9 classic signs of a fake person, according to psychology

The most important part of any relationship is authenticity. Without authenticity, there can be no trust, closeness, or rapport. Or at least they won’t be genuine—and who would want that?

This is why spotting fake people is incredibly important. You don’t want to waste your time and energy on people who are fooling you. 

There are nine key things fake people often do. So, you need to watch out for these psychological cues to ensure that you’re not in a fake relationship.

Read on to learn 9 classic signs of a fake person, according to psychology.

1) They fake their emotions

Fake people will tell you that they’re feeling something even when they’re not.

For example, they’ll:

  • Act happy when you tell them you got promoted;
  • Feign sadness during a death;
  • Express excitement for a trip;
  • Pretend to be angry at someone’s mistake.

But why would they do this? People express these fake feelings for a variety of reasons.

They may want to feel included in a group, so they’ll pretend to feel what people expect them to feel. They may also want attention or attempt to manipulate other people for their benefit.

But here’s the thing: it’s hard to fake emotions.

It’s easy to tell a fake smile from a genuine smile. A fake smile is often stiff and awkward.

And you can’t fake tears now, can you? 

Unless they’re a top-tier actor, many people will either act too dramatically or be awkward when trying to express fake emotions.

2) They never express disappointment

Fake people typically want to get on people’s good side. That’s why they’ll never express disappointment or disagreement with anyone.

But that’s just not possible. We’re all human. We all have opinions, preferences, and flaws. No one will agree with everyone all the time about every single thing.

I heard a saying once: People who express their anger aren’t the ones you should be afraid of; they are those who don’t.

Because they’re either bottling it up (and will inevitably burst) or are trying to inorganically earn your rapport and trust. 

Or worse, both.

3) They’re starving for attention

Fake people want attention. Period.

This is why you’ll see them doing things like:

  • One-upping people;
  • Embellishing stories;
  • Interrupting people to redirect attention to themselves;
  • Spreading rumors about others.

As I’ve said before, that’s also why you’ll find them expressing exaggerated emotions. So even if people find out they’re faking it, they’ll at least still have attention.

One study found this to be true. Fake people often don’t have high levels of self-confidence and they’ll do anything for attention and validation. Even if it’s negative attention.

People who are true to themselves are happy with the attention and validation they get. They don’t rely on it to have a positive self-image.

4) They’re people pleasers

narcissists take advantage of your kindness 9 classic signs of a fake person, according to psychology

And because they want attention, they tend to be massive people pleasers.

Yes, there are still people out there who try to please everyone. While it can appear immature, many adults still do this. 

According to psychologists, they do this due to an intense desire for external validation.

I would know—I was a chronic people-pleaser myself. 

I tried to be friends with everyone at my new office. At that time, I was in a new, higher-paying position. I had impostor syndrome and believed that I wasn’t capable of doing my job even if I was already hired.

Afraid that people would be displeased with me, I made sure that I was on everyone’s good side. Well, at least I tried to. I mistakenly thought that having as many quality connections as possible would safeguard my career.

After all, they say success is all about who you know, right?

Of course, that plan backfired. People could feel that I was being fake, making them dislike me—talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. Well, lesson learned I guess!

5) They have low self-esteem

Why do they do all this? Well, they probably have low self-esteem. Researchers have found this to be true.

Unfortunately, continuously faking your personality will likely make you feel even worse. So, while there may be short-term benefits, faking yourself has negative long-term effects on someone’s sense of self.

Think about it. If you keep doing things like:

  • lying about your qualifications to get the job
  • spending time with people you don’t like
  • sacrificing your individuality to please other people
  • making things up to belong to a group

Do you think that fosters self-confidence and self-belief? It’s draining, isn’t it? You’re constantly telling yourself that your authentic self isn’t good enough, so you need to lie.

As someone who has done this before, all it does is keep you in a perpetual state of anxiety, stress, and self-doubt. 

Besides, unless you’re a twisted person, it doesn’t feel good to keep fooling people anyway, even if you do so successfully. And it feels just as bad when you get caught—which you likely will, eventually.

6) They’re manipulative

At the end of the day, lying is all about manipulation.

They want to manipulate a situation to save themselves from accountability. Or to make themselves more popular.

