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Are liars inclined to lie to themselves?

Are liars inclined to lie to themselves?



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Reading the famous quote of Oliver Sacks, can we draw conclusions about liars?

"We speak not only to tell other people what we think, but to tell ourselves what we think. Speech is a part of thought." [Oliver Sacks]

If speech is part of thought, then maybe liars can begin making fallacious thoughts in the long run?

Is there scientific evidence that suggests that speech affects thinking, possibly in relation to (pathological) liars?


Although I cannot answer the question on lying, (self-)speech and thinking are intimately linked to each-other, and actually used in UX-design (e.g. Krahmer, 2004). He compared two different approaches of thinking-aloud. In other words, people are perfectly able to verbalize their thoughts and actually do so.

One of the approaches he compares is a proposal of Ericsson and Simon (1993). In their nice and brief paper, they discuss (and refer to) many scientific papers (e.g. cognitive scientific and psychological) where self-speech is used during problem solving. Moreover, it showed that self-speech is related to other variables that correspond to thoughts.

In their review, Ericsson and Simon (1993) found that [[… ]] there seemed to be close correspondence between subjects' thoughts and what information that they looked at--when subjects verbalized thoughts about objects in the environment they very frequently looked at them.

I must admit that self-speech in this way is only used as a methods of identifying cognitive processes, and is often a mandated task in the experiment. However, the fact that people are able to reflect on their thoughts, gives me reason to believe that they can do so unconsciously too. If someone could correct me or confirm this, I invite you to do so.


It is my belief that liars inclined to lie to them selves. Freudian psychology can illustrate this point through the concept of the ego-sensor. Liars can be compelled to lie to themselves in order to protect the ego. Thereby, preserving their sense of identity. This usually occurs in the form of denial, detachment, or reattribution. I do not believe that they intentionally lie to themselves nor do I find that to be possible. Still I've found that the ego will do anything to protect it self when feeling threatened.


Well practiced liars often convince themselves of their own lie, it being an alternate truth for them. When you are convinced that a lie is the real truth and that truth is either mellowed or expanded upon an original truth it becomes much easier to tell that false reality to others. When you know someone is lying it's usually because of involuntary movements such as rapid eye movement, quivering, or just that look in their eyes. If a well practiced liar removed or subdued those warning signals and reduced nervousness by making themselves believe their own lie, there will be no or less fidgeting and anxious movements. It is also beneficial for liar to convince themselves of their false truth so that they can repeat the same story or explanation when its needed. They also always keep a lie simple and concise, and only volunteer extra information when they anticipate the next interrogative inquiry. If they offer the information up front it becomes more believable but at the same time, if they lie up a life story leading up to this moment you would think, "Whoa, this is way too much information, what are they hiding?" But yet too little information leads to the same result of someone wondering if the lying person is holding something back or not telling the whole truth. If a true liar can convince them self that their lie is in fact reality it becomes much easier to tell that truth. Say, with a polygraph machine, aka the lie detector. If that person cant hide their anxiety or nervousness the machine will detect those emotions and start spiking off the grid.


The Science of Lying

I want to bust some myths about lying by unveiling the truth about dishonesty. Some questions answered in this article:

In this post I am going to take some of the best learnings from our February Book Club book, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty (by Dan Ariely) and the most interesting tidbits from the research on deception.

Lying is a part of human nature.

Even if we don't want to admit it, we all lie. You're a liar. I'm a liar. We lie to others and we lie to ourselves. But here's what's interesting-lying is not rational.

There is some surprising science about lying that will not only help you understand your fellow human beings, but it will also show you how to have more honest relationships, communication and work environments. Read on to find out why.

1. Lying Is Not Rational

Do you believe in SMORC? The Simple Model of Rational Crime (SMORC) says that we decide whether or not to lie or cheat based on an internal cost benefit analysis of 3 factors:

In other words, we don't really think about what is moral or ethical we decide to cheat or not based on a rational cost benefit analysis. If this were the case, the simple answer to curbing crime and lying would be to have extremely high punishments and lots of watchdogs-police, surveillance cameras and audits. But here's the problem. SMORC is false. Dan Ariely tested the SMORC principle in the lab and found that our cheating is not rational and has very little to do with a cost benefit analysis. Lying is not an internal struggle with pros and cons, it is an internal struggle about how you view yourself.

2. I am NOT a Liar

Remember when I called you a liar at the beginning of this article? Did that make you flinch? Mentally uncomfortable? Angry? We hate to think of ourselves as liars. Research about dishonesty finds that we have 2 conflicting impulses:

Our survive and thrive instincts tell us to cheat, lie and steal to be on top of the food chain. But our communal instincts tell us to be an honest, kind and authentic person. So, while the threat of getting caught or a big punishment can dissuade us from telling the truth, our desire to be a good person is even more powerful. However, there are times when the reward for lying or cheating is higher than our desire to be a good person. And that's where the Fudge Factor comes in.

3. The Fudge Factor

In order to get the benefits of lying without the shame of feeling like a liar, our brain engages in some tricky rationalization and self-deception. The Fudge Factor is what we do when we allow ourselves to engage in small amounts of cheating or lying so we still feel like a good person. Ariely says it nicely, "We cheat up to the level that allows us to retain our self-image as reasonable honest individuals." In this way, we rationalize small amounts of lying without feeling too guilty. This is because we don't want to miss out on the small rewards cheating might give us, but at the end of the day we still want to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and feel good. The amount of cheating that happens is equal to the desire for gain minus the desire to be a good person.

