Influenced by cultural expectations, men and women will lie about their sexual behavior but not about whether they engaged in other gender-related behaviors, a new study finds.

The study, which is in the most recent issue of the journal Sex Roles, was conducted by Terri Fisher, a professor of psychology, at the Ohio State University Mansfield campus.

Fisher wanted to see how people would truthfully respond to questions about sexuality and gender-role behaviors. She asked 293 college students between 18 and 25 years old to complete a survey that asked how often they engaged in 124 different behaviors — they rated each behavior on a scale of "never" to "a few times a day." The behaviors typical for males included wearing dirty clothes and telling obscene jokes, while typical female behaviors included writing poetry and lying about their weight. The surveys also included behaviors that were seen as negative for males (singing in the shower) and females (poking fun at others).

In order to get the most honest answers possible, Fisher had some students fill out the survey while hooked up to a lie detector test, which wasn't actually working. The other students were hooked up to the lie detector before the study began, supposedly to measure anxiety, but it was removed before they completed the survey.

She found that both men and women responded in ways appropriate for their gender, regardless of whether they were attached to the lie detector or not.

"Men and women didn't feel compelled to report what they did in ways that matched the stereotypes for their gender for the non-sexual behaviors," Fisher said in the press release.

However, the results were much different regarding the questions about sexual behavior. Men reported more sexual partners when they weren't attached to the lie detector than when they were, while women reported fewer sexual partners when they weren't attached to it than when they were. There were similar reports for both males and females when questions regarding experiences with sexual intercourse arose.

"There is something unique about sexuality that led people to care more about matching the stereotypes for their gender," Fisher said. "Sexuality seemed to be the one area where people felt some concern if they didn't meet the stereotypes of a typical man or a typical woman."

These results confirm a 2003 study by Fisher in which she found that women who weren't hooked up to a lie detector reported fewer sexual partners than men. But when they were hooked up to one, their numbers evened out with the men. In this new study, the number of reported encounters surpassed men.

"Society has changed, even in the past 10 years, and a variety of researchers have found that differences between men and women in some areas of sexual behavior have essentially disappeared," she said.


Fisher T. Gender Roles and Pressure to be Truthful: The Bogus Pipeline Modifies Gender Differences in Sexual but Not Non-sexual Behavior. Sex Roles. 2013.

Fisher T, Alexander M. Truth and Consequences: Using the Bogus Pipeline to Examine Sex Differences in Self-Reported Sexuality. The Journal of Sex Research. 2013.