Do we really want to hear the truth from our friends?

People help friends make desired impressions on others. The strategic presentation of friends can involve a mix of truth, exaggeration, and even lies. Given that we extol the virtues of truthfulness and admire honesty, how do we respond to people who stretch the truth to help their friends? In 2 experiments, scenarios depicted a central character describing a same-sex friend to a potential suitor who was attractive and whose “ideal date” preferences were clear. The central character either told the truth, which resulted in a suboptimal impression, or tried to help by exaggerating and, in one condition, lying about the friend. Results showed that central characters were liked more and preferred as friends if they stretched the truth (exaggerated or lied); however, they were respected more if they told the truth.

Source: “Helping Friends Manage Impressions: We Like Helpful Liars But Respect Nonhelpful Truth Tellers” from Basic and Applied Social Psychology, Volume 28, Issue 2 June 2006 , pages 177 – 183

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