  • The catch is we each have our own limit. For example, have you ever left a bowl of candy outside your door on Halloween and asked visitors to take "Just one piece per trick or treater?" If you want to see the failure of SMORC and the use of the Fudge Factor in action, I recommend you try it. Here's what will happen. Very few kids will only take one piece of candy. Most kids approach the bowl and take 2 pieces of candy-just one more than the "rule." In this way, they get extra candy but don't feel too bad about themselves for doing it. Few kids will take 3 pieces and the occasional kid will dump the entire bowl into his bag. This is the perfect example of how we each have different limits on the Fudge Factor.

4. What Makes Us Lie More

There are certain things that make the Fudge Factor grow. Ariely found that when people feel distanced from the consequences they steal more. For example, using tokens instead of money distances people from feeling like they are actually stealing money, and they therefore take more. Ariely also found that when you remind someone of their past achievements (even if those are false) people steal more because they rationalize that they deserve it. Or perhaps their internal 'good person' thermometer is already high, so stealing or cheating a little bit is ok-hence a larger Fudge Factor. If we think we can benefit others with our lies, we lie more. Altruistic motives make us feel that we are still good people so the Fudge Factor is larger. For example, if one trick-or-treater was getting candy for himself and his baby sister, he would be inclined to take even more candy from the bowl.

  • Take-Away: Beware of a cashless society. Credit cards, chips, tokens and representations of money increase the chances of having someone steal.

5. What Makes Us Lie Less

Luckily, there are a number of things we can do to encourage people to lie less. These center around reminding someone that they are a good person and the need for honesty should be upheld.

  • Take-Away: Use honor codes. When we have people sign honor codes they are less likely to cheat. This decreases the Fudge Factor because you are specifically asking someone to be a good person.
  • Take-Away: Remind people of their morality and the need for honesty. Having people sign a document before and after with an honesty pledge or stating to a group the need for honesty can help remind people of their own ethics.
  • Take-Away: Have people take an oath. When people state out loud the need for honesty, they are less likely to cheat.
  • Take-Away: When people think they are being watched, they cheat less. This goes back to SMORC which increases the potential for being caught. This even worked with a drawing of an eyeball-so no one was actually watching, but the eye had the implication of being watched. This reminded people of their desire to be a good person if viewed by others.

6. Do Liars Have Higher IQ?

When Ariely tested liars' IQ, he found that liars are not smarter than non-liars. However, they are more creative. Really good liars are creative and strategic about both rationalization and self-deception. They can come up with (and believe) elaborate tales that both convince them of their morality and justify their lying (extreme Fudge Factor behavior ensues). The more creative a person, the more they tend to cheat. Ariely even found that when he primed average subjects to feel more creative, their lying behavior increased.

7. The "What the Hell Effect"

When someone has already cheated a little bit, they might have the tendency to keep going. In other words, they think "I'm already a cheater, so what the hell, I'm going all the way." People who were told that they were wearing fake designer sunglasses while completing a challenge cheated more than people who were wearing genuine sunglasses (they were actually identical). Once someone thought they were already 'cheating' by wearing fake sunglasses they cheated more on the task.

  • Take-Away: The Broken Windows Theory should apply to lying as well. Don't brush off one small lie. Once it starts, it's hard to stop it. Remind people of what makes them lie less.

8. Interesting.

Some other interesting findings about lying.

  • Ariely found that liars do feel guilty. In fact, liars who cheat more on a task end up giving themselves more electric shocks in a follow-up activity. It's almost as if they are punishing themselves for the cheating they just did.
  • Which country lies the most? Ariely found no difference across cultures. The average amount of lying on his tasks was the same in the US, Italy, China and beyond.

Now that you know the science of lying, how are you going to encourage more honesty in your relationships?


The Fascinating Reason Why Liars Keep On Lying

O nce a liar, always a liar, the old saying goes. Turns out there&rsquos some scientific truth to that: researchers have tracked down how the brain makes lying easier as the untruths build up, providing some biological evidence for why small lies often balloon into ever larger ones.

In a study published in Nature Neuroscience, Tali Sharot from the department of experimental psychology at University College London and her colleagues devised a clever study to test people&rsquos dishonest tendencies while scanning their brains in an fMRI machine. The 80 people in the study were shown pennies in a glass jar and given different incentives to guide whether they lied or told the truth to a fellow partner about how much money was contained in the jar. In some conditions, both the participant and the partner benefited if the participant lied in others, just the participant benefited from his fib, or just the partner benefited (with no cost to either). In another set of scenarios, either the participant or partner benefited, but at the expense of the other if the participant lied. In each case, Sharot documented the changes in the people&rsquos brains as they made their decisions.

They found that when people were dishonest, activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala&mdashthe hub of emotional processing and arousal&mdashchanged. With each scenario, the more dishonestly the participant advised his partner, the less activated the amygdala was on the fMRI. That may be because lying triggers emotional arousal and activates the amygdala, but with each additional lie, the arousal and conflict of telling an untruth diminishes, making it easier to lie.

Sharot also found that the amygdala became less active mostly when people lied to benefit themselves. In other words, self-interest seems to fuel dishonesty.

&ldquoPart of the emotional arousal we see when people lie is because of the conflict between how people see themselves and their actions,&rdquo Sharot said during a briefing discussing the results. &ldquoSo I lie for self-benefit, but at the same time it doesn&rsquot fit the way I want to view myself, which is as an honest person. It&rsquos possible that we learn from the arousal signal…with less emotional arousal, perhaps I&rsquom less likely to see the act as incongruent with my own self perception.&rdquo

The researchers were even able to map out how each lie led to less amygdala activation and found that the decrease could predict how much the person&rsquos dishonesty would escalate in the next trial. Biology seems to back up the warnings parents give to their kids: that one lie just leads to another.


BEHAVIOR Truth About Lies: They Tell a Lot About a Liar

Prevaricate. Equivocate. Fib. Call it what you like, it's still lying. And lying, as everyone knows, is just bad and wrong.

