Lying: Bad or Good? “Do These Pants Make Me Look Fat?”
By Guest Blogger Liespy
*Liespy is a regular contributor to David Matsumoto’s blog. She honed her deception detecting skills as a fraud investigator for the insurance industry and employs these skills to analyze the world at large.
It depends on the type of lie.
“White lies” are considered innocent: we don’t see them as causing harm to anyone.
Many people don’t have strong feelings about telling white lies and in fact, might not even be aware that we’re lying at all. From a psychologist’s point of view regarding lying, white lies are considered “low stakes” lies. Because there is not a big increase in emotion or cognition with white lies, people tend not to display microexpressions when they are telling this type of lie.
“High stakes” lies are an entirely different matter and I’ll write more about that in the future.
“Exaggerators tend to be more confident and have higher goals for achievement,” explains Richard Gramzow, a psychologist at the University of Southampton in England. “Positive biases about the self can be beneficial.”
Fake it ‘til you make it, I always say.
Bigger white lies may actually be socially useful according to University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert Feldman. Think about the standard “How are you?” greeting. Most of the time people don’t really care and the person answering will say, “Fine” no matter what. Lies all the way around.
Truth be told, society as we know it might grind to a screeching halt if everyone told the truth 100% of the time.
So what are some situations when you might find yourself fibbing?
You might lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. If your partner asks you, “Do these pants make me look fat?” your answer is likely to be “No” regardless of what the truthful reply might be.
People may also tell a lie when trying to be supportive or encouraging. Even if we think someone’s dream might be unrealistic – we might not share our honest opinion.
You might also lie to avoid a conflict or resolve one. Everyone knows at least one person who always has to be right, no matter what. We’ve often been in the indelicate position of just going along with them. Smile, kiss, wave – that, too, a lie of sorts.
As one researcher put it, “lying is an unavoidable part of human nature”
That much at least, appears to be true.