Liar Liar Pants On Fire


| 12 Comments

 

liar liar.jpgWe have all lied. If after reading that line you said to yourself "I am always honest," you have just lied! Humans lie all the time. We lie to cover up situations and to protect the feelings of others. But sometimes we find ourselves lying over the smallest things or realize we have told a lie only after it's too late. Why has lying become second-nature to us?

"People are so engaged in managing how others perceive them that they are often unable to separate truth from fiction in their own minds."

Robert Feldman, a psychologist from the University of Massachusetts conducted a study on this phenomenon. In one of his types of experiments, he put two complete strangers in a room together. Both people were allowed to converse for ten minutes and were video taped. After this, the people were able to watch the video and were asked if any of the things they said in the conversation were "inaccurate."

Feldman made a careful choice when he used the word "inaccurate." The word "lie" is a loaded word and should be avoided during interviews. Speaking personally, if someone asked me if I "lied" about something, I would feel a lot more self-conscious about something I said, then if a person were to ask me if I stated something that was "inaccurate."

All in all, this choice goes back to the idea that it is not what you say it is how you say it. In a crowded university setting like ours, someone can either say "move," or "may I please get through." Both are ways of saying excuse me but the way in which it is said changes the context. In addition, someone can say "excuse me" in an annoyed tone which would come off as rude as well. Both the words "inaccurate" and "lie" mean that false information was provided.

After being asked if any of the things they said in the video were innacurate, the strangers said that  everything they said was in fact accurate. After watching the video however, they noticed that some of the things they said were misleading.

The study found that:

60 percent of people had lied at least once during the 10-minute conversation, saying an average of 2.92 inaccurate things.

So why do we lie?

Feldman concluded that we lie to give other people the impression that we are who we WANT to be.I can relate to this on many levels. For example, I never did well in math when I was in high school. My mother would always ask me how my math exams were going and I would always tell her that they were going well, despite the fact that I was struggling. When the end of the semester rolled around and report card grades were given out, my math grade was never quite up to par. I lied to my mother because I wanted to be a straight A student. I mean, I was.... Without my ugly math grade of course! :-)

Another factor behind lying that Feldman researched was setting. He found that people are more likely to lie to their co-workers than they are to lie to complete strangers.

I think this makes a lot more sense, because a working environment is very intimate. Your co-workers are people you have to see every day and interact with every day. You want them to think that you are level-headed, and intelligent. When it comes to a stranger, you might not care what they think because these are people that you might never have to come across again.

For example, take the relationship you have with people in this science class and compare it to the relationship you have with your roommates. Because our class size is so large, you might converse with one or two people, but the conversations are generally fleeting. Nothing is discussed besides course material and you may not even recognize the people in our class after 3:45pm on Tuesdays and Thursday. Your roommate is someone you live with and is getting to know you on a personal level, so you watch what you say around them and may lie to make yourself seem as if you are something you're not.

We lie to protect people's feelings and we lie to cover things up, but it all comes down to us wanting to be perceived a certain way. When we want to protect someone's feelings, we don't want that person to think we are shallow, or inconsiderate. When we want to cover something up, we down't want people to think we are cheaters or not as perfect as we make ourselves seem. It all comes down to impressions and the idea of impression management. We all have a front-stage and a back-stage. The front-stage impression is essentially what we show everyone and even then everyone on the front-stage is an actor!

What are some reasons why you lie? Can they all be connected back to the way you would like to be perceived?

12 Comments

I think this post is very relevant to college students, especially freshmen like myself. We are all trying to meet new people and make a good impression on the people we meet. Sometimes I think this does involve telling white lies in order to make a good impression or to avoid awkwardness. The biggest example of this that I could think of is when someone makes a statement that displays a strong opinion that I disagree with- in order to keep the conversation going, it's easy to just agree with what the person said and move on. Researchers conducted a study which found that "white lies aren't simply a form of social grease that we apply to make our social interactions go more smoothly. We really do recognize them as being lies. As a result, we need to be quite careful about how these lies affect our future behavior toward the people we have lied to." So it's possible that white lies have a greater effect on our lives than we might think. What does everyone else think about white lies?

I think this post is very relevant to college students, especially freshmen like myself. We are all trying to meet new people and make a good impression on the people we meet. Sometimes I think this does involve telling white lies in order to make a good impression or to avoid awkwardness. The biggest example of this that I could think of is when someone makes a statement that displays a strong opinion that I disagree with- in order to keep the conversation going, it's easy to just agree with what the person said and move on. Researchers conducted a study which found that "white lies aren't simply a form of social grease that we apply to make our social interactions go more smoothly. We really do recognize them as being lies. As a result, we need to be quite careful about how these lies affect our future behavior toward the people we have lied to." So it's possible that white lies have a greater effect on our lives than we might think. What does everyone else think about white lies?

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201203/white-lies-affect-your-behavior

Why do people lie? That’s a good question. I do agree that people lie because they are worried about how they will be perceived. I also think people lie because of the pressure technology puts on them to produce fast results. People don’t’ want to seem incompetent and are often pressured by employers to produce fast results. We live in a society were we have to the first with something regardless of whether it’s the new technologies or new information. To answer the question on why I lie, I think I do it more to get people to stop pressuring me about something. My roommates and I, have created a family between each other. A lot of times when I depressed about something, they like to ask me what’s wrong, so I often lie and tell them that I am fine or just don’t give them all the information. I think that is also a good question to raise. Is short changing information a form or lying. Another interesting topic would be the different levels of lying like compulsive lying.

