Lying is second nature; we unconsciously depend on our deceptive ability to maneuver even the most basic everyday social interactions. Through ‘white lies’, many difficult situations are eased and compromising moments avoided. The ability to lie allows you to break the ice over a witty anecdote that never really occurred quite the way you depicted it, or lets you get the job based on the resume you’ve embellished just a little.
Of course, our moral code warns against the harm of spinning tall tales. Eventually, we’re warned as kids, lying will catch up with us – whether because it shows on us, like the metaphorical black mark on the tongue, or whether because we get caught in the figurative web. Yet we all lie, since telling the truth isn’t always the most convenient route. Lying is an essential part of our regular discourse with one another and even with ourselves. We lie to establish common ground, to hide how we really feel, and generally to survive and thrive.
Apart from the sophisticated uses for lying and the advanced mental mechanisms at play when we do lie —planning, critical thinking, problem solving, and heightened focus—what are some of the lesser known elements involved in lying, or better yet, how universal is lying?
The following list details the truth about telling lies through a list of facts compiled here to lend a more truthful view on our common and seemingly necessary habit of lying.
7. 60% of people lie at least once in a 10-minute conversation.
According to a 2002 UMass study, 60 percent of people lie at least once during a 10-minute conversation. That certainly makes you think of how many lies are told to you and by you on a given day. Thankfully for the most of us, these lie are generally harmless, as harmless as saying you’re full when you’re really watching your weight.
6. Women tell an average of 3 lies / day to their spouses, colleagues, or bosses.
Studies show that we are most inclined to lie to people we are closest too; so it’s not too shocking to learn that we lie often to the people we’re most often surrounded by. According to a study by 2oth Century Fox, reported by the UK’s Daily Mail in 2009, women tell an average of 3 lies per day to their spouses, colleagues, or bosses. It makes sense that in interpersonal relationships, some little lies may make interactions run smoother. After all, telling the truth about feeling miserable the morning of your big meeting or on your Friday night date wouldn’t make the experience any better.
5. Men tell an average of 6 lies / day to their spouses, colleagues, or bosses.
Given that we don’t always want to tell the truth about how we’re feeling or what we’re thinking, it’s not unusual that the average guy tells 6 lies a day to his partner, colleagues, or boss. What still remains to be determined, however, is just what prompts men to tell more lies on average than women.
4. 40% of people lie about following their ‘doctor’s orders’.
As a good example of the counter-productiveness of lying: 40 percent of people lie about following the health regime set by their doctor. When we go in to complain about our aches and pains, 40 percent of us don’t follow the treatment assigned to cure us. Often, it’s embarrassment at failing to follow the doctor’s orders that lead us to lie about it, but ultimately, this doesn’t help either party’s cause.
3. 31% of people lie on their resumes.
It sounds like a given: 31 percent of people lie on their resumes. While it could be as simple as adding an extra month or two to a given employment period, it could be as big as lying about having received a college degree. It’s common to play up a work role or experience in the hopes of streamlining yourself for the chance of employment but there are definitely lines that can be crossed and lies that can’t so easily be disproved – if you overstate your skills and those purported skills are called on when you land employment, expect a red face moment at least or a job loss at worst.
2. Lie detectors don’t detect lies.
Contrary to popular belief, a lie detector doesn’t really detect lies. Its primary function is to measure levels of anxiety, which are typically higher when we lie. This can wheedle out generally inexperienced liars but a well-versed liar will know how to control their levels of anxiety, and at times might even believe the lie itself, rendering a lie detector in these cases useless. In other cases, a false positive might result from a truthful person who feels under pressure in an interrogatory environment.
1. Only 12% of adults admit to telling lies ‘often’.
Looking back on the fact that 60 percent of people lie at least once during a simple 10-minute conversation, and that women and men tell an average of 3 to 6 lies a day to important people in their lives, it seems that those who can’t admit to telling lies often are, in fact, lying to themselves. There is, of course, a great deal of shame and embarrassment linked to lying so none of us are likely to admit that we lie regularly – but there’s a possibility, too, that we’re simply unaware of how habitually and unconsciously we lie.