The Science Behind Lying

Lying is a behavior many of us indulge in. You might have wondered why some people would never tell the truth no matter what. What exactly is the logical explanation for the reasons why we humans lie?  Are lies inborn or learnt? Can lying be stopped?

To help us with the answers, we consulted works of different psychologists and psychiatrists and here are their submissions:

  • People Lie for Peace: According to Dr Paul Seager, a senior psychology lecturer, lying keeps the society in peace and harmony. For instance, if your spouse or boss asked your opinion about a particular thing, you tell them exactly what they wanted to hear – a little white lie instead of the brutal truth. However, neuroscientist Sam Harris wrote in one of his books that lying to our spouse denies them of the truth about reality and this will eventually hurt them more than the truth. Harris further said that little white lies often metamorphous into big black lies with time. He advised that you tell the truth with tact.
  • Ego: Seager said that people lie to others due to the feeling of power it gives them. For instance, some ladies lie about the cost of their outfits to show their counterparts that they wear expensive things.
  • Munchausen Syndrome: Psychiatrist Cosmo Hallstrom call people that lie to exaggerate their importance, pathological liars. Some pathological liars with Munchausen Syndrome do all to persuade doctors that they have a severe medical condition.
  • Personality Disorder: Hallstrom said that lying is more of a grave sign of some personality disorders (e.g. psychopathy, sociopathy or borderline personality disorder) in people’s make-up.
  • Time: When pressed with time in a situation people will lie! During a test that was conducted by Psychologists Shaul Shalvi, Ori Eldar and Yoella Bereby-Meyer with two groups of people. The test showed that the group pressured with time lied but the other group that had the time to think told the truth.
  • The Justification for Lying: The test also revealed that people lie when they can justify it. That is why some people will go any length to defend their lies.
  • Creativity (not IQ): Behavioral Economist Dan Ariely in his book said, the more creative a person is, the higher the tendency of that person lying. Liars do not possess higher IQs than others; they are simply creative.

Bottom Line

From the submissions of our scientists, we noted that we could associate lying with internal and external factors. As a result, it could be stopped. However, the warning is that continuous lying leads to pathological lying. So, when you are confronted with choice of either to lie or not, take Dr. Harris’ advice, tell the truth with tact!

Photo Credit: RomanceActually