I have always wondered about this question myself. One of the bigger questions I've had is, how do we learn how do to it? Is it innate, or learned? I'm assuming that it is innate, but what age does it start? I remember (well, I've been told the story enough times so that I remember) probably my first lie. I was 3 years old, and my mom told me I couldn't eat the chocolate in the kitchen until after dinner. I decided not to listen. I sneakily took the chocolate, gobbled it all up, and then returned to the kitchen for dinner when my mom called me. She asked me right away, "Stephanie, did you eat the chocolate?" Without thinking, and with chocolate all over my face, I replied, "No." I did not think twice, I just lied. What is it in our brain that allows you to be able to lie, sometimes very extensively, at such a young age with such little cognitive development?

I can't help but reference how it is a common human habit to cheat just a little bit. Economists have done many studies on whether or not it is natural to cheat, and it is, but only by a very small amount. Everyone does it, and the same reason we do that is most likely the same reason we all lie a little bit, mainly because we think it isn't a huge deal. How often are people really fact checking every statement you say about your life? Most likely nobody will, but I would be curious to know to what extent we lie. Is it always small fibs, similar to how we tend to cheat a little bit, or whenever we lie do we always go big?

I agree with you. I think that lying is innate as well. It’s interesting that you bring the issue of age up. At three years old there is little cognitive development. I personally think that lying at that age is a result of fear. At that age we begin to understand that our parents get upset when we do wrong.
Similar to you, when I was five years old, I hit my arm on my mother’s china. I wasn’t supposed to be in the dining room and it turns out that my hand was sprained. I refused to tell my mother immediately after the incident happened because I was scared that she would be upset with me. I didn’t care about the fact that I was hurt.
Elements of impression management (that I mentioned in the post) are still present however. Even though there is little cognitive development at that age, you still wanted your mother to think positive about you and believe that you were a well-behaved child.

To ETHAN,
I think cheating goes hand in hand with lying. They both involve manipulating other people and bending the truth. I agree with the point that you made that we don’t think lying and cheating are a big deal. Unless you are applying for a job, the majority of the statements you make about your life will go unchecked. I personally think that we tell small lies more but we don’t notice it. You have to take into account the fact that half-truths are lies as well. We only notice the big lies we tell because those tend to blow up in our faces and change the course of our lives. Small lies generally don’t have that much of an impact and we do it so often.
Do you think we tell a lot of small lies?

To STEPHANIE

I agree with you. I think that lying is innate as well. It’s interesting that you bring the issue of age up. At three years old there is little cognitive development. I personally think that lying at that age is a result of fear. At that age we begin to understand that our parents get upset when we do wrong.
Similar to you, when I was five years old, I hit my arm on my mother’s china. I wasn’t supposed to be in the dining room and it turns out that my hand was sprained. I refused to tell my mother immediately after the incident happened because I was scared that she would be upset with me. I didn’t care about the fact that I was hurt.
Elements of impression management (that I mentioned in the post) are still present however. Even though there is little cognitive development at that age, you still wanted your mother to think positive about you and believe that you were a well-behaved child.

TO ABIGAIL

I like how you related the ideas back to being college students in a university setting. Many people do think lies are necessary because they don’t want to facts about themselves that others would find weird. In addition, I have found myself agreeing or simply nodding when it comes to things I may not share the same views on as someone to avoid altercations. Two examples of that would be religion and politics. These are two things you definitely DO NOT want to speak about unless you are prepared to argue.

TO ABIGAIL

I like how you related the ideas back to being college students in a university setting. Many people do think lies are necessary because they don’t want to facts about themselves that others would find weird. In addition, I have found myself agreeing or simply nodding when it comes to things I may not share the same views on as someone to avoid altercations. Two examples of that would be religion and politics. These are two things you definitely DO NOT want to speak about unless you are prepared to argue.

I think lying (no matter the reason) has become so common that we can begin believe our lies and telling the same lie to other people. But even more, I think despite the fact that lying is so common, we are horrible at telling when others are lying. Most people have no better than a coin-flip chance of telling a lie from the truth. Don't you think people would lie less if they knew that their likelihood of getting caught increased? That's why we're better off lying to a classmate then a roommate. I don't think there is any hard data to support that as a society we are becoming more dishonest because there is a greater pressure to look good, to keep jobs, to have friends, and to just be ahead. I would like to pose this question: should we confront liars if we know they're lying? My opinion is that we should because if you don't confront a liar—if you ignore the lie, make believe it isn't there, and accept it—in a very real sense you've become a liar yourself.

I definitely agree. Lying has become second nature to us. I disagree however, with your idea that it is impossible to tell when others are lying. I believe that if you know someone well enough, there are certain things they do, such as twirl their hair or scratch their nose when they are lying. This is similar to when someone bites their nails because he/she is nervous. In addition to that, there is the well known saying "You can never tell a lie the same way twice." When people lie they often forget what they said, so when you ask them the same question the second time around, their answer may be slightly different.

I actually do think people would lie less if they knew the likelihood of them getting caught would increase. Like cheating for example, if you are 100% sure that your professor stays in the front of the lecture room during an exam and will not see you glance over at another student's paper, you are more likely to cheat than if you know your professor would be circling the lecture room to keep an eye on students to make sure they do not cheat. This is directly related to the relationship between someone and their classmate as opposed to someone and their roommate. Seeing as though you'll see your roommate more, you'll be less likely to lie to her/him.

Lastly, I think we should definitely confront liars. But then again it all depends on the gravity of the situation, whether it be someone lying about how much food they ate, lying about their whereabouts or lying about stealing thousands of dollars from their job.

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