Why Do We Lie and How Can We Stop?

By: Shifa Malik

Lying may not seem like a big deal sometimes, especially if it’s just coming up with a reason to skip class for a few minutes or getting answers to the homework without putting in any effort. But what’s the science behind lying? And is there any way to stop ourselves from lying all the time?

We’ve constantly been deciding whether or not to lie to someone else or whether someone is lying to us in our social circles, on social media, in the news, etc.. Lying is something we all do, despite one of humanity’s most valued virtues being honesty. There have been a few studies that determine when people are lying and what gives it away (too much negativity, excessive rambling). However, lying has not been studied or researched that intensely in the last 50 years. Starting in 2005, lying was studied as a motivator for an increase in the amount of money one made because it was done through controlled experiments. From the results, researchers have been able to figure out when we’re more likely to lie (when we see others lie or when we feel it’s justifiable) and what popular reasons exist for lying (to avoid an awkward situation or to protect our reputation).

Image Credit: Flickr @ Ged Carroll

In an article published by the Washington Post, a study was done that states lying rewires your brain and becomes more habitual as you continue to do it. This claim was based on a 2016 study, where the amygdala was studied when someone told a lie. The amygdala processes fear and emotions. As more lies were told, the amygdala did not react as much and lacked a response which was a ‘burst of activity’ that it had in the beginning. However, this isn't all bad news - practicing positive habits has the same effect—the more we do it, the easier it will be for us to incorporate it into our lives. That’s why telling the truth is beneficial - the more we do it, the more we’ll get used to doing it.

According to Judi Ketteler, a writer who talks about psychology and even wrote a book all about lying, the first step to stop ourselves from lying is to identify what makes us want to lie in the first place. Recognizing our patterns and tendencies is a healthy way to start on the path of telling the truth. In an article for Scientific American, she writes that if we ask ourselves what makes us tell the truth instead of why we want to lie, we’ll start asking ourselves different questions that will introduce a new aspect to research on honesty both philosophically and scientifically. An article from Inc discussed how a study at the University of Chicago allowed people to self-reflect on what it was like to be more honest and they discovered it was much more pleasant than predicted. Just like Ketteler acknowledges, telling the truth can “change the world,” but I think it can change us profoundly as well.


We Need to Do More Research on Honesty

Extraordinary Content | Judi Ketteler, Cincinnati Copywriter and Corporate Storyteller


Image credits:

No changes were made to the following image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/renaissancechambara/6030597516/in/photolist-abUoxf-555A-6FsNvM-DXp6G-4vA29v-26n77Su-Vhp92S-vAycY-iGaF8b-Fg3EXK-UE5AoP-aAecfS-hhpuDM-aAea2q-aAbsGc-72vBbj-9AWUzg-TMK9cE-aAbuV8-aAeatW-aAec47-aAe8Wf-9jdJCp-aAe9RY-9jpG2v-aAbtp8-aAebjE-aAbtiH-aAbtYx-aAbuHF-aAeb4U-aAbrM6-aAbtDi-8PP7rH-aAeaM5-aAe9BE-aAbrVa-aAbsrZ-aAe9Mh-fxreL-aAbuze-aAbufv-aAeaGL-aAbtU4-UeyeGG-aAbuoK-aAebpd-aAeaXd-aAeanS-aAe9eA,

License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

What Did You Learn?

1. What happens when we get used to lying?

The amygdala starts to become desensitized to the lies we hear and say, resulting in a bad habit of lying and getting used to getting away with it. The amygdala no longer responds with a burst of activity and no signal is given off as more lies are being told.

2. What’s one way to start lying less?

Recognize why the truth makes you uncomfortable and confront your fears. Instead of focusing on why other people lie, start with yourself first.

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