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Natural-Born Liars

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DejaVu
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« on: June 07, 2009, 05:51:41 pm »

Natural-Born Liars

Why do we lie, and why are we so good at it? Because it works

By David Livingstone Smith   

From the June 2005 Scientific American Mind

Deception runs like a red thread throughout all of human history. It sustains literature, from Homer's wily Odysseus to the biggest pop novels of today. Go to a movie, and odds are that the plot will revolve around deceit in some shape or form. Perhaps we find such stories so enthralling because lying pervades human life. Lying is a skill that wells up from deep within us, and we use it with abandon. As the great American observer Mark Twain wrote more than a century ago: "Everybody lies ... every day, every hour, awake, asleep, in his dreams, in his joy, in his mourning. If he keeps his tongue still his hands, his feet, his eyes, his attitude will convey deception." Deceit is fundamental to the human condition.

Research supports Twain's conviction. One good example was a study conducted in 2002 by psychologist Robert S. Feldman of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Feldman secretly videotaped students who were asked to talk with a stranger. He later had the students analyze their tapes and tally the number of lies they had told. A whopping 60 percent admitted to lying at least once during 10 minutes of conversation, and the group averaged 2.9 untruths in that time period. The transgressions ranged from intentional exaggeration to flat-out fibs. Interestingly, men and women lied with equal frequency; however, Feldman found that women were more likely to lie to make the stranger feel good, whereas men lied most often to make themselves look better.

In another study a decade earlier by David Knox and Caroline Schacht, both now at East Carolina University, 92 percent of college students confessed that they had lied to a current or previous sexual partner, which left the husband-and-wife research team wondering whether the remaining 8 percent were lying. And whereas it has long been known that men are prone to lie about the number of their sexual conquests, recent research shows that women tend to underrepresent their degree of sexual experience. When asked to fill out questionnaires on personal sexual behavior and attitudes, women wired to a dummy polygraph machine reported having had twice as many lovers as those who were not, showing that the women who were not wired were less honest. It's all too ironic that the investigators had to deceive subjects to get them to tell the truth about their lies.

These references are just a few of the many examples of lying that pepper the scientific record. And yet research on deception is almost always focused on lying in the narrowest sense-literally saying things that aren't true. But our fetish extends far beyond verbal falsification. We lie by omission and through the subtleties of spin. We engage in myriad forms of nonverbal deception, too: we use makeup, hairpieces, cosmetic surgery, clothing and other forms of adornment to disguise our true appearance, and we apply artificial fragrances to misrepresent our body odors. We cry crocodile tears, fake orgasms and flash phony "have a nice day" smiles. Out-and-out verbal lies are just a small part of the vast tapestry of human deceit.

The obvious question raised by all of this accounting is: Why do we lie so readily? The answer: because it works. The Homo sapiens who are best able to lie have an edge over their counterparts in a relentless struggle for the reproductive success that drives the engine of evolution. As humans, we must fit into a close-knit social system to succeed, yet our primary aim is still to look out for ourselves above all others. Lying helps. And lying to ourselves--a talent built into our brains--helps us accept our fraudulent behavior.

Passport to Success

If this bald truth makes any one of us feel uncomfortable, we can take some solace in knowing we are not the only species to exploit the lie. Plants and animals communicate with one another by sounds, ritualistic displays, colors, airborne chemicals and other methods, and biologists once naively assumed that the sole function of these communication systems was to transmit accurate information. But the more we have learned, the more obvious it has become that nonhuman species put a lot of effort into sending inaccurate messages.

Continued: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=natural-born-liars
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The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity, but the one that removes awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside. --Allan Bloom

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Winston
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« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2009, 11:27:22 pm »

Oh goodie, more "research."  Roll Eyes  Notice the gender of the reporter is not mentioned.   Cheesy

Quote
Men lie six times a day and twice as often as women, study finds

By Daily Mail UK Reporter
Last updated at 8:15 AM on 14th September 2009

Fibbing: A study has found men tell 42 lies a week.

Men tell twice as many lies as women, it emerged yesterday.

Researchers found they tell six fibs a day on average to their partner, boss and work colleagues, but women come out with just three.

The study of 2,000 Britons also revealed that the most common lie told by both sexes was: ' Nothing's wrong, I'm fine.'

While men are likely to fib about having their last pint and claiming their partner's behind doesn't look too big, women avoid telling the truth about their latest shopping purchases.

Eighty-three per cent of adults of both sexes said they could easily tell if their partner was lying.

But body language expert Richard Newman said: 'Most people can't read the signals.

