Adults are so good at lying that they can often lie even to themselves.
On average, adults lie about 10 times a day.
We can throw about three lies into a short conversation with a stranger, without even knowing we are doing it.
Lies Have A Color
Do they really believe these statements? It may not matter if they are blue lies.
“Blue” lies is what psychologists call lies, told on behalf of a group, that strengthen the bonds among the group members.
Blue lies are both selfish and beneficial to others — but only to those in your group.
Psychologist Kang Lee explained that blue lies fall in between generous white lies and selfish “black” ones.
“For example, you can lie about your team’s cheating in a game, which is antisocial, but helps your team.”
That explains why most Americans seem to accept that our intelligence agencies lie in the interests of national security, and we laud our spies as heroes.
From this perspective, blue lies are weapons in intergroup conflict.
You can Lie by Telling The Truth
Saying something true with the intention to deceive is called the Palter.
Imagine you were trying to sell a car that has been in and out of the repair shop over the past few months for engine trouble.
A potential buyer asks, “Is the engine OK?” and you answer, “It started up just fine this morning”.
You are making a true statement but it’s misleading about the true state of the engine.
A fascinating paper in the March 2017 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology explores the use and influence of palters in negotiation.
It demonstrates that people believe their behavior to be more ethical when they palter than when they lie.
However, people who are misled don ‘t see it that way.
They see the other person’s behavior as equally unethical whether they lied explicitly or paltered.
Lying is harder than telling the truth
In order to lie our brains must focus on two opposing pieces of information at the same time: the truth and the lie.
If we want to process or deliver a lie we need to believe that it could be true.
Activity in the prefrontal cortex (at the front of the brain) has been shown to increase when a person lies.
Dishonesty requires the brain to work harder than honesty, and this effort is reflected by increased brain activity.
Studies even show people take longer to respond when lying!
Some animals lie
One famous example is Koko the gorilla. Koko is renowned for her sign language abilities, with an impressive vocabulary of more than 1000 words.
Koko has a pet kitten that has come in handy for more than just cuddles and companionship.
One day Koko tore a sink from a wall in her enclosure. When her carers returned and asked what happened, Koko signed ‘the cat did it!’
When her carers returned and asked what happened, Koko signed ‘the cat did it!’
Children Start at Age 3
Some scientists believe that we begin the act of deception as young as six months old!
This usually starts as fake crying, or smiling, to get attention.
At that age we’re not very convincing (although cute) and we likely don’t do it as a conscious lie.
By the age of two however, we have put in a little more practice and can deliver an outright lie with more commitment and conviction.
Children start to tell selfish lies at about age three, as they discover adults cannot read their minds: I didn’t steal that toy, Daddy said I could, He hit me first.
At around age seven, they begin to tell white lies motivated by feelings of empathy and compassion: That’s a good drawing, I love socks for Christmas, You’re funny.
We Deceive Ourselves to Better Deceive Others
One of the most common types of self-deception is self-enhancement.
A study in Journal of Economic Psychology argues that a glowing self-view makes others see us in the same light, leading to mating and cooperative opportunities.
So self-deception may have evolved for the purpose of other-deception.
It seems that it’s a tool that works.
After all, if you need to convince somebody of something, the first person who needs to be convinced is yourself.
Just be wary when someone wants to convince you of something!
Lying gets easier with practice
Telling small lies causes changes in the brain that lead people down a “slippery slope” towards increasingly large acts of dishonesty, according to a new study.
By monitoring subjects’ brains with an MRI scanner, they showed that an area of the brain associated with emotion, the amygdala, initially reacted strongly to a lie but this effect decreased over time.
The bigger the lie, the larger the reduction!
That is the low-down on lying and not a word of a lie.
- okay, not a million
Siobhan is a freelance writer, research addict and lover of twisted history. If you like horrible but amazing history, check out her website www.interesly.com or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/interesly. Or you can reach her through www.siobhanoshea.com.