Professional Deceit: Normal Lying in an Occupational Setting

Janet M. Ruane, Karen A. Cerulo, Judith M. Gerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Normal lies are those that social actors legitimate as appropriate means to desirable outcomes. Such lies have been acknowledged in the literature as tools for maintaining social order. Yet, little has been done to document the social structural sources of normal lying. This paper offers a first step in filling this research gap, examining aspects of occupational structure and their connection to the practice of normal lying. Specifically, we discuss four dimensions of occupational structure — occupational rewards and entry requirements, occupational loyalties, social control styles within an occupation, and an occupation's level of professionalization — and we explore the ways in which these dimensions influence normal lying activity. Real estate, a field in which the practice of normal lying is quite common, serves as our case study of the occupational sphere. We conclude our analysis by discussing the implications of our findings for other occupations and for society at large.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-109
Number of pages19
JournalSociological Focus
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1994


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