'They assume that if someone is hiding the truth, they would hide their face and avoid eye contact. In fact, the opposite is true.

'Liars usually do everything they can to convince you of the truth, sitting still and looking at you to watch your reaction.

'People simply overestimate their skills in this area.'

The findings emerged in a poll by 20th Century Fox to mark the DVD launch of TV series Lie To Me, starring Tim Roth as a deception expert who helps to solve crimes.

Top ten lies men tell:

1. Nothing's wrong, I'm fine
2. This will be my last pint
3. No, your bum doesn't look big in that
4. I had no signal
5. My battery died
6. Sorry, I missed your call
7. I didn't have that much to drink
8. I'm on my way
9. It wasn't that expensive
10. I'm stuck in traffic

Top ten lies women tell:

1. Nothing's wrong, I'm fine
2. Oh, this isn't new, I've had it ages
3. It wasn't that expensive
4. It was in the sale
5. I'm on my way
6. I don't know where it is, I haven't touched it
7. I didn't have that much to drink
8. I've got a headache
9. No, I didn't throw it away
10. Sorry, I missed your call 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1213171/Men-lie-times-day-twice-women-study-finds.html?printingPage=true

In the comments section:

Quote
While research may indicate that men lie more than women in Britain, it certainly doesn't seem to be the case in America. In my ongoing research on why women lie, including my book, LITTLE WHITE LIES, DEEP DARK SECRETS: THE TRUTH ABOUT WHY WOMEN LIE ( St Martins Press, 2008), I found that women not only lie more frequently than men, but that 80% of women of various backgrounds believe in beneficial lying, 80% percent of my interviewees believe that women lie more cleverly and successfully than do men, and 70% of women attribute 'living a lie' to how they've ben positioned in marriages, the workplace, financially or as mothers. Seventy five percent of my interviewees say they lie about money to boyfriends, husbands and family memebers, 60 percent admit to an addiction secret and more than 60 % felt they could wiggle out of their lies if caught. Thus women justify how they profit from a lie, using it as their armor and shield; women are adept at having secrets and lying for the cause

- Susan Barash Cohen, New York, NY, 15/9/2009


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Winston
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« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2009, 04:23:11 pm »

"First, the good news: Everything's going fine. Then, the bad news: That ain't true." - Philippe Geluck (Belgian humorist, cartoonist)

"Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it ain't so." -- Mark Twain (American humorist, writer)

Mark Twain composed this essay (below with my ellipsis, and referred to in DejaVu's first article here) on "The Art of Lying" for a meeting of the Historical and Antiquarian Club of Hartford, Connecticut. The essay, Twain notes, was "offered for the thirty-dollar prize," but it "did not take the prize."   Little wonder -- even by tongue-in-cheek observation, who wants to be called a liar?!  Shocked  Yet, if we're really honest ... well, you know.   Wink

Nonetheless, his timeless brilliance remains...  Smiley
Quote
On the Decay of the Art of Lying,   by Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Observe, I do not mean to suggest that the custom of lying has suffered any decay or interruption -- no, for the Lie, as a Virtue, A Principle, is eternal;  the Lie, as a recreation, a solace, a refuge in time of need, the fourth Grace, the tenth Muse, man's best and surest friend, is immortal, and cannot perish from the earth while this club remains.  My complaint simply concerns the decay of the art of lying.  No high-minded man, no man of right feeling, can contemplate the lumbering and slovenly lying of the present day without grieving to see a noble art so prostituted.  ...

No fact is more firmly established than that lying is a necessity of our circumstances -- the deduction that it is then a Virtue goes without saying.  No virtue can reach its highest usefulness without careful and diligent cultivation -- therefore, it goes without saying that this one ought to be taught in the public schools -- even in the newspapers.  What chance has the ignorant uncultivated liar against the educated expert?   What chance have I against Mr. Per -- against a lawyer?   Judicious lying is what the world needs.   I sometimes think it were even better and safer not to lie at all than to lie injudiciously.   An awkward, unscientific lie is often as ineffectual as the truth.

Now let us see what the philosophers say. Note that venerable proverb: Children and fools always speak the truth. The deduction is plain -- adults and wise persons never speak it.  ... None of us could live with an habitual truth-teller;  but thank goodness none of us has to.  An habitual truth-teller is simply an impossible creature;  he does not exist; he never has existed.  Of course there are people who think they never lie, but it is not so -- and this ignorance is one of the very things that shame our so-called civilization. Everybody lies -- every day;  every hour;  awake;  asleep;  in his dreams;  in his joy;  in his mourning;  if he keeps his tongue still, his hands, his feet, his eyes, his attitude, will convey deception -- and purposely.  Even in sermons -- but that is a platitude.

