Thursday, October 27, 2005

"Lying Is Good For You"

Simply put, we lie because it works. When we do it well, we get what we want.

We lie to avoid awkwardness or punishment. We lie to maintain relationships and please others. And, of course, most of all we lie to please ourselves. Whether we’re embellishing our credentials or strengthening our stories, we often tell untruths to make ourselves appear and feel better.

What's more, we lie all the time. In 2002, Robert Feldman, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, conducted a study in which he secretly videotaped student’s conversations with strangers. After the fact, he had the students examine the videotapes and identify the untruths. On average, they claim to have told three lies per ten minutes of conversation.

And that number is likely far too low. First, we’re likely to underreport the number of lies we tell (we lie about lying, that is). And Feldman’s study only accounted for lies of the verbal variety, ignoring other deceptive behavior--misleading body language or facial expressions, for example.

In fact, we lie so readily that the dishonesty becomes automatic. Most of the time, we’re not even aware of the lies we tell, explains David Smith, director of the New England Institute at the University of New England and author of Why We Lie. He says we lie best when we don’t know we’re lying. “We don’t have the nervousness or broadcast the tell-tale signs of unease that the intentional liar can barely help,” he explains. “Self-deception is the handmaiden of deceit--in hiding the truth from ourselves, we’re able to hide it more fully from others.”

But why are we so dishonest so often? Isn’t honesty always the best policy? In fact, no. Nobody wants to hear that they look heavier or less attractive. In truth, we consider those who are too honest to be blunt, antisocial and even pathological. A recent study found that adolescents who are most popular with their peers were the ones that were the best at being deceptive.

And lying has proven psychological benefits. For instance, there’s scientific evidence showing that depressive people are more honest with themselves than nondepressive, or mentally healthy, people. When people recover from their depressions, they become less honest....

More @ Forbes ...

... and @ '
The elements of a scientific theory of self-deception' by Robert Trivers


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