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UMass Researcher Finds Most People Lie In Everyday Conversation
June 12, 2002 9:29 AM   Subscribe

UMass Researcher Finds Most People Lie In Everyday Conversation UMass Researcher Finds Most People Lie In Everyday Conversation "Most people lie in everyday conversation when they are trying to appear likable and competent, according to a study conducted by University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert S. Feldman and published in the most recent Journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology…The study also found that lies told by men and women differ in content, though not in quantity. Feldman said the results showed that men do not lie more than women or vice versa, but that men and women lie in different ways. "Women were more likely to lie to make the person they were talking to feel good, while men lied most often to make themselves look better," Feldman said." Are you a liar? C’mon now, tell the truth.
posted by martk (34 comments total)

 
Are you a liar? C’mon now, tell the truth.

Of course not. But if I were, this too could be a lie.
posted by semmi at 9:33 AM on June 12, 2002


I actually participated in this study, but they excluded my results because my absolute honesty skewed their results. They told me I was "too good", and wasn't a normal, lying guy. Oh well.
posted by malphigian at 9:33 AM on June 12, 2002


(dashes cold coffee across pants)
posted by clavdivs at 9:34 AM on June 12, 2002


Most people lie in everyday conversation

Yet another reason I've become such a misanthrope....
posted by rushmc at 9:43 AM on June 12, 2002


I have never lied in my life.
posted by Holden at 9:43 AM on June 12, 2002


Everything I say is a lie.
posted by Holden at 9:44 AM on June 12, 2002


I actually participated in this study, but they excluded my results because my absolute honesty skewed their results. They told me I was "too good", and wasn't a normal, lying guy. Oh well.

they probably excluded the guys who lied about absolutely everything, also.
posted by moz at 9:49 AM on June 12, 2002


Have I mentioned how fabulous you all look today? And what scintillating conversationalists you all are?

;)
posted by dejah420 at 9:57 AM on June 12, 2002


No, really, I'm pleasantly surprised at the insight and wit of the comments in this thread.
posted by alterego at 10:03 AM on June 12, 2002


People lie every day? Men lie to impress people? Sounds like another cutting-edge study from the Center For Figuring Out Really Obvious Things.
posted by waxpancake at 10:11 AM on June 12, 2002


The statement "I am a liar" is self-contradicting. If you are a liar, then the statement is (most likely) a lie. If you aren't a liar, then saying this is a lie. I think.

*seagulls and waves in the background*

Uh, boss? I'm sick. Caught the 24 bug.
posted by adampsyche at 10:14 AM on June 12, 2002


"We teach our children that honesty is the best policy, but we also tell them it's polite to pretend they like a birthday gift they've been given."

Though it's in the self-help sphere of reading materials, Radial Honesty by Brad Blanton is an insightful look at how we learn to lie, the types of lies we tell, and the damage it can do in our everyday lives.

It's not surprising that the study participants had not realized the amount of lying they do -- lies are accepted and commonplace to the point where honesty generally can't be expected.
posted by VulcanMike at 10:16 AM on June 12, 2002


I consciously try to always tell the truth. I used to lie when I was younger, but changed when I got older. I have found that if you know you're going to tell the truth tomorrow, then your actions today will reflect that fact. I can't express this strongly enough, but things are working so much better now that I tell the truth.
posted by mikegre at 10:23 AM on June 12, 2002


I only lie on Metafilter.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:41 AM on June 12, 2002


isn't there a budweiser commercial about this?
posted by kliuless at 10:42 AM on June 12, 2002


The statement "I am a liar" is self-contradicting.

This is know as the Epimenides Paradox. Epimenides famously said, "All Cretans are liars" and was himself a Cretan.

This comes up in Paul's epistle to Titus, but he failed to appreciate that it was a paradox, saying only that even the Cretans' prophet admits that they all lie. So much for divine guidance...
posted by kindall at 11:05 AM on June 12, 2002


It's easy to say "just tell the truth", but which truth do you tell? You can often lie more effectively with a selective presentation of the truth than with an outright fabrication. The problem is that you have to present the truth selectively even if you're not trying to mislead. There's rarely enough time to explain something with all of its details attached. Which ones do you emphasize and which do you omit?

When you're meeting someone, you get a couple of minutes to summarise your life. You have no choice but to omit almost everything. All you get to explain is whatever's important - and if you're keen to have the person think well of you, it's important to present those aspects of your life you think they will appreciate. If you spend those couple of minutes talking about the band you play in on weekends, and never get around to mentioning your day job, the listener might well go away thinking of you as a rock star. Maybe that's a lie, maybe it isn't.

