You lied to me about lying to me, you liar!

Article by: Scott Hall

                Lying is a behavior attribute we are all subject to, be it lying about credentials, lying about abilities or lying to cover up something.  Some citizens say we are born into bad behavior and thus predisposed to it.  Are we merely observers whom perceive at a young age as to what we can lie about and get away with? How do you know if someone is lying to you?   This article will take a look into deception, examine whether or not lying is acceptable in general and attempt to enlighten us as to physical attributes associated with lying.  With boldness we step into the unknown realm of the lie.

                When most citizens are children and we get into trouble, our general nature to avoid the consequences is to lie about what we had done, which, never worked for me as my parents never asked me, “How did ____ happen?” rather, they would state “Why did you ______?” and if I was to lie about it, more trouble came into the picture.  One would think that as we grow older and wiser, we would know the end results of not telling the full truth which, is harsher consequences such as:  arguments and even break ups of long or short term relationships.  Even as adults, we still tend to tell “white lies” or we can’t tell someone the full truth as it may hurt them or cause stress on everything from friendship to relationships when interacting and of course, possible gossips that do even more damage.  Seems the easier solution to these problems is not to lie at all, however, we still allow it in our lives and its prevalence is our world has even infiltrated law enforcement in that on occasion, polygraphs or lie detector tests are used to determine whether or not a subject has something to hide.

                A definition of lie, in this context of the word is:  (noun) a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive and (verb) to speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to deceive (dictionary reference.com).  Noun or verb, it is easy to see why parents ask direct about situations or events, the untruth will reveal itself when confronted and the child ends up punished.  Citizens in general never deliberately put thought into elaborate lies, unless their motivation is a bit sinister, mostly we leave those types of things to Hollywood or the sensationalized media to display for our entertainment, but none the less, we all have done it.  Lies know no limits as to application, for instance, former Congressmen Anthony Weiner, when first approached about the inappropriateness of his “tweets” initially denied and even set forth deception about the circumstances, all in the name of deflection of actual wrong doings and being caught without answers as to why it occurred.    In the Congressman’s case, being caught unprepared caused the onset of the deceit and slow release of facts.  A deeper probe is certainly warranted in our search for root causes.

                Psychology Today (psychologytoday.com) has presented many articles in relation to lying and human behavior.  According to an online article published May 1st, 1997 lying is a complex yet common part of everyday life and is estimated we perform the “lie” an average of 2 times daily.    Things such as “I love your dress” when we actually think it’s awful, is common amongst our citizens and is considered just being polite rather than crushing someone’s taste of yellow and pinks.  Another example of situational lying would be if one were late for a class or their job, rather than admit a potentially damaging “I over slept” some may utter, “terrible traffic” or “stuck behind a wreck” or some other semantic to avoid the bad view of ourselves from our supervisors or bosses.  Examples such as these were revealed in a case study mentioned in the article of people ages 18 to 71 and that lots of times, this is acceptable behavior and that when those lies becomes malicious, that’s when the troubles start.

                Social pressure along with protection of image is what we have uncovered so far in our search for causations of deception.  These two elements may have something in common with how we react and utter falsehoods.  Fear, a basic human reactionary behavior, could possibly motivate us.  In our congressman’s case, fear of public reaction and punishment could have caused him to slow down the release of facts in order to make a smooth exit.  In the case of being late for work, fear of punishment or consequences could also be a motivator.  In the case of rearing children, the child’s fear of what punishments exist for the bad behavior could easily be a motivator.  A basic question in regards to our last case is, how did the child develop the nature to deceive, is it a by- product of environment or something they have been taught?  There are a few types of classifications of liars, such as habitual, compulsory, pathological and even chronic and each carries its own weight in day to day activities.  Titles such as these would suggest that lying is a disorder and in truth, in some cases it is one that can be devastating to the lives of the patient and their families if the cause is an underlying mental illness.