Liars have even been promised cruel and eternal punishment. Dante, in his ''Inferno,'' hurled them into the eighth circle of hell, along with other falsifiers, putting them one moral step below violent offenders. Their sin? Deliberate and calculated deception, a transgression apparently worse than the spontaneous crimes of passion.

In fact, few human behaviors are viewed as paradoxically as lying. We teach our children that it is wrong, yet we lie every day in the name of civility. We deem those who lie too often or extensively as untrustworthy, while we may call those who lie too little guileless. And though we routinely expect marketers and politicians to lie, we spare them no end of moral outrage when they do.

But lying is much too interesting to be left just to the mercy of moral examination. Lies may not be as sexy or revelatory as dreams, but they can tell us a lot about the psychology of their owners.

There may be nothing uniquely human about deception: some experts say chimpanzees can fake out rivals. But lying requires something special that, so far, seems the sole province of humans: a theory of mind. To lie effectively, one has to have a notion that other people have minds and can be deceived.

By the time most children are 4, they have acquired the ability to deceive others, a skill critical to survival. For example, shown a tube of Smarties candy filled with pencils, 4-year-olds can imagine that other children who don't know the trick will falsely assume that the tube contains candy. In other words, these normal 4-year-olds have learned that others can be fooled by a false belief.

Some brain illnesses like autism interfere with this skill. Most autistic children fail at the false belief task and, by inference would have a hard time deceiving others.

Of course, most of us have mastered the skill of lying. And lies, like secrets are rarely as interesting as the psychological reasons behind them.

A patient of mine was terribly embarrassed to reveal that she hid special foods for herself in the kitchen away from other family members. It was a secret she had told no one because it made her look selfish and devious, she said.

But the secret concealed a far more important fact: she grew up with a depressed mother who fed her and her sister erratically. So hoarding was her way to cope with deprivation. When she realized this, the secret was no longer shameful.

For some, the aim of lying is to feel better about themselves. A successful businessman told me that he routinely exaggerated his accomplishments. He would inflate his test scores and claim that he had won athletic competitions when he had really placed only second or third.

He had, like others with narcissistic personality disorder, the constant fear of being unmasked as a fraud, a sense that no achievement could relieve. Lying for him was a means to bolster his fragile self-esteem.

Perhaps the most interesting liars are people with antisocial personality disorder. Antisocial people have deficient or absent consciences that allow them to engage in all kinds of mischief with little or no guilt.

They can be superficially charming, but they often lack empathy and have no trouble lying, stealing or being violent. They lie frequently to get their hands on something that isn't theirs or to escape a mess that is.

What's intriguing is that antisocial people seem to have fundamentally different emotional and biological responses from others. For example, researchers have found that antisocial subjects have diminished responses to facial expressions of sadness or fear and that their response to fear is generally blunted.

This may explain, in part, why antisocial people seem undeterred by punishment or can't learn from the negative consequences of their own behavior.

In contrast to normal people who experience anxiety when they lie, antisocial people can lie with complete composure. And because they experience little physiological arousal, they can often fool a polygraph test, which detects peripheral signs of anxiety like a rapid heart rate.

Anxious truth tellers, meanwhile, can easily fail simply because they're nervous, throwing the validity of the polygraph into question.

Recently, some researchers tried to detect lying with brain imaging. Dr. Daniel Langleben of the University of Pennsylvania used functional M.R.I.'s to study brain activity in 18 normal volunteers. They were told either to lie or tell the truth to a computer about whether they had a certain playing card.

Dr. Langleben found that activity in two brain regions, the anterior cingulate cortex and superior frontal gyrus, increased when subjects lied. These same areas were activated when subjects told the truth, but lying produced even greater activity.

The implication is that the brain must exert more effort to lie than to tell the truth and that deception involves active suppression of a truthful response, Dr. Langleben said.

Or as Mark Twain used to say, when in doubt tell the truth. It's obviously a lot easier than lying.

Although this study tried to minimize the confounding effect of anxiety, the fact is that the anterior cingulate cortex is involved in emotional processing, so there is no way to know for sure whether the increased activity in this area is the neural signature of lying or is just being nervous about lying.

So we can all just relax. No one can yet read our minds, or hearts. For now, there is no technology that will make lying obsolete.


3. Your Partner Is An Expert At The Pity Play

You bring up some strange credit card charges and your partner breaks down about his grandma's cancer. that you didn't even know about until this very moment. Psychologist Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, calls this the “pity play,” and she believes that it is the number one tactic employed by the sociopathic liar. Even if the sob story were true, it still wouldn't justify the lying. A pathological liar knows our natural response is one of empathy and pity and they use it full to their advantage.


The psychological reasons why some people can't stop lying

By the age of three or four, we all start to lie. At this point in our brain's development, we learn that we have an incredibly versatile and powerful tool at our disposal — our language — and we can use it to actually play with reality and affect the outcome of what's happening.

Sooner or later we learn that lying is "bad," and we shouldn't really do it. But if Jim Carey's "Liar Liar" taught us anything, it's that this just isn't feasible. We all have to lie sometimes.

But some people are pathological liars, meaning they can't stop spreading misinformation about themselves and others. The psychological reasons for why some people are this way is a bit of a mystery, but in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, pathological lying is a disorder in its own right, as well as a symptom of personality disorders like psychopathy and narcissism.

"I think it comes from a defect in the neurological wiring in terms of what causes us to have compassion and empathy," psychiatrist Judith Orloff, author of "The Empath's Survival Guide," told Business Insider. "Because narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths have what's called empathy deficient disorder, meaning they don't feel empathy in the way we would."


3. Consolatory self-deception

Consolatory self-deception is the cleverest one of the lot and is observed very often in jealous people. Consolatory lying is observed in situations where the person blames something or someone else for their situation, in order to feel sorry for themselves.

