Everybody lies. But what is it that causes people to lie? No need to worry, as psychology has lots to say about lying.
This common human behavior is not always done for malicious purposes. In fact, people lie to protect themselves and others. In this post, the psychology of lying will be explored. You’ll learn about the different reasons people lie, as well as the different types of lies that exist.
Continue reading for some honest psychology facts about lying.
23 Psychology Facts About Lying
Time to gear up and find out some uncomfortable truths about lying.
1. Perfect Liars Don’t Exist
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The findings of a study on facial expressions showed that 100% (yes, all of them) of the participants in the study showed how they truly felt with their faces, despite being asked to conceal their true feelings. The term used was “emotional leakage.”
Emotional leakage refers to revealing and expressing your genuine thoughts and feelings on the inside, despite your desire not to.
2. Everybody Lies
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“Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t,” the illustrious rapper and businessman Jay Z rhymes in his 2009 single, Reminder.
The honest-to-God truth is that everybody lies. And the reasons for lying are varied. Some lies are told to get out of trouble, others are told to make others feel better.
Plus, people tell different types of lies too. There are lies of commission, omission, and white lies.
3. Most People Aren’t Good at Detecting Liars
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You’d think that since most people aren’t good at lying, then you’d be able to spot someone being deceptive, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The same study that revealed that people are terrible liars also showed that the observers weren’t good at detecting lies.
Interestingly, the average person can only spot deception around half the time. Looks like people are just as bad at detecting lies as they are at telling them.
4. People Lie More When Writing vs. Verbally
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People lie a lot more in written communication compared to in-person communication. Highly ranked among the top modes of lying are emails, followed by chats or text messages. Last is lying in person.
This makes sense, as you don’t have to worry about your body language when writing. Plus, it’s more impersonal and, subsequently, less guilt-inducing this way.
5. Deception Can’t Be Detected From a Person’s Eyes
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Similar to people being bad at detecting lies, you probably aren’t good at detecting lies based on someone’s eyes. In fact, a typical lie you might believe is that someone lying to you wouldn’t be able to look you directly in the eye.
When looking at the eye movements of people lying and those being honest, there is no discernable difference between both categories. This shows that the age-old adage of liars having shifty eyes isn’t true.
6. How Much You Blink Can Be Affected by Your Lying
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This may sound contradictory to what you’ve just read in the previous fact.
People who try to lie tend to blink at a different rate. Those trying to be deceptive by masking their emotions with other emotions blink faster than those who keep their emotions neutral with a poker face.
The latter doesn’t try to mask their behavior with a false emotion and hence blink slower.
7. People With Beards Aren’t Suspected of Lying as Much as Others
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People tend to believe or trust men with beards more than their clean-shaven counterparts. This is because they appear to have more charisma and honestly look more dependable.
With people less likely to believe that a bearded man is lying, maybe a beard is really men’s version of makeup.
8. There Isn’t a Lie Detector That’s 100% Reliable
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This may shock you, but there isn’t a lie detector that’s 100% reliable.
Seeing that lie detector tests essentially measure your stress and anxiety levels, these can be fooled by a calm, cool, and collected liar.
Yes, results from lie detector tests are admissible as evidence in some courts, but the relative ease at which one can easily fool them means they’re not foolproof.
9. Positive Emotions Are Easier to Fake Than Negative Ones
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It’s more difficult to fake negative emotions like fear than positive ones like joy.
In fact, when trying to feign negative emotions, liars experience “emotional leakage”, with their happy emotions leaking into their negative ones.
10. Telling Lies Doesn’t Come Naturally to People
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As much as everybody lies, it’s behavior that doesn’t come naturally to people.
The same study referred to earlier found that 100% of the participants experienced emotional leakage, even when asked to hide how they were truly feeling. This demonstrates that lying doesn’t come naturally to anyone, even when assessing a diverse group of people.
11. Liars Lie to Themselves Too
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Ever heard that someone lies so much they start to believe their lies too? Well, it looks like that’s true.
It may seem obvious to others that people who cheat and boast of their capabilities are lying, but they probably believe their own lies.
People who cheat on tests and achieve better scores, as a result, overestimate their abilities even though their success is not earned. This suggests that it’s just as easy to deceive yourself as it is to deceive others.