In a far country where I once lived the ladies used to go around paying calls, under the humane and kindly pretence of wanting to see each other; and when they returned home, they would cry out with a glad voice, saying, "We made sixteen calls and found fourteen of them out" ... The iron-souled truth-monger would plainly manifest, or even utter the fact that he didn't want to see those people -- and he would be an ass, and inflict totally unnecessary pain.  ....

The men in that far country were liars, every one. Their mere howdy-do was a lie, because they didn't care how you did, except if they were undertakers. ... If a stranger called and interrupted you, you said with your hearty tongue, "I'm glad to see you," and said with your heartier soul, "I wish you were with the cannibals and it was dinner-time."  When he went, you said regretfully, "Must you go?" and followed it with a "Call again;" but you did no harm, for you did not deceive anybody nor inflict any hurt, whereas the truth would have made you both unhappy.

I think that all this courteous lying is a sweet and loving art, and should be cultivated. The highest perfection of politeness is only a beautiful edifice, built, from the base to the dome, of graceful and gilded forms of charitable and unselfish lying.

What I bemoan is the growing prevalence of the brutal truth. Let us do what we can to eradicate it. An injurious truth has no merit over an injurious lie. Neither should ever be uttered. The man who speaks an injurious truth lest his soul be not saved if he do otherwise, should reflect that that sort of a soul is not strictly worth saving. The man who tells a lie to help a poor devil out of trouble, is one of whom the angels doubtless say, "Lo, here is an heroic soul who casts his own welfare in jeopardy to succor his neighbor's; let us exalt this magnanimous liar."

An injurious lie is an uncommendable thing; and so, also, and in the same degree, is an injurious truth--a fact that is recognized by the law of libel.

Among other common lies, we have the silent lie -- the deception which one conveys by simply keeping still and concealing the truth. Many obstinate truth-mongers indulge in this dissipation, imagining that if they speak no lie, they lie not at all. In that far country where I once lived, there was a lovely spirit, a lady whose impulses were always high and pure, and whose character answered to them. One day I was there at dinner, and remarked, in a general way, that we are all liars. She was amazed, and said, "Not all?" ...       

Lying is universal--we all do it. Therefore, the wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously; to lie with a good object, and not an evil one; to lie for others' advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie gracefully and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firmly, frankly, squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with pusillanimous mien, as being ashamed of our high calling. Then shall we be rid of the rank and pestilent truth that is rotting the land; then shall we be great and good and beautiful, and worthy dwellers in a world where even benign Nature habitually lies, except when she promises execrable weather.  ...

Joking aside, I think there is much need of wise examination into what sorts of lies are best and wholesomest to be indulged, seeing we must all lie and we do all lie, and what sorts it may be best to avoid -- and this is a thing which I feel I can confidently put into the hands of this experienced Club -- a ripe body, who may be termed, in this regard, and without undue flattery, Old Masters.

Slightly fuller version at http://www.classicauthors.net/twain/artoflying/
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DejaVu
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« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2009, 09:30:56 pm »

"First, the good news: Everything's going fine. Then, the bad news: That ain't true." - Philippe Geluck (Belgian humorist, cartoonist)

"Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it ain't so." -- Mark Twain (American humorist, writer)

Mark Twain composed this essay (below with my ellipsis, and referred to in DejaVu's first article here) on "The Art of Lying" for a meeting of the Historical and Antiquarian Club of Hartford, Connecticut. The essay, Twain notes, was "offered for the thirty-dollar prize," but it "did not take the prize."   Little wonder -- even by tongue-in-cheek observation, who wants to be called a liar?!  Shocked  Yet, if we're really honest ... well, you know.   Wink

Nonetheless, his timeless brilliance remains...  Smiley
Quote
On the Decay of the Art of Lying,   by Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Observe, I do not mean to suggest that the custom of lying has suffered any decay or interruption -- no, for the Lie, as a Virtue, A Principle, is eternal;  the Lie, as a recreation, a solace, a refuge in time of need, the fourth Grace, the tenth Muse, man's best and surest friend, is immortal, and cannot perish from the earth while this club remains.  My complaint simply concerns the decay of the art of lying.  No high-minded man, no man of right feeling, can contemplate the lumbering and slovenly lying of the present day without grieving to see a noble art so prostituted.  ...