Some examples of consolatory self-deception would be to think that you have a phobia because your mother “made you scared of dogs” or to think that “I’m a very jealous person because my partner gives me reasons to be like that”. These are thoughts that a person frequently entertains in order to find comfort.

In this way, consolatory self-deception protects our self-esteem and ego. It makes us believe that nothing is ever our fault and that we are always the victim. In one sense this is positive, since in many situations we are not 100% responsible for the circumstances we find ourselves in. But on the other hand, resorting to past causes and external factors makes us resist the changes we need to make in our lives.

The pitfalls of consolatory self-deception

Consolatory lying protects us. The problem with any sort of prolonged protection is that it prevents us from growing psychologically. The psychological effect of this self-deception is that it prevents us from facing the problems that make us feel bad and assures us that it is impossible to overcome them.


I’m Not Lying, I’m Telling a Future Truth. Really.

Some tales are so tall that they trip over their own improbable feats, narrative cracks and melodrama. That one-on-one playground victory over Kobe Bryant back in the day the 34 hours in labor without painkillers the former girlfriend or boyfriend who spoke eight languages and was a secret agent besides.

Yes, uh-huh, really. Is it closing time yet?

Yet in milder doses, self-serving exaggeration can be nearly impossible to detect, experts say, and there are several explanations.

A series of recent studies, focusing on students who inflate their grade-point average, suggests that such exaggeration is very different psychologically from other forms of truth twisting. Touching up scenes or past performances induces none of the anxiety that lying or keeping secrets does, these studies find and embroiderers often work to live up to the enhanced self-images they project. The findings imply that some kinds of deception are aimed more at the deceiver than at the audience, and they may help in distinguishing braggarts and posers from those who are expressing personal aspirations, however clumsily.

“It’s important to emphasize that the motives driving academic exaggeration seem to be personal and ‘intrapsychic’ rather than public or interpersonal,” said Richard H. Gramzow, a psychologist at the University of Southampton in England who has led much of the research. “Basically, exaggeration here reflects positive goals for the future, and we have found that those goals tend to be realized.”

Psychologists have studied deception from all sides and have found that it usually puts a psychological or physical strain on the person doing the dissembling. People with guilty knowledge — of a detail from a crime scene, for example — tend to show signs of stress, as measured by heart and skin sensors, under pointed questioning.

Trying to hold onto an inflammatory secret is mentally exhausting, studies have found, and the act of suppressing the information can cause thoughts of it to flood the consciousness. When telling outright lies, people tend to look and sound tenser than usual.

“Specifically, people are especially more tense when lying, compared to telling the truth, when they are highly motivated to get away with their lies and when they are lying about a transgression,” said Bella DePaulo, a visiting professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

But a study published in February in the journal Emotion found that exactly the opposite was true for students who exaggerated their grades. The researchers had 62 Northeastern University students fill out a computerized form asking, among other things, for cumulative grade point average. The students were then interviewed while hooked up to an array of sensitive electrodes measuring nervous system activation. The scripted interview covered academic history, goals and grades.

The researchers then pulled the students’ records, with permission, and found that almost half had exaggerated their average by as much as six-tenths of a point. Yet the electrode readings showed that oddly enough, the exaggerators became significantly more relaxed while discussing their grades.

“It was a robust effect, the sort of readings you see when people are engaged in a positive social encounter, or when they’re meditating,” said Wendy Berry Mendes, an associate professor of psychology at Harvard and senior author of the study. Dr. Gramzow and Greg Willard, then at Northeastern and now at Harvard, were co-authors.

The researchers videotaped the interviews, and independent observers rated how students looked and behaved. “The ones who exaggerated the most appeared the most calm and confident” on the ratings, Dr. Mendes said.

The grade inflation was less an attempt to deceive, the authors concluded, than a reflection of healthy overconfidence and a statement of aspirations. “It’s basically an exercise in projecting the self toward one’s goals,” Dr. Gramzow said.

In earlier studies, Dr. Gramzow and Dr. Willard found that students who bumped up their averages in interviews subsequently improved their grades — often by the very amount they had exaggerated.

The findings provide another lens through which to view claims, from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s story of sniper fire in Bosnia to exaggerations of income, charitable contributions and SAT scores. As much as these are embroideries, they are also expressions of yearning, and for reachable goals.

In that sense, fibs can reflect something close to the opposite of the frustration, insecurity and secretiveness that often fuel big lies. That may be why they can come so easily, add up so fast and for some people — especially around closing time — become indistinguishable from the truth.


Why Do People Lie To Themselves

One of the hardest people to be completely honest with is yourself. It is so much easier to fool yourself and remain ignorant than to actually own up to what is real. Fooling yourself is really easy to do and the preferred option for most people. The truth hurts and is often uncomfortable, which means that admitting what is real can be impossible for some people. Lying to yourself is the norm because it is easy and the path that requires the smallest amount of examination or change. Lying to yourself is essentially living in denial and this is what a lot of people choose. Admitting what is actually true is difficult and this results in a lot of people avoiding it.

How Can People Lie to Themselves?

People can lie to themselves in many different ways. One of the most common lies that people tell themselves is that some goals are unachievable. When people are having a difficult time reaching goal, they sometimes convince themselves that that goal is not realistic and not worth following. This is a harmful lie because it keeps them from pursuing something that is meaningful to them in someway. This type of lie makes it easier to quite because you convince yourself that no amount of effort or persistence would have paid off in the end, but this is not true. You never know what you can actually accomplish until you put in the effort. Laying to yourself in this way can keep you from striving for more.

Deep Denial

The thing about lying to yourself is that you get so deep into the lie that you no longer believe it to be a lie. You consider it to be the truth. This is when lying to yourself can be most damaging because it can change your entire perspective and everything that you believe in. When you are in denial it is impossible to think clearly. It is time for a whole new change of thought once you start down the path of denial.