They fake their personality to keep being part of a group. Or to keep someone as a friend (even if there was no genuine connection).

Why? They’re using them to remedy their wounded self-esteem instead of working on it by themselves.

They hide the truth, use white lies, or emotionally manipulative tactics to get on someone’s good side in order to get them to do their bidding.

Authentic relationships are all about the connection for the sake of that connection. It’s not about benefits or advantages. It’s about valuing someone for who they are.

7) They act particularly nice when they want something

One of the ways they manipulate people is by faking friendship.

That coworker who has never talked to you is suddenly complimenting your outfit? Yeah, they’ll probably try to get you to do their job so they can get out early this Friday.

Their kindness or friendship comes with strings attached—which is, of course, not true kindness. True kindness is unconditional.

It goes without saying that this is problematic behavior. Fake people typically tend to do this to vulnerable people, like newcomers to a workplace.

If you’re not sure if they’re genuinely nice or if they’re just using you, try asking them for help.

You’ll know that they’re a fake friend if they always refuse. True friendships will have an equitable give-and-take to them.

8) They victimize themselves

phrases used by conversational narcissists to manipulate you 2 9 classic signs of a fake person, according to psychology

Another reason why people fake emotions is to avoid responsibility.

People who act authentically will own up to their words and actions. They’re being honest, after all.

But fake people will:

  • Redirect blame for the consequences of their actions
  • Portray themselves as victims of an unfortunate event
  • Gaslight people into thinking they’re the victims
  • Accuse other people of being fake

They do all that to simply evade the inevitable consequences of their lies and insincerity. 

Either that, or they simply want sympathy from people. People who feel bad for them are easier to manipulate, no?

9) They love to gossip

A real friend is trustworthy. You can confide in them and feel safe because you trust them to keep your secrets.

But a fake friend will not care. They’ll use your trauma, secrets, and private life details as a source of entertainment.

What’s worse is that these people will often exaggerate details or make you look worse when gossiping about you. 


Well, it’s simply more interesting to talk about.

Or, more sinisterly, maybe they’re trying to tear you down. A coworker who sees you as a competition might do this, for example.

Okay, so how do you know if someone is gossiping about you?

Simple. They gossip about other people, too.

They share details about other people that you probably shouldn’t know. They’ll talk about their family members or supposed friends as if they were celebrities.

If they do it to other people, what’s stopping them from doing it to you, too?

What would make someone act fake?

Many reasons cause people to act inauthentically or be fake friends.

  • Selfishness: These people will prioritize their desires—attention, validation, an escape from accountability—over their integrity. They will not think of other people’s well-being, only theirs. They’ll go as far as to manipulate people to achieve this.
  • Insecurity: As mentioned above, fake people tend to be highly insecure. In order to remedy their self-doubt, they rely on attention and external validation. However, external validation is as shallow and hollow as their actions. Only genuine self-belief can cure insecurity.
  • Childhood experiences: Such insecurity can stem from childhood trauma. Or a person may have been raised to not value authenticity as much as success. Thus, they may have a success-at-all-costs approach to life.
  • Psychopathy: Mental conditions may also predispose someone to insincere behavior. Dr. Dramus says that people with psychopathic tendencies try to be fake friends to many people. The biggest signs of psychopathy are a lack of empathy and manipulative behavior.
  • Narcissism: Another condition associated with fake behavior is narcissism. Due to feelings of self-grandeur, they think they are more important than other people. Thus, they won’t hesitate to lie for their benefit.


Now that you better know how to spot fake people, it’s time to filter out your social life. Chances are that you’ll realize that some of your friends have been fake friends all along.

It may help you to cut ties with them, especially if they have been manipulative or abusive. Or, at the very least, limit the time and energy you spend on them.

While it may hurt to lose friends or realize that you’ve been lied to or fooled all this time, it’s okay. This is a necessary step to nurturing your life.

It frees you up to devote more of yourself to the people who are true to you—to the people who really matter.

Picture of Mia Zhang

Mia Zhang

Mia Zhang blends Eastern and Western perspectives in her approach to self-improvement. Her writing explores the intersection of cultural identity and personal growth. Mia encourages readers to embrace their unique backgrounds as a source of strength and inspiration in their life journeys.

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