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We’re Human. Therefore We Lie

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A recent feature article in National Geographic explores the science behind our very human lies. Author and National Geographic contributor Yudhijit Bhattacharjee delves into why and how we lie, and offers us some fascinating anecdotes about some highly colorful liars: the art forger, the plagiarist researcher, secret agent and the impersonator.

Bhattacharjee’s meta-analysis of other past psychological studies into lying quite rightly tells us that while we all lie, not all lies are of equal value or consequence; we lie for different reasons.

Research by Tim Levine, Bruno Verschuere, and other psychologists, shows that around 36 percent of our lies are to protect ourselves, while another 44 percent are to promote ourselves. A further 13 percent of our lies are designed to impact others — for good or bad, with the remainder defying classification. Perhaps not surprisingly, though demoralizing nonetheless, I read that “children learn to lie between ages two and five, and lie the most when they are testing their independence”.

Tellingly Bhattacharjee reminds us:

That human beings should universally possess a talent for deceiving one another shouldn’t surprise us. Researchers speculate that lying as a behavior arose not long after the emergence of language. The ability to manipulate others without using physical force likely conferred an advantage in the competition for resources and mates, akin to the evolution of deceptive strategies in the animal kingdom, such as camouflage.

Check out this fascinating National Geographic article here.

Image: Catch Me If You Can, movie poster, 2002.