Get Real

The only way that you can stop lying to yourself is if you are finally ready to admit the truth. This normally does not happen until you are confronted by the truth or forced to deal with reality in some way. Until then, you will simply just choose to live in denial and be oblivious.


Living With Frequent Lying

Living with someone who lies frequently can be stressful and uncomfortable. If you want to maintain a relationship with someone who lies to you, there are a few tactics you can use to handle conversations and daily life.

Many people who lie frequently will react poorly to anger aimed at them. If you believe you are being lied to, remain calm.

Don’t Engage With Lies

If you know something isn’t true, there’s no reason to act like it is true. Supporting your loved one’s lies will only reinforce their behavior. Instead, let them know that you know they are lying and stop the conversation.

Continued

Suggest Medical Treatment

If your loved one seems distressed by their lies, you can recommend that they get medical treatment. Therapy may help them confront the root of their habit of lying and lead to fewer lies in the future.

Sources

American Psychological Association: “Deception detection.”

Applied Cognitive Psychology: “Eliciting Information and Detecting Lies in Intelligence Interviewing: An Overview Of Recent Research.”

Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law: “Commentary: Getting at the Truth about Pathological Lying.”

Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law: “Pathological Lying Revisited.”

Kaleidoscope: “Real Lies, White Lies and Gray Lies: Towards a Typology of Deception.”

Legal and Criminological Psychology: “Exploiting liars’ verbal strategies by examining the verifiability of details.”


The Science of Lying

I want to bust some myths about lying by unveiling the truth about dishonesty. Some questions answered in this article:

In this post I am going to take some of the best learnings from our February Book Club book, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty (by Dan Ariely) and the most interesting tidbits from the research on deception.

Lying is a part of human nature.

Even if we don't want to admit it, we all lie. You're a liar. I'm a liar. We lie to others and we lie to ourselves. But here's what's interesting-lying is not rational.

There is some surprising science about lying that will not only help you understand your fellow human beings, but it will also show you how to have more honest relationships, communication and work environments. Read on to find out why.

1. Lying Is Not Rational

Do you believe in SMORC? The Simple Model of Rational Crime (SMORC) says that we decide whether or not to lie or cheat based on an internal cost benefit analysis of 3 factors:

In other words, we don't really think about what is moral or ethical we decide to cheat or not based on a rational cost benefit analysis. If this were the case, the simple answer to curbing crime and lying would be to have extremely high punishments and lots of watchdogs-police, surveillance cameras and audits. But here's the problem. SMORC is false. Dan Ariely tested the SMORC principle in the lab and found that our cheating is not rational and has very little to do with a cost benefit analysis. Lying is not an internal struggle with pros and cons, it is an internal struggle about how you view yourself.

2. I am NOT a Liar

Remember when I called you a liar at the beginning of this article? Did that make you flinch? Mentally uncomfortable? Angry? We hate to think of ourselves as liars. Research about dishonesty finds that we have 2 conflicting impulses:

Our survive and thrive instincts tell us to cheat, lie and steal to be on top of the food chain. But our communal instincts tell us to be an honest, kind and authentic person. So, while the threat of getting caught or a big punishment can dissuade us from telling the truth, our desire to be a good person is even more powerful. However, there are times when the reward for lying or cheating is higher than our desire to be a good person. And that's where the Fudge Factor comes in.

3. The Fudge Factor

In order to get the benefits of lying without the shame of feeling like a liar, our brain engages in some tricky rationalization and self-deception. The Fudge Factor is what we do when we allow ourselves to engage in small amounts of cheating or lying so we still feel like a good person. Ariely says it nicely, "We cheat up to the level that allows us to retain our self-image as reasonable honest individuals." In this way, we rationalize small amounts of lying without feeling too guilty. This is because we don't want to miss out on the small rewards cheating might give us, but at the end of the day we still want to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and feel good. The amount of cheating that happens is equal to the desire for gain minus the desire to be a good person.

  • The catch is we each have our own limit. For example, have you ever left a bowl of candy outside your door on Halloween and asked visitors to take "Just one piece per trick or treater?" If you want to see the failure of SMORC and the use of the Fudge Factor in action, I recommend you try it. Here's what will happen. Very few kids will only take one piece of candy. Most kids approach the bowl and take 2 pieces of candy-just one more than the "rule." In this way, they get extra candy but don't feel too bad about themselves for doing it. Few kids will take 3 pieces and the occasional kid will dump the entire bowl into his bag. This is the perfect example of how we each have different limits on the Fudge Factor.

4. What Makes Us Lie More

There are certain things that make the Fudge Factor grow. Ariely found that when people feel distanced from the consequences they steal more. For example, using tokens instead of money distances people from feeling like they are actually stealing money, and they therefore take more. Ariely also found that when you remind someone of their past achievements (even if those are false) people steal more because they rationalize that they deserve it. Or perhaps their internal 'good person' thermometer is already high, so stealing or cheating a little bit is ok-hence a larger Fudge Factor. If we think we can benefit others with our lies, we lie more. Altruistic motives make us feel that we are still good people so the Fudge Factor is larger. For example, if one trick-or-treater was getting candy for himself and his baby sister, he would be inclined to take even more candy from the bowl.

  • Take-Away: Beware of a cashless society. Credit cards, chips, tokens and representations of money increase the chances of having someone steal.

5. What Makes Us Lie Less

Luckily, there are a number of things we can do to encourage people to lie less. These center around reminding someone that they are a good person and the need for honesty should be upheld.

