Lying is costly, extracting physiological and cognitive tolls from most people. The body of research on lying consistently shows that people become stressed when they do not tell the truth. The speed with which they process information slows down, possibly because lying requires keeping track of the lie and the truth while simultaneously trying to suppress nervous habits or other signs that might give the liar away. (So-called lie-detector tests, or polygraphs, can’t actually determine if people are lying, but they can identify signs of physiological stress that are consistent with lying.)
The researchers found that subjects assigned leadership roles were buffered from the negative effects of lying. Across all measures, the high-power liars — the leaders —resembled truthtellers, showing no evidence of cortisol reactivity (which signals stress), cognitive impairment or feeling bad. In contrast, low-power liars — the subordinates — showed the usual signs of stress and slower reaction times. “Having power essentially buffered the powerful liars from feeling the bad effects of lying, from responding in any negative way or giving nonverbal cues that low-power liars tended to reveal,” Carney explains.
The article focuses on status increasing the temptation to lie, but the results suggest that it's also harder to tell whether people in charge are lying.
Link thanks to Less Wrong.