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  • How often do you lie?

  • And how often do you think other people lie to you?

  • Chances are, it's a lot more often than you think.

  • There are a number of different reasons why we lie.

  • So we might lie for personal gain, we might lie to avoid punishment, we might lie because we get a kick out of pulling the wool over somebody else's eyes.

  • So the white lies, I always say, are the oil that keeps life's machinery running smoothly.

  • Everybody lies.

  • Imagine a situation where we told the truth all of the time.

  • I really don't think we'd last very long, we certainly wouldn't have friends for more than about 24 hours.

  • People lie to get rewards and avoid harm.

  • So for example, in order to get a good job you might think I would lie on my CV.

  • You might lie to gain more money.

  • People also lie often because they want others to see them more favourably.

  • In order to get a better date you might think, "I would lie on a dating app."

  • According to George Lakoff at the University of California, we tend to interpret evidence differently depending on our personal beliefs.

  • And anything that challenges that will actually be ignored or even attacked, which might go some way to explaining why society can be so polarised.

  • Research suggests that when we're married about one in 10 of our interactions is a form of deception.

  • But when we're in the early stages of getting to know a person, or dating them, it can be as high as almost half the things that we tell the other person could be deceptive in some kind of way.

  • The most common type of lies that we tend to tell are the white lies, the protective lies.

  • So imagine your partner is a budding Picasso, they come home from art class one night and they show you their latest painting that they're very proud of.

  • You take a look at it and go, "Mm."

  • And they say, "What do you think of my painting?"

  • We would typically go, "Oh, yes, I quite like that."

  • We wouldn't necessarily tell the outright truth that we wouldn't have that on the wall if you paid us to.

  • When we learn to lie as children we use something called the theory of mind, which is our understanding of the intentions and beliefs of others.

  • We also develop skills such as planning and self-control which help us tell better porkies.

  • Robert Feldman at the University of Massachusetts found that we lie frequently and we don't even know how often we do it.

  • Participants in his study lied, on average, three times in a 10-minute conversation when they were meeting each other for the first time.

  • They weren't aware that they were lying that much until they watched back the footage of the interactions.

  • We like to think of ourselves as very honest, truthful, trustworthy people.

  • So one of the reasons that we might not be good at tracking how often that we've lied, we might be underestimating quite a lot about how often we lie, we might underestimate to protect ourselves, to protect our self-esteem, make ourselves feel better about ourself.

  • You might think it's OK to lie in certain social situations, I mean what's wrong with telling someone that they look good today?

  • But are little acts of dishonesty as harmless as they seem?

  • Is lying about small things the start of a slippery slope?

  • There are many famous examples by which people started with small lies that seem to have expanded into bigger and bigger lies.

  • Bernie Madoff is one example with his Ponzi scheme.

  • He himself says that he started with small lies, but over time it became a really big snowball that expanded.

  • So when someone lies, they often feel bad about it because we think lies are immoral and so if we lie we feel bad.

  • But the thing is that when we have an emotion and then we encounter the same stimulus again that triggered that emotion, the amount of emotion that we feel is reduced.

  • If we allow people to get away with small lies, it is possible that over time they will be more likely to be more and more dishonest and actually commit bigger crimes.

  • This has some implication for education for example, trying to stop kids even when they tell little lies, but also for law enforcement.

  • If we stopped small acts of dishonesty that could, potentially, over time, make it less likely that people will commit large acts of dishonesty.

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How often do you lie?

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