12. People Use Different Words When Lying
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People change up their words when being dishonest.
Liars use fewer, shorter words when telling tales. In fact, because lying takes a psychological toll, you must use your brain power efficiently.
This means liars direct most of their brain power toward coming up with a good lie. Using expansive vocabulary takes too much energy.
13. It’s Much Healthier to Tell The Truth
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Lying stresses people out, no doubt. So it stands to reason that lying isn’t good for your physical well-being.
Yes, the truth hurts. But it’ll set you free—from ill health, that is.
14. People Typically Lie When Time Is of the Essence
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You may think of a liar as a terrible, menacing person, but the truth is that sometimes the situation calls for it. This is especially true when a quick decision has to be made.
Liars in this situation find it inconvenient to consider the ramifications of lying, so they lie or cheat to protect their self-interest.
15. People Find it Hard to Lie to People They’re Attracted To
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Remember the previous fact about beards being men’s version of makeup? Well, that applies here—somewhat.
It appears people find it difficult to lie to those they’re physically attracted to. A study on ingratiating lies found it was easier to spot lies told to gain the approval of someone. And these lies were easier to detect when a man was telling them to a woman or vice versa. In fact, researchers discovered it was easier to identify lies when they were told to a more attractive person.
This is understandable, given the little white lies people tell at the beginning of relationships with people.
16. People Lie More in January
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Americans tell about four lies on average per day. But come January, the number increases to seven lies per day. “Why?” you may ask. Well, it turns out people lie about their plans to lose weight after the holidays, how their holidays were, and what they did on vacation. Interesting, huh?
17. A Lie a Day
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On average, Americans lie at least once or twice a day. Of these self-professed liars, more than 50 percent of them (56%, to be precise) believe they can get away with it.
18. Liars Can Use Their Mouth Movements to Conceal the Lies in Their Eyes
While it’s difficult to determine if someone’s being dishonest by their eye movements, it appears that moving a different part of your body is what helps to conceal this.
19. Lying May Have Developed to Facilitate Collaboration
Early on in evolution, humans had to work well together to survive, so it makes sense that lying evolved this way.
Sadly, a great way to cooperate with others is to lie to them about your true intentions. Being strategically dishonest and misrepresenting facts to another person may help a liar take advantage of this conditional cooperation to achieve their aims.
Anyone who’s watched an episode of Survivor can attest to this.
20. Cheating Can Make You Forget Moral Considerations
You probably know that lying and cheating go against what you’ve been taught about moral conduct. To ease the moral conflict, you forget “the rules” about honesty.
In fact, people who cheat have selectively worse recollections about their infidelity after the fact. Furthermore, their memories before cheating don’t differ from that of people who don’t cheat. This goes to show that cheating contributed to them “forgetting” the rules.
21. Cheating or Lying May Give You a Burst of Creativity
It’s not that lying or cheating will unleash your inner Picasso or J. K. Rowling. It’s that the characteristics of cheating are comparable to those of creativity.
These are breaking rules and the need to step outside one’s comfort zone, and the acts of lying or cheating may temporarily inspire you to be more creative.
Of course, this doesn’t imply that creative individuals are more inclined to cheat or lie; rather, it means that some who cheat may experience a temporary increase in creativity.
22. Lying Compulsively Can Make You Smarter
Before you get too excited, this is not carte blanche to lie compulsively.
Let’s delve into biology a little bit. People’s brains have a region called the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for intellect and reasoning. People who lie all the time (i.e., compulsive liars) have significantly more white matter in this region of their brain.
White matter consists of a huge network of nerve fibers that allows information to be exchanged and communication to occur across different sections of the brain.
So although lying requires a lot of brainpower (which is why you use fewer, shorter words when lying), compulsive liars may be able to handle the energy required to lie all the time. Yikes.
Compulsively lying may be stress-inducing and possibly cause anxiety in the average person, but it appears that compulsive liars may have the energy or brainpower to withstand this mental burden.
23. Men and Women Both Lie for Various Reasons
It’s not hard to imagine this. Sometimes, men lie about their positions or scope of responsibilities at work, whereas women lie to their friends about whether or not they’ve gained weight.