lying and individual variation in the frequency of lying behavior. The distribution of lie prevalence is specified to exhibit a non-normal, positively skewed distribution in which the majority of people are normatively honest, and most lies are told by a few prolific liars. Together, these predictions form the few prolific liars modules in TDT. Although the findings of prior research align with TDT predictions, the pan-cultural scope of TDT warrants testing such predictions with new and diverse samples. The current studies (total N = 3,463) sampled participants from China, Germany, Mexico, Israel, Kenya, Russia, and Brazil. Similar long-tail distributions were observed in each of the seven locations, and in language and cultural subsamples. These findings add to a growing empirical literature providing pan-cultural evidence consistent with TDT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2024


  • deception
  • lie
  • lying
  • prolific liars
  • truth-default theory


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