Why do people lie?

Whether we want to admit it or not, we all lie or have told a lie, and if you say you haven’t, well, you’re probably lying.

So, you don’t think you’re a liar? Well, you may be in the minority, as scientists reckon that, because we want to be liked and seem smart, we all lie to impress others – even if we don’t know we’re doing it. So, what makes people lie?

We lie for all sorts of reasons. We may say someone looks nice, even if we don’t like their outfit. We lie to avoid confrontation or simply to get along with other people. We lie for attention, to soften the blow of bad news, or to exaggerate something we’ve done. It’s not always the end of the earth to tell a lie, but you must admit, you’ve done it at some time or another.

Well actually, we’re more likely to lie in the afternoon, because we’re a little more tired, our willpower is sapped and our defences are down. And if you think lying comes with age, well, you’re sort of right. We learn how to lie at infancy – before we can talk! Yep, many of you will have had experience with a baby who cries even when nothing is wrong – except a lack of attention.

Here are some other interesting facts about lying:

  • Threats to our self-esteem are the most common reasons for lying.
  • Men are more likely to lie to make themselves look better, whereas women will lie to make someone else feel better about themselves.
  • People who are more trusting are also more likely to detect a liar.
  • Contrary to popular belief, there are no standard ‘tells’ for detecting a liar – every liar is different.

Many of you will have heard the adage “It takes more energy to tell a lie than to tell the truth”. It’s true. Just think of all the imagination it takes to create the initial fiction, then all the energy it takes to remember the mistruths, then to corroborate them and back them up with more lies. Whereas telling the truth is simply an act of memory and recall.

If you’re true to yourself, you know you lie, but it’s what you do with those lies that counts. It’s not always bad to drop the occasional furphy, it’s when you lie for no reason at all that you should worry. This is considered ‘pathological’ and you’re not doing anyone any favours – especially yourself – when your lies outnumber your truths.

Related articles:
The world’s biggest food lies
How honest would you be?
How to identify a liar

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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