Playing the Lying Game: Detecting and Dealing with Lies and Liars, from Occasional Fibbers to Frequent Fabricators

By Gini Graham Scott | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Why the Lie? The Reasons
and Justifications for Lying

Just about any situation where people interact holds the potential for lying. Even when alone, people can lie to themselves. It’s no wonder that most people I spoke with about lying agreed that it is at least somewhat common and comes in many forms — everything from the outright fabrication to the evasive half-truth, concealment, or unintended promise.

What is common? The people I spoke to reported that others lied to them about once or twice a week, and they averaged about one or two lies each week themselves—though most were so-called white lies committed to save people’s feelings and smooth over social relations.

There are so many types of lies that turn up in so many different situations and that are told for so many reasons that it can be hard to determine whether a statement really is a lie. Was it intended as a lie? Was it perceived as a lie? Did it feel like a lie?


TYPES OF LIES

Lies are like soup —they come in a variety of packages with different contents, sizes, and costs —and as will be described in the next chapter, liars do, too — ranging from those who almost never lie to those who readily lie about everything.

Some lies are much bigger and more costly than others (think Bernie Madoff), while some are smaller and less expensive (think saying you like the hostess’s terrible soup when you don’t), and just like more costly items are rarer, so are the bigger lies, whereas the little lies spring up like weeds in a garden.

In turn, people have different ways of defining what they consider a lie. For example, many people will dismiss an exaggeration as just that—a good

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