  • Take-Away: Use honor codes. When we have people sign honor codes they are less likely to cheat. This decreases the Fudge Factor because you are specifically asking someone to be a good person.
  • Take-Away: Remind people of their morality and the need for honesty. Having people sign a document before and after with an honesty pledge or stating to a group the need for honesty can help remind people of their own ethics.
  • Take-Away: Have people take an oath. When people state out loud the need for honesty, they are less likely to cheat.
  • Take-Away: When people think they are being watched, they cheat less. This goes back to SMORC which increases the potential for being caught. This even worked with a drawing of an eyeball-so no one was actually watching, but the eye had the implication of being watched. This reminded people of their desire to be a good person if viewed by others.

6. Do Liars Have Higher IQ?

When Ariely tested liars' IQ, he found that liars are not smarter than non-liars. However, they are more creative. Really good liars are creative and strategic about both rationalization and self-deception. They can come up with (and believe) elaborate tales that both convince them of their morality and justify their lying (extreme Fudge Factor behavior ensues). The more creative a person, the more they tend to cheat. Ariely even found that when he primed average subjects to feel more creative, their lying behavior increased.

7. The "What the Hell Effect"

When someone has already cheated a little bit, they might have the tendency to keep going. In other words, they think "I'm already a cheater, so what the hell, I'm going all the way." People who were told that they were wearing fake designer sunglasses while completing a challenge cheated more than people who were wearing genuine sunglasses (they were actually identical). Once someone thought they were already 'cheating' by wearing fake sunglasses they cheated more on the task.

  • Take-Away: The Broken Windows Theory should apply to lying as well. Don't brush off one small lie. Once it starts, it's hard to stop it. Remind people of what makes them lie less.

8. Interesting.

Some other interesting findings about lying.

  • Ariely found that liars do feel guilty. In fact, liars who cheat more on a task end up giving themselves more electric shocks in a follow-up activity. It's almost as if they are punishing themselves for the cheating they just did.
  • Which country lies the most? Ariely found no difference across cultures. The average amount of lying on his tasks was the same in the US, Italy, China and beyond.

Now that you know the science of lying, how are you going to encourage more honesty in your relationships?


Why Do People Lie To Themselves

One of the hardest people to be completely honest with is yourself. It is so much easier to fool yourself and remain ignorant than to actually own up to what is real. Fooling yourself is really easy to do and the preferred option for most people. The truth hurts and is often uncomfortable, which means that admitting what is real can be impossible for some people. Lying to yourself is the norm because it is easy and the path that requires the smallest amount of examination or change. Lying to yourself is essentially living in denial and this is what a lot of people choose. Admitting what is actually true is difficult and this results in a lot of people avoiding it.

How Can People Lie to Themselves?

People can lie to themselves in many different ways. One of the most common lies that people tell themselves is that some goals are unachievable. When people are having a difficult time reaching goal, they sometimes convince themselves that that goal is not realistic and not worth following. This is a harmful lie because it keeps them from pursuing something that is meaningful to them in someway. This type of lie makes it easier to quite because you convince yourself that no amount of effort or persistence would have paid off in the end, but this is not true. You never know what you can actually accomplish until you put in the effort. Laying to yourself in this way can keep you from striving for more.

Deep Denial

The thing about lying to yourself is that you get so deep into the lie that you no longer believe it to be a lie. You consider it to be the truth. This is when lying to yourself can be most damaging because it can change your entire perspective and everything that you believe in. When you are in denial it is impossible to think clearly. It is time for a whole new change of thought once you start down the path of denial.

Get Real

The only way that you can stop lying to yourself is if you are finally ready to admit the truth. This normally does not happen until you are confronted by the truth or forced to deal with reality in some way. Until then, you will simply just choose to live in denial and be oblivious.


Living With Frequent Lying

Living with someone who lies frequently can be stressful and uncomfortable. If you want to maintain a relationship with someone who lies to you, there are a few tactics you can use to handle conversations and daily life.

Many people who lie frequently will react poorly to anger aimed at them. If you believe you are being lied to, remain calm.

Don’t Engage With Lies

If you know something isn’t true, there’s no reason to act like it is true. Supporting your loved one’s lies will only reinforce their behavior. Instead, let them know that you know they are lying and stop the conversation.

Continued

Suggest Medical Treatment

If your loved one seems distressed by their lies, you can recommend that they get medical treatment. Therapy may help them confront the root of their habit of lying and lead to fewer lies in the future.

Sources

American Psychological Association: “Deception detection.”

Applied Cognitive Psychology: “Eliciting Information and Detecting Lies in Intelligence Interviewing: An Overview Of Recent Research.”

Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law: “Commentary: Getting at the Truth about Pathological Lying.”

Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law: “Pathological Lying Revisited.”

Kaleidoscope: “Real Lies, White Lies and Gray Lies: Towards a Typology of Deception.”

Legal and Criminological Psychology: “Exploiting liars’ verbal strategies by examining the verifiability of details.”


I’m Not Lying, I’m Telling a Future Truth. Really.

Some tales are so tall that they trip over their own improbable feats, narrative cracks and melodrama. That one-on-one playground victory over Kobe Bryant back in the day the 34 hours in labor without painkillers the former girlfriend or boyfriend who spoke eight languages and was a secret agent besides.

Yes, uh-huh, really. Is it closing time yet?

Yet in milder doses, self-serving exaggeration can be nearly impossible to detect, experts say, and there are several explanations.

A series of recent studies, focusing on students who inflate their grade-point average, suggests that such exaggeration is very different psychologically from other forms of truth twisting. Touching up scenes or past performances induces none of the anxiety that lying or keeping secrets does, these studies find and embroiderers often work to live up to the enhanced self-images they project. The findings imply that some kinds of deception are aimed more at the deceiver than at the audience, and they may help in distinguishing braggarts and posers from those who are expressing personal aspirations, however clumsily.

