If you need to tell a lie, do it when you need to pee. Recent research from California State University has found that we tell lies more convincingly when we need to use the toilet. The research team, led by psychologist Dr. Iris Blandon-Gitlin, have been investigating the ‘inhibitory spillover effect’: the idea that focussing on one task assists in the implementation of a separate task.
Dr. Blandon-Gitlin explains: “The inhibitory spillover effect occurs when performance in one self-control task facilitates performance in another (simultaneously conducted) self-control task.”
To attain these findings participants were placed in one of two groups, drinking either 700ml or 50ml of water. They were later interviewed on a topic they were passionate about and told to either tell a lie or the truth. Third party observers were then asked to work out if participants had told a lie or not. Of those who had drunk more water, the observers only correctly identified a lie 30 per cent of the time, revealing that having a fuller bladder makes you better at lying.
The lies told by participants in the group who drank a larger amount of water were not only more complex and detailed, but were also accompanied by convincing behavioural cues that signalled the truth and significantly less cues that indicated deception than usual when lying. For future reference, when you need to tell a little fib about not being the one who stole the last of your flatmates milk, avoid blinking too much, fidgeting and saying ‘um’ or ‘ah’.
Lying is a very complex task, as to do so our brains have to inhibit the truth. However, if we are already suppressing our need to pee, it makes it easier to lie as the inhibition control centres in the brain are already functioning. As a result, inhibiting our need to pee also inhibits our need to tell the truth. So the next time you need to convince someone you aren’t completely hungover, drink a glass or two of water to better persuade them; it’ll probably help you either way! And yes, this does only work with soft drinks, drinking more alcohol will only make you tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.