People enjoy telling good stories. If you're trying to be interesting and entertaining, it can be hard to resist the urge to streamline and amplify the tale you're telling. I've found myself lying by accident due to this sort of thing. It's related to the simplification problem: real life is rarely tidy enough to make a good story, so if you don't want to drone on and bore your listener with all kinds of tedious irrelevant details, you have to leave lots of things out. Sometimes you have to glide over things that aren't quite true to set the stage for whatever it is you're really trying to talk about.

As an example, I've told quite a few people that I got married a couple weeks ago. This is technically a lie, but who wants to hear me spend fifteen minutes explaining the details of my relationship history and the precise legal nature of the event when I'm simply explaining why my parents were in town? It's close enough to the truth that it doesn't make much difference, and I can clarify later if it becomes important.

We tend to think of lies as malicious and deceptive, but I think those are the least common sort of lie. Technically any statement which deviates from the truth is a lie - but that's not a very helpful definition, because any statement of the truth is by necessity an approximation and thus contains an element of falsehood. So I think it is much more useful to think in terms of effective communication than of "truth" and "lie". How do you best get your point across? How do you encourage reasonable expectations? How do you come to know yourself better so that you can more accurately present yourself to others?
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:09 AM on June 12, 2002


Any fool can tell the truth.
posted by dong_resin at 11:15 AM on June 12, 2002


I think we also lie to ourselves and believe those lies. Its always easier to create a smooth narrative of onself, without the mis-steps and awkward moments.

I've told people proudly, for example, that I've never been to a rock stadium concert, that that kind of thing is not for me. Later, I realized that, yes, I had been to a Pink Floyd concert in college, in a stadium. I hadnt lied so much as forgotten but perhaps it was an intentional, subsconscious forgetting, like photo-shopping an image with imperfections, using our memory selectively to create the illusion of self-consistency.
posted by vacapinta at 11:23 AM on June 12, 2002


"On The Humanitraian Theory of Punishment", by C.S. Lewis
posted by aaronshaf at 11:27 AM on June 12, 2002


Aaron - Isn't that supposed to be in the next thread? So much for divine guidance...
posted by chino at 11:47 AM on June 12, 2002


Thanks, kindall...I forgot the background.

Or, I could just be lying.
posted by adampsyche at 11:48 AM on June 12, 2002


Technically any statement which deviates from the truth is a lie

I disagree, I would call that "error." I would say that a "lie" requires the intent to deceive.
posted by rushmc at 11:53 AM on June 12, 2002


I find that the best way to keep from lying is to keep your mouth shut.
posted by allpaws at 12:06 PM on June 12, 2002


How can trust a researcher who tells you that everybody lies?
posted by srboisvert at 12:37 PM on June 12, 2002


arrrgh. try again.

How can you trust a researcher who tells you that everybody lies?
posted by srboisvert at 12:37 PM on June 12, 2002


A few other perspectives on the subject:
"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." Mark Twain
"It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place." H. L. Mencken
"A lie told often enough becomes truth." Lenin
"No one is entitled to the truth." E. Howard Hunt
"Pretty much all the honest truth-telling there is in the world is done by children." Oliver W. Holmes
posted by martk at 12:51 PM on June 12, 2002


Also: Originally Winston Churchill, recently dusted off by Donald Rumsfield:

"In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."
posted by vito90 at 1:23 PM on June 12, 2002


"You want the truth? You can't handle the truth. No truth-handler, you. I deride your truth-handling abilities."
--Sideshow Bob
posted by zoopraxiscope at 1:24 PM on June 12, 2002


"It isn't a lie, if you beieve it."

--George Kastanza
posted by adampsyche at 1:38 PM on June 12, 2002


"Lies, lies, lies, yeah"

--The Thompson Twins
posted by vito90 at 8:13 PM on June 12, 2002


"Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies. Tell me lies." - Fleetwood Mac.

Seriously, I lie very little, and while it's so much easier to keep your story consistant, when an honest person is surrounded by people who lie about their own abilities and accomplishments he/she looks like a failure. And that's wearing a bit thin.

But aside from lying or not lying, there's the appearance of confidence thing. I say "I believe X is true" and everyone else says "X is true". Makes the information I present sound less reliable, while in fact it's actually more accurate. Or there's "So-and-so told me that X is probably what you want" v's "X is what you want" -- guess which one a salescritter with good promotion prospects uses.

To be able to convince superiors to authorise absolutely essential stuff I've had to learn to use shorter, more authoritive sentences when I'd really like to bung some qualifications in there. Very annoying.
posted by krisjohn at 8:52 PM on June 12, 2002


"If you have something to say that is untruthful and unhelpful, don't say it.
"If you have something to say that is untruthful but helpful, don't say it.
"If you have something to say that is truthful but unhelpful, don't say it.
"If you have something to say that is truthful and helpful, find the right time to say it."
Sakyamuni Buddha

posted by stuporJIX at 1:04 AM on June 13, 2002


If Epimenides were around today, I'd kick his ass.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:18 AM on June 13, 2002


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