“It’s important to emphasize that the motives driving academic exaggeration seem to be personal and ‘intrapsychic’ rather than public or interpersonal,” said Richard H. Gramzow, a psychologist at the University of Southampton in England who has led much of the research. “Basically, exaggeration here reflects positive goals for the future, and we have found that those goals tend to be realized.”

Psychologists have studied deception from all sides and have found that it usually puts a psychological or physical strain on the person doing the dissembling. People with guilty knowledge — of a detail from a crime scene, for example — tend to show signs of stress, as measured by heart and skin sensors, under pointed questioning.

Trying to hold onto an inflammatory secret is mentally exhausting, studies have found, and the act of suppressing the information can cause thoughts of it to flood the consciousness. When telling outright lies, people tend to look and sound tenser than usual.

“Specifically, people are especially more tense when lying, compared to telling the truth, when they are highly motivated to get away with their lies and when they are lying about a transgression,” said Bella DePaulo, a visiting professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

But a study published in February in the journal Emotion found that exactly the opposite was true for students who exaggerated their grades. The researchers had 62 Northeastern University students fill out a computerized form asking, among other things, for cumulative grade point average. The students were then interviewed while hooked up to an array of sensitive electrodes measuring nervous system activation. The scripted interview covered academic history, goals and grades.

The researchers then pulled the students’ records, with permission, and found that almost half had exaggerated their average by as much as six-tenths of a point. Yet the electrode readings showed that oddly enough, the exaggerators became significantly more relaxed while discussing their grades.

“It was a robust effect, the sort of readings you see when people are engaged in a positive social encounter, or when they’re meditating,” said Wendy Berry Mendes, an associate professor of psychology at Harvard and senior author of the study. Dr. Gramzow and Greg Willard, then at Northeastern and now at Harvard, were co-authors.

The researchers videotaped the interviews, and independent observers rated how students looked and behaved. “The ones who exaggerated the most appeared the most calm and confident” on the ratings, Dr. Mendes said.

The grade inflation was less an attempt to deceive, the authors concluded, than a reflection of healthy overconfidence and a statement of aspirations. “It’s basically an exercise in projecting the self toward one’s goals,” Dr. Gramzow said.

In earlier studies, Dr. Gramzow and Dr. Willard found that students who bumped up their averages in interviews subsequently improved their grades — often by the very amount they had exaggerated.

The findings provide another lens through which to view claims, from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s story of sniper fire in Bosnia to exaggerations of income, charitable contributions and SAT scores. As much as these are embroideries, they are also expressions of yearning, and for reachable goals.

In that sense, fibs can reflect something close to the opposite of the frustration, insecurity and secretiveness that often fuel big lies. That may be why they can come so easily, add up so fast and for some people — especially around closing time — become indistinguishable from the truth.


The Fascinating Reason Why Liars Keep On Lying

O nce a liar, always a liar, the old saying goes. Turns out there&rsquos some scientific truth to that: researchers have tracked down how the brain makes lying easier as the untruths build up, providing some biological evidence for why small lies often balloon into ever larger ones.

In a study published in Nature Neuroscience, Tali Sharot from the department of experimental psychology at University College London and her colleagues devised a clever study to test people&rsquos dishonest tendencies while scanning their brains in an fMRI machine. The 80 people in the study were shown pennies in a glass jar and given different incentives to guide whether they lied or told the truth to a fellow partner about how much money was contained in the jar. In some conditions, both the participant and the partner benefited if the participant lied in others, just the participant benefited from his fib, or just the partner benefited (with no cost to either). In another set of scenarios, either the participant or partner benefited, but at the expense of the other if the participant lied. In each case, Sharot documented the changes in the people&rsquos brains as they made their decisions.

They found that when people were dishonest, activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala&mdashthe hub of emotional processing and arousal&mdashchanged. With each scenario, the more dishonestly the participant advised his partner, the less activated the amygdala was on the fMRI. That may be because lying triggers emotional arousal and activates the amygdala, but with each additional lie, the arousal and conflict of telling an untruth diminishes, making it easier to lie.

Sharot also found that the amygdala became less active mostly when people lied to benefit themselves. In other words, self-interest seems to fuel dishonesty.

&ldquoPart of the emotional arousal we see when people lie is because of the conflict between how people see themselves and their actions,&rdquo Sharot said during a briefing discussing the results. &ldquoSo I lie for self-benefit, but at the same time it doesn&rsquot fit the way I want to view myself, which is as an honest person. It&rsquos possible that we learn from the arousal signal…with less emotional arousal, perhaps I&rsquom less likely to see the act as incongruent with my own self perception.&rdquo

The researchers were even able to map out how each lie led to less amygdala activation and found that the decrease could predict how much the person&rsquos dishonesty would escalate in the next trial. Biology seems to back up the warnings parents give to their kids: that one lie just leads to another.


The psychological reasons why some people can't stop lying

By the age of three or four, we all start to lie. At this point in our brain's development, we learn that we have an incredibly versatile and powerful tool at our disposal — our language — and we can use it to actually play with reality and affect the outcome of what's happening.

Sooner or later we learn that lying is "bad," and we shouldn't really do it. But if Jim Carey's "Liar Liar" taught us anything, it's that this just isn't feasible. We all have to lie sometimes.

But some people are pathological liars, meaning they can't stop spreading misinformation about themselves and others. The psychological reasons for why some people are this way is a bit of a mystery, but in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, pathological lying is a disorder in its own right, as well as a symptom of personality disorders like psychopathy and narcissism.

"I think it comes from a defect in the neurological wiring in terms of what causes us to have compassion and empathy," psychiatrist Judith Orloff, author of "The Empath's Survival Guide," told Business Insider. "Because narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths have what's called empathy deficient disorder, meaning they don't feel empathy in the way we would."


