Successful impostors and con artists are obviously bright, talented, and filled with potential for genuine personal accomplishment. Yet they seem compelled not only to tell lies but to live a lie.
If--and there really seems to be little doubt--we live in a world that thrives on deception, the individual must learn how to sort through a constant bombardment of information to determine its accuracy. Just as a child learns how to lie, the child must also learn how to "read" others and make decisions about the veracity of communications. For some individuals, such as police officers, customs inspectors, and poker players, learning how to detect deception becomes a life's work. At times, mechanical devices (e.g., lie detectors) are used with the belief (perhaps mistaken) that they will assist in determining the truth.
Are the effects of lying always bad, as implied by the moralizing of parents, institutions, and the Pinocchio myth? Hardly. If lying always had negative consequences, we would all be stumbling over our noses daily. Lies are advantageously used by individuals and social groups to obtain power, sexual gratification, and material goods or wealth. It is also likely that a person's ability to read another person's need for self-deception--and to satisfy those needs--is highly associated with skills for careers in sales and politics. For most people, the skill for self-deception is closely related to the skill for deceiving others and may also be correlated with a sense of well- being and confidence for facing the future in an uncertain world.
Lying and self-deception permeate all aspects of human life and social interactions. Societal messages about deceit are often contradictory; we teach our children how to lie effectively and encourage others to lie to us even as we condemn lying as a vice. The development of a comprehensive psychology of deceit must consider these paradoxes in addition to the biological, intrapsychic, and societal influences on the process of human deception.
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Publication information: Book title: Lies!, Lies!!, Lies!!!The Psychology of Deceit. Contributors: Charles V. Ford - Author. Publisher: American Psychiatric Press. Place of publication: Washington, DC. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 21.