Exploring the relationship between personality, morality and lying: a study based on the person-centred approach

Nicola Palena, Letizia Caso, Lucrezia Cavagnis, Andrea Greco, Aldert Vrij

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Past research explored the relationship between personality, moral disengagement, and deception and found a general trend showing that the lower people score on the big five personality factors, but the higher they score on moral disengagement and Machiavellianism, the higher their lying tendency. However, a limitation of past research is that it has usually adopted a variable-centred approach, whereas a person-centred approach might describe people in more detail and provide further insight into the relationship between personality and morality. In the present study, we collected data from 316 participants and asked them to fill an on-line questionnaire which included measures on personality, moral disengagement, and lying tendency (perceived lying ability, frequency, negativity and contextuality). The latter was measured via the newly developed Structure of Deception (SoD) scale (Makowski et al., Current Psychology, 2021). We had to aims. First, to validate an Italian version of the SoD, which showed a good factor structure, gender measurement invariance, and good construct and criterion validity. Second, to explore the association between personal characteristics and lying tendency. Personality and morality scores were combined to obtain subpopulations of participants by a mean of cluster analysis. We obtained four clusters, one of which was marked by high Machiavellianism and moral disengagement but low scores on the personality factors, and one of which showed the opposite trend. The results also showed that cluster membership, and hence personal characteristics, was associated with lying tendency. The person-centred approach can be applied in research on lying. Limitations of the study and future suggestions are also discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20502-20514
Number of pages13
JournalCurrent Psychology
Early online date7 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023


  • lying tendency
  • profiling
  • person-centred approach
  • personality
  • moral disengagement


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