Berman Sexual Health

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home Sexual Health Lifestyle Are You Lying?

Are You Lying?

E-mail Print PDF

Every wonder why most women "lie" about the number of sexual partners? I think the socially acceptable amount is five, however recent surveys by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) suggest they are much higher, into the double digits, in fact.

Most surveys about sex find that men have had far more partners than women, typically two to four times as many. Either there are a bunch of phantom females out there, or somebody is lying.

Or perhaps men just have lousy memories for details. Psychologist Norman R. Brown at the University of Michigan has done several studies to determine how men and women calculate, recall, and solve mathematical problems, memory problems, and stories with factual, emotional and sexual content. A recent a web-based survey he conducted on 2,065 heterosexual men and women, median age in their late 40s. The findings: women reported on average 8.6 lifetime sexual partners, whereas men claimed 31.9.

The catch is, at some point towards the end of the survey, Brown and his colleagues asked the participants to rate the truthfulness of their response. About five percent said they lied. In addition, more than 10 percent said they knew their answer wasn't accurate.

Essentially, they gave an answer and then two minutes later admitted they had lied about the answer. And there's more to the discrepancy. Men and women apparently use different methods to calculate or solve mathematic, quantitative, and logic problems. When a woman is asked to list a sequence of objects or numbers by memory, including listing the sequence of past lovers, they rely on what's called a raw data count. This method is known to result in underestimation.

We women, are also very quick to answer in the fashion of 'I just know?, however, if pressed further, we apparently try to recall the actual "raw data" (that being each individual guy, his name, the date, etc. Basically, our complicated female brains are wired to retrieve information in the form of a sequence or list. This invariably leads to underestimation, unless she can count them on one hand.

Men also rely on a strategy to calculate or solve mathematical problems, however, when asked to retrieve a list of objects, numbers, and in this case names of past lovers, men don't recall "raw data?, rather the use what's called "rough approximation" of the overall database. Specifics related to names, the male brain, at least not on initial questioning, does not access dates, places. Men rely on rough approximation, which is a strategy known to produce over-estimation.

It could also very well be that the Internet is a venue where people are more apt to fudge information. Future surveys by Brown and others plan to use telephone interviews, to find out if people are more or less likely lie in that medium, or if the Web-based surveys invite such behavior.

How Will You Score? Take our Survey and Find Out!

To discuss this topic or related topic with others, checkour Bulletin Board forums. Click here

Additional resources on female sexuality are available from