How To Get People To Tell The Truth

You may have heard of the legend of Diogenes of Sinope, who supposedly wandered around ancient Greece, carrying a lantern and searching for an honest man (  And the search continues today.

So how do you make sure people are telling you the truth?  Science says it simply depends on how you ask the question.

A series of studies recently published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes explored how question phrasing influenced how people answered queries in competitive settings like job interviews.

For example, participants were asked to sell a used electronic device to a fictitious buyer (actually a research-team member).  One of the device’s characteristics was that it had frozen in the past and all its stored music had been lost.  How many participants shared that vital information?  It all depended on the question.  When the buyers asked “What problems does it have?”, 89% of sellers answered truthfully and mentioned the crashing.  However, when asked a more polite “It doesn’t have any problems, does it?”, only 61% of sellers mentioned the crashing.  And when buyers asked the general question “What can you tell me about it?”: only 8% of sellers ever mentioned the device’s history of crashing.

So if you want to do better than Diogenes, you’d best read “The Best Way to Get People to Tell the Truth, According to Science” by Eric Vanepps at  The photo came from that site.


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