When we learn that government leaders, corporate spokespersons, or TV and radio personalities lie, we should not be surprised. Studies have shown that nearly everyone lies to some degree or another, and it can be very difficult to tell when others lie because, unfortunately, our noses don't grow like Pinocchio's.
In a recent experiment by psychologist Robert Feldman, he found that people tell from 3 to 12 lies in a ten-minute conversation occurring after meeting each other. Though there were three groups of people -- ones that were told to try to impress the other person, ones that were told to prove their competence to the other person, and ones that were simply told to try to "get to know each other," the participants all lied to some extent, even when lying was never suggested by the instructions.
Everyone lies to some degree, but it's interesting to read about a study that actually measured how much we lie! A few participants not only made up little lies about themselves, but made up lies "out of whole cloth," by saying things like they were concert level muscians and toured all over the world.
People lie for a variety of reasons, Dr. Feldman says, but mostly to impress the other person or make them feel good. People believe lies when they make them feel good or when they reinforce what they believe or want to hear.
As for being able to "read" when someone is telling a lie, Dr. Feldman says that most people who lie regularly learn to disguise their own "dead giveaways," so that others cannot tell when they are lying.
However, another recent study using neuroimaging suggests there may be visible brain activity clues that suggest certain kinds of lies. Now, who's going to come up with a hand-held brain imaging device that we can use to determine the honesty of what we are told?
Dr. Feldman has just published a new book based on these and other findings, The Liar In Your Life: The Way To Truthful Relationships.
Sources: Guardian.com, NPR.org, Science Daily
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