The Truth About Lying


No one likes a liar, and yet everyone has at least lied once in their life. Sometimes lies are told to spare the feelings of others; other times they are told for more selfish reasons. Sociopaths are known for telling manipulative lies, and narcissists lie to boost their image. The range of reasons people bend the truth vary. However, the true reason people lie is more elusive than one might think. Science reveals that lying is a part of human development, and it may explain exactly why people make false claims in the first place. However, based on a person’s psychology, their lies may come in a variety of different forms.

Deception in everyday conversation occurs quite frequently. In fact, a study performed by psychologist Robert S. Feldman, published in the Journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology, discovered 60 percent of people lied at least once during a ten-minute conversation. The average amount of lies told were two to three. The reason for these lies is possibly to make the person seem more like-able—to make a good impression. However, a number of reasons clearly illustrate why one might slip a lie, depending on the context. Psychology Today lists several explanations as to why an individual might falsify the truth. A few of these include, “They don’t want to disappoint you,” or, “They want it to be true.” Often, people hold a strong desire to please others, to come off as better than they might be, or to appear near perfect. No one enjoys their flaws being visible or pointed out, so they cover them up like hiding a bad tattoo. Pathological liars are defined as those who habitually lie, also known as compulsive lying. Professor of psychology at the University of California, Paul Ekman, explains the reasoning behind the webs of deceit they spin in saying, “They tell the stories they think want to be heard.” Pathological liars are also shown to continue lying, even after they know others know they are lying. However, just because one tells a small number of lies in a day, does not mean they are a compulsive or pathological liar. Needless to say, lies can negatively harm relationships and cause distrust to sprout between people. Despite this, lying may not be as negative as it is portrayed.

Lying comes as early as three years of age, and though repetitive lying is a bad habit, it is actually quite similar to learning to walk and talk. In other words, lying is a normal part of human development. The article, “Why We Lie: The Science Behind Our Deceptive Ways” from National Geographic explains, “…the emergence of the behavior in toddlers as a reassuring sign that their cognitive growth is on track.” Therefore, the reason people begin to lie is due to the development of the brain. In addition, this development comes in steps. Kang Lee, psychologist at the University of Toronto, performed a simple experiment to put this to the test. They asked children to identify a hidden toy based on an audio clue they were given. For example, if the toy were a horse, they would play the sound of a horse neighing. Then, the researchers began to play music with no relation to the toy. On account of a phone call, they exited the room and the child was left with the option to peek at the hidden toy. It is recorded that, “The percentage of the children who peek and then lie about it depends on their age. Among two-year-old transgressors, only 30 percent are untruthful. Among three-year-olds, 50 percent lie. And by eight, about 80 percent claim they didn’t peek.” Interestingly, their lies advance as they grow older as well. Younger children quickly blurt out the correct answer, whereas older children hide their lies by making it appear as a reasonable guess or intentionally giving an incorrect answer. Evidently, the development of lying comes in stages. This information is pertinent when understanding the growth of the mind, and it opens a gateway to a new understanding of cognitive function. However, lies are hazardous and telling them should be discouraged.

Deceit occurs every day, sometimes harmful, other times for good intentions. Fabricated claims are used for personal gain, given out of fear, or issued to protect others’ feelings. Lies can cause distrust and become an unhealthy habit. In the end, a web too largely spun becomes a danger to those who created it and those around them. It is best if most lies are avoided, and honesty is used regularly. However, the truth, in the end, is everyone lies.