"The method of 'answer quickly and without thinking', a long staple in psychological research, may be doing many things, but one thing it does is make people lie to you and tell you what they think you want to hear," said John Protzko, a cognitive scientist at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
The idea has always been that we have a divided mind -- an intuitive, animalistic type and a more rational type.
"The more rational type is assumed to always be constraining the lower order mind. If you ask people to answer quickly and without thinking, it's supposed to give you sort of a secret access to that lower order mind," Protzko explained in a paper published in the journal Psychological Science.
To test this assumption, Protzko and UCSB colleague Jonathan Schooler devised a test of 10 simple yes-or-no questions.
Through a survey, respondents were asked to take fewer than 11 seconds, or alternatively, more than 11 seconds to answer each question.
They found that the fast-answering group was more likely to give socially-desirable answers, while the slow answers and the ones who were not given any time constraints (fast or slow) were less likely to do so.
The team plans to examine previous studies that used the quick-answer technique to see how much results might be driven by participants giving socially-desirable answers.