Why do people lie and how often are you lied to? | BBC Ideas


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. Thanks for watching. Don’t forget to subscribe and click the bell to receive notifications for new videos. See you again soon!

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