No fact is more firmly established than that lying is a necessity of our circumstances -- the deduction that it is then a Virtue goes without saying.  No virtue can reach its highest usefulness without careful and diligent cultivation -- therefore, it goes without saying that this one ought to be taught in the public schools -- even in the newspapers.  What chance has the ignorant uncultivated liar against the educated expert?   What chance have I against Mr. Per -- against a lawyer?   Judicious lying is what the world needs.   I sometimes think it were even better and safer not to lie at all than to lie injudiciously.   An awkward, unscientific lie is often as ineffectual as the truth.

Now let us see what the philosophers say. Note that venerable proverb: Children and fools always speak the truth. The deduction is plain -- adults and wise persons never speak it.  ... None of us could live with an habitual truth-teller;  but thank goodness none of us has to.  An habitual truth-teller is simply an impossible creature;  he does not exist; he never has existed.  Of course there are people who think they never lie, but it is not so -- and this ignorance is one of the very things that shame our so-called civilization. Everybody lies -- every day;  every hour;  awake;  asleep;  in his dreams;  in his joy;  in his mourning;  if he keeps his tongue still, his hands, his feet, his eyes, his attitude, will convey deception -- and purposely.  Even in sermons -- but that is a platitude.

In a far country where I once lived the ladies used to go around paying calls, under the humane and kindly pretence of wanting to see each other; and when they returned home, they would cry out with a glad voice, saying, "We made sixteen calls and found fourteen of them out" ... The iron-souled truth-monger would plainly manifest, or even utter the fact that he didn't want to see those people -- and he would be an ass, and inflict totally unnecessary pain.  ....

The men in that far country were liars, every one. Their mere howdy-do was a lie, because they didn't care how you did, except if they were undertakers. ... If a stranger called and interrupted you, you said with your hearty tongue, "I'm glad to see you," and said with your heartier soul, "I wish you were with the cannibals and it was dinner-time."  When he went, you said regretfully, "Must you go?" and followed it with a "Call again;" but you did no harm, for you did not deceive anybody nor inflict any hurt, whereas the truth would have made you both unhappy.

I think that all this courteous lying is a sweet and loving art, and should be cultivated. The highest perfection of politeness is only a beautiful edifice, built, from the base to the dome, of graceful and gilded forms of charitable and unselfish lying.

What I bemoan is the growing prevalence of the brutal truth. Let us do what we can to eradicate it. An injurious truth has no merit over an injurious lie. Neither should ever be uttered. The man who speaks an injurious truth lest his soul be not saved if he do otherwise, should reflect that that sort of a soul is not strictly worth saving. The man who tells a lie to help a poor devil out of trouble, is one of whom the angels doubtless say, "Lo, here is an heroic soul who casts his own welfare in jeopardy to succor his neighbor's; let us exalt this magnanimous liar."

An injurious lie is an uncommendable thing; and so, also, and in the same degree, is an injurious truth--a fact that is recognized by the law of libel.

Among other common lies, we have the silent lie -- the deception which one conveys by simply keeping still and concealing the truth. Many obstinate truth-mongers indulge in this dissipation, imagining that if they speak no lie, they lie not at all. In that far country where I once lived, there was a lovely spirit, a lady whose impulses were always high and pure, and whose character answered to them. One day I was there at dinner, and remarked, in a general way, that we are all liars. She was amazed, and said, "Not all?" ...       

Lying is universal--we all do it. Therefore, the wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously; to lie with a good object, and not an evil one; to lie for others' advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie gracefully and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firmly, frankly, squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with pusillanimous mien, as being ashamed of our high calling. Then shall we be rid of the rank and pestilent truth that is rotting the land; then shall we be great and good and beautiful, and worthy dwellers in a world where even benign Nature habitually lies, except when she promises execrable weather.  ...

Joking aside, I think there is much need of wise examination into what sorts of lies are best and wholesomest to be indulged, seeing we must all lie and we do all lie, and what sorts it may be best to avoid -- and this is a thing which I feel I can confidently put into the hands of this experienced Club -- a ripe body, who may be termed, in this regard, and without undue flattery, Old Masters.

Slightly fuller version at http://www.classicauthors.net/twain/artoflying/


Great post Winston! Wish I had something witty to say but I don't. I'll give you a compliment instead. You made me think.  Wink
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The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity, but the one that removes awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside. --Allan Bloom
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« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2009, 09:35:27 pm »

It's like my wife said, " I only lie when I have to ".  Makes sense to me.
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« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2009, 02:18:12 pm »

Do you ever wonder why you have to teach a ctild how to tell the truth,but don't have to teach him or her how to LIE?    TEN Smiley
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