                Mythomania can be broken into two areas, compulsory and pathological lying.  It is a condition where the patient cannot help the deception even if it causes harm and in some cases without regard to how others may feel, or are harmed by the deception.  According to an online article helpingpsychology.com), it is when this type of patient is being treated, one may want to look at other possibilities at its cause as this may be a sign of a more serious underlying problem or mental illness, that could require intensive therapy, such as the schizophrenic who lies about hearing audible hallucinations to avoid being given medicine as they may not like its side effects or deem it unnecessary.  Other circumstances to consider is whether or not the patient feels unable to fit into society, bringing on feelings of helplessness and anxiety which could affect how they present themselves to the public, thus telling tales in order to fit into social acceptance. Evaluating this particular type of disorder includes a prescription for long term therapy in order to assist the patient in managing themselves on a daily basis.  Does this fit our daily lives? Probably not but we are certainly aware of persons that exhibit this behavior so let’s move into another area of compulsory lying.

                Chronic types of compulsory deception are basically, lying out of habit or because one has never seen it as socially wrong to flex some social prowess from time to time in order to better fit in. The difference is that in pathological lying, the person is intending to cause harm and has no regret of thought, where in compulsory chronic lying; things are a bit more subtle.  This is usually developed in childhood and becomes a developed skill if not intercepted and treated promptly.  This type of liar is very good at what they do as deception becomes a second nature, meaning as the disorder develops it becomes easier and easier to do.  Sometimes this type of compulsory behavior is because the person wants attention which may indicate feelings of low self esteem (the quiet person in the office).

                In this perspective from the online article (buzzle.com), several factors exist that may be symptoms of this type of behavior and again point out that extensive therapy is needed as an underlying disorder may be at hand.  This of course is a bit extreme in our above cases but is very relevant in our day to day activities.  We as a society are all inherent with a touch of compulsory chronic lying from childhood and maybe the few that develop advanced symptoms that eventually lead to medication or worst case scenario of prison time, are those whom are less noticed in life, i.e., the shy boy or girl who rarely talks.  In this context we can easily see a need for lots of involvement into our children’s lives and into the patient’s lives, so they too can develop a sense of when it is ok to tell a “white lie” and when they really need help with overcoming an adversity.  In essence, we are all prone to this type of behavior from birth.  As parents we can easily recognize the symptoms of the lie when it occurs, but is this common to adults? 

                We have all either seen or heard stories of those whom have taken a polygraph test.  In some situations a very accurate test, since the principle of the test is a measure of reaction or fear, in relation to the situation or question being presented, meaning, we all have symptoms of lying.  While stumbling through our vast internet, an online article in regards to our question of body language and deception presented some interesting items.  According to the article (blifaloo.com), signs of deception could include the avoidance of eye contact or the person who is being questioned may touch their ears or face or shift often as to show discomfort and speaking monotone.  Though this is a general substrate of what happens when at first we deceive, other things also happen.  Our eyes, we are told, are windows to the soul and in fact tell a lot about us.  According to this article, looking up and to the left suggests we are visualizing an image, and in an example given, if we asked our child about who gave them a snack when we know no one did, the child may look up and to the left trying to visualize a suitable reference to the lie that is about to be spoken.  How often when recalling an event have we seen someone look up or up and off to a direction while describing the event.  This is a natural occurrence in behavior as we recall the visuals of that time gone by.  Of course when considering eye movement in regards to the questioning I am sure most are going to do after reading this article, a good suggestion would be to know the basic behavior of the person you are grilling, this will help extensively.  Most professionals in the psychology field have at their disposal, the FACS or Facial Action Coding System.  Consider the FACS a manual on what your face is actually saying about you, when you exhibit certain behaviors.

                We have looked at several factors in our search for the truth on deceptive techniques, and what we have un-covered, we are humans doing human things.  Sometimes, we can’t help ourselves as we desperately want to fit in, so we tell tales of fishing and the ones that got away, or went to an event  that the only facts about it they know is relevant to a news cast and gossip they heard.  When it does occur, the tale- tells signs of the deception sometimes are not predominate and go unchallenged, unnoticed and not explored.  In conclusion, unless the lie affects someone in a harmful way, it is considered a somewhat acceptable practice in everyday interaction.  In our children, if the deception continues to be problematic we need to seek a professional’s care as in some cases; an underlying illness may be at hand.  If it were revealed I lied to you about the information in this article, you would both be shocked and disappointed.  Shocked that you agreed we all lie, and disappointed that the author would deceive you about lying, but truth is, it is no lie, we all do it.   

References and further Readings:

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