Never tell a lie

If you’re tempted to stretch the truth in order to get that dream job, think
again. Queen’s University psychologist Ronald Holden has found a way to tell
if you’re lying.

In a study funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of
Canada, Holden discovered that response times are the key to determining who
is lying and who is telling the truth on screening tests used by employers to
evaluate potential employees.

“Some people say that lying takes time,” says Holden. “Others
say that lying is really fast. But, we’ve found it is much more complex than

Holden’s theory is that if you really want the job, you will take longer to
say anything negative about yourself on the screening test. If you don’t want
the job, you will take longer to say anything positive. By analyzing and comparing
your response times – down to the millisecond – Holden can tell
if you’re faking.

“It is something that we’ve replicated over and over again,” says
Holden. “We can determine who is trying to fake out the test in about 75
to 80 per cent of the cases.”

And, this is good news for companies who rely on thes tests to hire new employees.
More than 10 million personality, integrity and honesty tests are given by companies
in North America each year, and it’s estimated that up to 60 per cent of the
people who take them lie.

“This is a big problem because when people misrepresent themselves, employers
are not able to select the right person – in terms of personality –
for the job,” says Holden. “By finding a way to detect who is lying
on these screening tests, we can level out the playing field for everyone.”

So far, Holden’s research has been used in a diverse range of contexts, from
clinical assessments of psychiatric patients to personality tests for new recruits
in the Canadian and US militaries.

“I even had a call from Cosmo Girl,” he laughs. “They wanted
me to create a test girls could use to figure out if their boyfriends were lying
to them.”

To learn more about SSHRC-supported research, visit