Truth Series: Part 2: The Psychology of Lying

This four-part series delves into the importance of living your truth.
Published May 22, 2017

It would seem lying is to humans what honey is to bees – an inescapable by-product.

Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, covered the subject in great detail at her 2011 TED Talk.

“We’re all liars,” she tells the audience.

She explains lying is connected to our satisfaction with our own lives. We often wish we were better partners, smarter, taller, richer, more powerful, more attractive –the list goes on.

“Lying is an attempt to bridge that gap – to connect our wishes and our fantasies about who we wish we were, how we wish we could be, with what we’re really like,” Meyer explains. “Lying is complex. It’s woven into the fabric of our daily and our business lives.”

A now oft-quoted 2002 study from the University of Massachusetts found that 60 per cent of people lie a minimum of one time in a 10-minute conversation. The same study concluded that while men and women lie the same amount, the way they lie tends to differ, with men being more likely to lie to make themselves look good, and women being more likely to lie to make whoever they’re talking to feel good.

“Lying has evolutionary value to us as a species. Researchers have long known that the more intelligent the species … the more likely it is to be deceptive,” Meyer continues in her TED Talk.

Even Koko the Gorilla has lied – once saying  her pet kitten had ripped a sink out of the wall. Indeed, all of us do it, whether for survival, to save face, or to make someone else feel good, and it’s something we learn how to do early on. 

“Babies will fake a cry, pause, wait to see who’s coming, and then go right back to crying,” Meyer says. “One-year-olds learn concealment. Two-year-olds bluff. Five-year-olds lie outright. They manipulate via flattery. Nine-year-olds? Masters of the cover-up.”

One study, published in 2015, found children often tell white lies to make other people feel better, particularly after the behaviour has been modelled by an adult. Another study concluded our lying tendencies are linked to the lying tendencies of our friends and family.

But just because we all do it, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing.

Research from the University of Notre Dame shows that lying less can improve both our physical and mental health.

And when it comes to living your truth, being honest is intrinsic.

“When we think of truth, we usually think of facts and ideas,” says Allyson Woodrooffe, a Toronto-based embodiment and life coach, but with 'living your truth' the word takes on a more holistic meaning.

“It’s a truth that has a resonant clarity felt within the body,” she says. “That clarity illuminates different core values, sensitivities, and inspirations for each of us. So when we are ‘living our truth’ we are acting in ways that align with those values and express them.”

“I would venture that if you can’t be honest with yourself, then you can’t really be honest with anyone else,” Woodrooffe says. “And to me, that sounds pretty unpleasant. When we live in a state of self-conflict  which to me, lying to myself would be - then all our other relationships will be tinged with a similar unease and awkwardness.”

Stay tuned for Part 3 of our Truth Series where we delve deeper into finding your truth and living authentically