When we get lied to, we can't help but feel betrayed. We wonder why someone decided to lie to us as we believe that we would have rather heard the truth even if it was painful. Sometimes we blame ourselves, wondering if we didn't give that person the space for honesty.
Other times we get angry and think that they must have been a terrible person for doing it. So, which one is it? Well, it turns out there is one very specific reason that is most common. A study has narrowed it down to this.
Deception Vs Lying
We tend to rationalize lies, even sometimes calling them "white lies" if we think that we're protecting someone by withholding the truth. We even distinguish lies from deception. We consider lies to be outwardly denying the truth, while deception is more of a way to manipulate it.
We're surrounded by deception at all times. Between embellished false advertisements, exaggerated expectations, and misleading statements, it's hard to tell apart the truth. However, we're sadly also surrounded by full-on lies that often take the form of cheating in relationships. But why is this happening?
Are We Able To Detect Lies?
The hardest part about lies is that research shows that we're bad at detecting them. Our ability to detect a lie is basically like a game of guessing. We try to develop ways to help us improve our changes through lie detection techniques like cognitive approaches.
However, while these help, they still don't give us the ability to be completely accurate. Research has found that the more people lie for malicious reasons, the harder it is for us to tell. However, the study also wants us to know when people lie, it's not always for bad or immoral reasons. They say that, sometimes, people lie for benevolent reasons.
What Makes A Person Lie?
The study was originally published paper, by McArthur et al. in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science to examine the most common motivations for lying. The researchers wanted to find the connection between different motivations for lying and personality traits. This would then hopefully helps us know who is most likely to lie.
To investigate why people lie, the study recruited 257 participants (103 of which were women) with an average age of 40 years old. The participant's ages range from 18-73 years old, however, and had a wide demographic of people with different ethnicities, education, and employment. The researchers presented the participants with 11 lying motivations and asked them if they had lied for these particular reasons and how often.
Different Kinds Of Lies
While people lie for a variety of reasons, the researchers had narrowed down some of the reasons to these 11 motives:
To avoid being judged or feel shame.
With the aim of avoiding punishment.
To protect themselves from retaliation.
For no "good reason" (e.g., compulsive lying).
To present themselves in a positive way and impress others.
To obtain rewards.
Due to carelessness and impulsiveness.
To experience pleasure from deceiving others.
With the aim of keeping personal information secret.
For prosocial reasons—to make others (and oneself) happy, such as telling children that Santa Claus is real.
For altruistic reasons—to protect others from harm.
It was interesting to note that the first nine motivations are self-serving, but the last two, are other-oriented.
How Many People Lie
Before revealing the most common reason people lie, let's explore how often people lie based on the findings. The research found that about one-third of participants told three to seven lies a week. The majority, however, claimed to tell two or fewer lies a week.
Now why do people lie? In short terms, "people mostly reported lying for altruistic (64%) or secretive (60%) reasons. About half lied to avoid being negatively evaluated, 43% for prosocial reasons, and 40% to avoid being punished," explains Arash Emamzadeh who studied genetics and psychology.
He adds that the research found that a smaller percentage" lied to present themselves in a positive light (37%), due to impulsiveness and carelessness (21%), to gain a reward (21%), to protect themselves (22%), for no good reason and out of compulsion (11%), and because they enjoyed conning people (9%).
Let's dive into that.
Why People Lie
The researcher's main goal when doing this study was also to see if there were specific personality traits that could help improve our ability to detect lies. What they found was that people who had a high level of honesty and humility lied less. They were also likely to engage in manipulation and exploitation.
Those with high levels of emotionality, like those who are anxious or sensitive on the other hand, lied to lied to avoid situations that were unpleasant and awkward. However, interestingly enough, their empathy sometimes made them lie for altruistic reasons...
Then there are those who are extroverted. The research found that their lies could be predicted by thier self-centered reasons for lying. They often compulsively lied to avoid punishment. However, what's interesting about extroverted people is that they rarely lie with the purpose of keeping personal information secret. Instead, they lie to maintain an image. They want to appear sociable and self-confident, so they lie if they feel like they need to hide parts of themselves.
By contrast, those with high agreeableness lied less to avoid punishment or shame or to impress others. This trait makes people less prone to lie for "self-gain."
Those Who Don't Lie
Another interesting trait is "conscientiousness" which was linked with lying less in general and for a self-serving reasons. In contrast, those with lower on conscientiousness had no problem lying for no good reason. In fact they lied compulsively just to enjoy cunning and outwitting others.
Noting these personality traits helped the researchers conclude the most common reason people lie...
The Most Common Reason People Lie
The takeaway for the biggest and most common motivation for lying is altruistic reasons. People lie with supposedly good intentions most commonly. They tell white lies that they think will protect others from the truth. The truth hurts but are we still deserving of it?
To answer that, it's important to keep in mind the other most common motivations, which are keeping personal information secret and avoidance of being judged. We lie in social contexts, mostly out of fear. We're afraid of people's reactions to the truth. This is not surprising. After all, in order to be honest, we need not only to understand it's wrong but also to have a high degree of self-control to not cave into the impulse of protecting ourselves and others.
Honesty Is A Hard Policy
Honesty is the hardest choice. We might have to fight ourselves sometimes to just tell the truth and face the consequences, no matter how much it hurts the person we face or us. We can only find our path by continuing to face the truth, as hard as it is.
Are you still searching for your life purpose? You won't believe what the science of Numerology can reveal about you!
That's right, the numerology of your birth date, regardless of what month you were born, can reveal surprising information about your personality.