BEHAVIOR Truth About Lies: They Tell a Lot About a Liar

Prevaricate. Equivocate. Fib. Call it what you like, it's still lying. And lying, as everyone knows, is just bad and wrong.

Liars have even been promised cruel and eternal punishment. Dante, in his ''Inferno,'' hurled them into the eighth circle of hell, along with other falsifiers, putting them one moral step below violent offenders. Their sin? Deliberate and calculated deception, a transgression apparently worse than the spontaneous crimes of passion.

In fact, few human behaviors are viewed as paradoxically as lying. We teach our children that it is wrong, yet we lie every day in the name of civility. We deem those who lie too often or extensively as untrustworthy, while we may call those who lie too little guileless. And though we routinely expect marketers and politicians to lie, we spare them no end of moral outrage when they do.

But lying is much too interesting to be left just to the mercy of moral examination. Lies may not be as sexy or revelatory as dreams, but they can tell us a lot about the psychology of their owners.

There may be nothing uniquely human about deception: some experts say chimpanzees can fake out rivals. But lying requires something special that, so far, seems the sole province of humans: a theory of mind. To lie effectively, one has to have a notion that other people have minds and can be deceived.

By the time most children are 4, they have acquired the ability to deceive others, a skill critical to survival. For example, shown a tube of Smarties candy filled with pencils, 4-year-olds can imagine that other children who don't know the trick will falsely assume that the tube contains candy. In other words, these normal 4-year-olds have learned that others can be fooled by a false belief.

Some brain illnesses like autism interfere with this skill. Most autistic children fail at the false belief task and, by inference would have a hard time deceiving others.

Of course, most of us have mastered the skill of lying. And lies, like secrets are rarely as interesting as the psychological reasons behind them.

A patient of mine was terribly embarrassed to reveal that she hid special foods for herself in the kitchen away from other family members. It was a secret she had told no one because it made her look selfish and devious, she said.

But the secret concealed a far more important fact: she grew up with a depressed mother who fed her and her sister erratically. So hoarding was her way to cope with deprivation. When she realized this, the secret was no longer shameful.

For some, the aim of lying is to feel better about themselves. A successful businessman told me that he routinely exaggerated his accomplishments. He would inflate his test scores and claim that he had won athletic competitions when he had really placed only second or third.

He had, like others with narcissistic personality disorder, the constant fear of being unmasked as a fraud, a sense that no achievement could relieve. Lying for him was a means to bolster his fragile self-esteem.

Perhaps the most interesting liars are people with antisocial personality disorder. Antisocial people have deficient or absent consciences that allow them to engage in all kinds of mischief with little or no guilt.

They can be superficially charming, but they often lack empathy and have no trouble lying, stealing or being violent. They lie frequently to get their hands on something that isn't theirs or to escape a mess that is.

What's intriguing is that antisocial people seem to have fundamentally different emotional and biological responses from others. For example, researchers have found that antisocial subjects have diminished responses to facial expressions of sadness or fear and that their response to fear is generally blunted.

This may explain, in part, why antisocial people seem undeterred by punishment or can't learn from the negative consequences of their own behavior.

In contrast to normal people who experience anxiety when they lie, antisocial people can lie with complete composure. And because they experience little physiological arousal, they can often fool a polygraph test, which detects peripheral signs of anxiety like a rapid heart rate.

Anxious truth tellers, meanwhile, can easily fail simply because they're nervous, throwing the validity of the polygraph into question.

Recently, some researchers tried to detect lying with brain imaging. Dr. Daniel Langleben of the University of Pennsylvania used functional M.R.I.'s to study brain activity in 18 normal volunteers. They were told either to lie or tell the truth to a computer about whether they had a certain playing card.

Dr. Langleben found that activity in two brain regions, the anterior cingulate cortex and superior frontal gyrus, increased when subjects lied. These same areas were activated when subjects told the truth, but lying produced even greater activity.

The implication is that the brain must exert more effort to lie than to tell the truth and that deception involves active suppression of a truthful response, Dr. Langleben said.

Or as Mark Twain used to say, when in doubt tell the truth. It's obviously a lot easier than lying.

Although this study tried to minimize the confounding effect of anxiety, the fact is that the anterior cingulate cortex is involved in emotional processing, so there is no way to know for sure whether the increased activity in this area is the neural signature of lying or is just being nervous about lying.

So we can all just relax. No one can yet read our minds, or hearts. For now, there is no technology that will make lying obsolete.


3. Your Partner Is An Expert At The Pity Play

You bring up some strange credit card charges and your partner breaks down about his grandma's cancer. that you didn't even know about until this very moment. Psychologist Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, calls this the “pity play,” and she believes that it is the number one tactic employed by the sociopathic liar. Even if the sob story were true, it still wouldn't justify the lying. A pathological liar knows our natural response is one of empathy and pity and they use it full to their advantage.


3. Consolatory self-deception

Consolatory self-deception is the cleverest one of the lot and is observed very often in jealous people. Consolatory lying is observed in situations where the person blames something or someone else for their situation, in order to feel sorry for themselves.

Some examples of consolatory self-deception would be to think that you have a phobia because your mother “made you scared of dogs” or to think that “I’m a very jealous person because my partner gives me reasons to be like that”. These are thoughts that a person frequently entertains in order to find comfort.

In this way, consolatory self-deception protects our self-esteem and ego. It makes us believe that nothing is ever our fault and that we are always the victim. In one sense this is positive, since in many situations we are not 100% responsible for the circumstances we find ourselves in. But on the other hand, resorting to past causes and external factors makes us resist the changes we need to make in our lives.

The pitfalls of consolatory self-deception

Consolatory lying protects us. The problem with any sort of prolonged protection is that it prevents us from growing psychologically. The psychological effect of this self-deception is that it prevents us from facing the problems that make us feel bad and assures us that it is impossible to overcome them.