The Psychology of Lying: Why We Lie and How to Detect Lies

One moment you were uttering oaths to the heavens, and the subsequent moment your mendacity was laid bare.” Such occurrences are commonplace in the realm of cinema and television series. Whether it be the politician Frank, the central figure in the renowned American drama “House of Cards,” or Li Anna, who pilfers others’ lives in the 2022 Korean sensation “Anna,” they both personify unscrupulous characters who habitually shroud the truth, leaving the audience in constant apprehension of their deceit. It was truly exhilarating to witness the precipitous downfall that ensued upon their exposure.

In addition to harboring concern, everyone inevitably harbored doubt: some individuals betray telltale signs of blushing and panic when they spurn others or fabricate a minor falsehood, thereby revealing their artifice in an instant; yet, there exist those who can lie without a modicum of remorse, even daring to do so with audacity in public.

Lying, in actuality, stems from the evolution of humanity.

From our earliest days, we were indoctrinated with the notion that lying is morally reprehensible and that it causes our noses to elongate… Yet, the truth remains that no one can entirely evade the act of “lying.”

Scientists once conducted a week-long observational experiment involving nearly 150 individuals and discovered that each person uttered falsehoods at a minimum rate of 1.5 times per day. Some individuals even resorted to lying thrice naturally upon their initial encounter with a stranger.

The majority of falsehoods people tell are innocuous, bereft of malicious intent. For instance, when faced with an undesirable dinner invitation, they may claim to have “already eaten,” or when offered assistance, they might feel embarrassed and falsely assert that they “possess ample means”…

Nearly everyone resorts to lies of this caliber, as Mark Twain once remarked: “Everyone lies. Every day, every hour, while awake, while asleep, in dreams, in joy, in mourning.”

In light of this reality, despondency or disillusionment need not consume you. British social commentator Ian Leslie, in his acclaimed bestseller “The Psychology of Lying: Intriguing Reflections on Human Deception,” expounded on the idea that deception engenders human intellectual growth, with the capacity to deceive bearing a correlation to cognitive development.

As cerebral capacity expanded and intelligence flourished, our ancient forebears realized that lying held practical utility in life. For instance, in the context of communal hunting, clandestinely withholding a portion of food and abstaining from its communal contribution constituted a form of “deception,” thereby surreptitiously bolstering one’s chances of survival.

Thus, within the pervasive struggle for survival, humans became increasingly adept at employing deceit. Not solely confined to humans, even primate species similar to our own deploy “lying” within their social groups, seeking personal advantage.

Zoologists contend that a certain level of intelligence is necessary to execute the act of “cheating.” Human intelligence evolved and flourished in tandem with deception. Stated differently, it is plausible that without lies, the world would lack the presence of intellectually astute human beings we witness today.

What might be the subject of your falsehood?

A psychologist once proffered an analysis regarding the reasons behind human dishonesty, summarizing them as follows:

Firstly, lies may be well-intentioned, crafted to safeguard others’ privacy and shield them from harm. For instance, a physician conceals the true prognosis from a cancer patient, instilling within them a greater will to survive.

Secondly, lies may be motivated by personal gain. Individuals fabricate falsehoods to safeguard their own interests and affairs, projecting an image of strength and excellence. Alternatively, lies may arise from shyness, fear, or other emotions. As the Chinese adage goes, “One must maintain appearances to preserve dignity and endure consequences.”

Thirdly, lies may be malicious in nature. They serve to obfuscate the truth, evade accountability, perpetrate malevolent acts such as slander or pranks. Apart from criminals, unscrupulous traders are known to engage in malicious falsehoods.

Lastly, lies may emerge from an odd proclivity. Individuals lie unknowingly as a means of self-preservation.

A renowned psychological experiment named “The Invisible Gorilla” sheds light on this phenomenon. Volunteers were instructed to closely observe the white-clad basketball players on the court and report the total number of scores. Several volunteers, clad in gorilla costumes, deliberately strolled onto the court, thumping their chests. Surprisingly, after the game, half of the volunteers claimed to have not noticed any gorillas throughout the entire event.

In this instance, the volunteers’ responses were not deliberate lies but rather cognitive illusions. Focused on a specific task, individuals often overlook unexpected stimuli, even if they transpire right before their eyes. Under specific situations and mental states, individuals might even experience “hallucinations,” wherein their imagination and conjecture transform into perceived reality.

For instance, during anintense interrogation, a suspect might fabricate a false confession due to extreme pressure, leading them to genuinely believe in their own guilt.

In conclusion, lying is an intricate aspect of human nature, deeply intertwined with our cognitive development, survival instincts, and social dynamics. While dishonesty can be detrimental and morally wrong in many instances, it is also a complex phenomenon that deserves careful examination and understanding. As we navigate a world where deception exists, it becomes crucial to discern when lies are harmful and when they serve a purpose, while also striving for honesty and integrity in our own lives.

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