Permit me to introduce you to Mr Smart and Mr No-Choice.
Mr smart is known to tell “compulsive” lies, i.e. he plans on misleading and deliberately conveys a false impression. He is something of a pathological liar – always seeming to get better at it by the day. Mr Smart has a lie for every occasion be it an attempt to avoid punishment, a strategy to give a false impression of himself or a plan to extort the other fellow. It is safe to conclude that he is manipulative and Machiavellian by all standards. You see, he had gone through a process of ‘emotional adaptation’. As small fibs snowballed into blizzards of deception, so easier did his efforts at telling lies became. Little wonder why the scent of strong perfume becomes less noticeable over time.
Mr No-Choice however ‘manages’ to tell “white” lies now and then. He is of the opinion that precisely sincere interactions at all times are not humanly possible. In his bid to ease social communication, he sometimes makes do with a sprinkling of lies. According to him, he is not entirely at ease with deceptions. The case to tell white lies arises for him when he needs to avoid embarrassment, get along with particular folks or avoid hurting someone else’s feelings. Many times, he has had to lie solely for the benefit of the other party. He perceives his style of lying as a sort of inoffensive social lubricant.
The manner of lying notwithstanding, one thing is common to Mr Smart and Mr No-Choice – they both lie. While one may be quick to justify Mr No-Choice’s reasons for lying and vilify Mr Smart, it may be of interest to note that they both follow the same guidebook to execute their deceptions. Interestingly too, they go through the same neuropsychological process while lying. More so, they share almost similar tell-tales signs that give them away.
Man is a creation of choice. For every decision he makes, there is an opportunity cost. When either Mr Smart or Mr No Choice considers lying as their best option, at least two things happen concurrently: a new item of information (the lie) is created while the genuine item (the truth) is withheld. There is no midway about it since the truth can’t be said in the course of a lie. Some would argue that it’s possible to have a sprinkling of truth – here and there – while a lie is being told. However, the fact that one can still afford to spare some elements of truth in the course of lying means one can choose not to lie at all and come out clean.
There is much more to telling a lie than meets the eye. For instance, there is a distinct difference in brain activity when both Mr Smart and Mr No Choice decide to tell the truth or result to lying. If you have the privilege to examine the working of their brain, you’ll observe that different parts of it are used to express falsehood than are used while telling the truth. It takes more cognitive efforts for them to lie than being sincere. In fact, there is more draining of their mental ability/strength when they tell a lie. This is so because the liar will have to work harder to sustain the false narrative he has created. Not only does he have to remember the facts and figures he has created to tell a lie, but also need to remember which facts he changed and how. This is why you’ll observe some of these tell-tale signs when folks are lying:
They seem to think harder than is required for the occasion. Of course, everyone have the tendency to forget a little detail now and then. However, with the passage of time, the one who lies will have to work harder remember the details he has supplied in order to maintain consistency.
They talk unusually hesitantly. Because they need to self-edit, try to remain consistent and leave out statements that can give them away, they tend to proceed with greater care in telling and retelling fictional accounts.
They are often edgy, apprehensive and jittery. It takes one who has become emotionally conditioned to lying to lie without looking at least uncomfortable and anxious.
They do away with the little flourishes and details that embellish stories told by sincere folks. The more the details supplied to tell a lie, the more difficult it becomes to recall and sustain.
Let me bore you a little with some scientific talk. Neuropsychologists tell us that although several brain areas play a role in falsehood, the prefrontal cortex (situated just behind your forehead) play a major role. The activity in the prefrontal cortex increases when folks lie. In case you’re wondering what this organ does, well, it’s responsible for “executive control” (ability to regulate thoughts or actions to achieve goals). It also coordinates cognitive processes such as planning, problem solving and attention – all of which are vital steps in telling a lie. You should therefore not be surprised to know that there is a spike in the activity of this organ while at the business of lying.
Although, you can easily detect when some people lie, there are those who “lie so well” you’ll defend what they say even at gun point. It all depends on how used a fellow is to telling lies. For folks who are pros at lying, even the polygraph will be a mere “entertainment device” rather than a scientific lie detector. The expert Bunn has said that the polygraph measure physiological responses (heart rate, skin conductivity…) that deals fear and not necessarily dishonesty. Other than the polygraph , other conventional means to detect lies is to track speech hesitation, changes in vocal pitch, observing nervous adaptive habits like scratching, blinking or fidgeting. Even these methods can’t guarantee perfect lie detection.
No matter the excuses advanced for lying, when one makes a habit of it, it’s expected to result in encompassing and devastating consequences. For every occasion a person tells a lie, an opportunity/choice to tell the truth is forgone.
Image Crédit: Flickr.com