I’d Tell You The Truth, But I’d Rather Not


Allison Alben, Staff Writer

   All throughout history, we’ve seen almost every type of lie and liar out there: Pathological liars, lies that have started wars, and today, alternative facts. There have been simple lies about cherry trees and major cover-ups for political scandals (ahem, Watergate). You’d think that we’ve seen it all. In the first article, I talked about the ethics of lying. Today, why don’t we discuss not the lies, but the liars?

  All the reasons people lie have yet to be discovered, and there are definitely different reasons for different types of lies. White lies are told usually to spare someone’s feelings, some lies are huge exaggerations for the sake of impressing someone, and some just forget to add in some vital information.

  Then  there are those told by pathological liars, who almost can’t help but lie. According to West Ranch AP Psychology teacher, Kate Povletich, “Research that I’ve done shows that people lie for a number of different reasons: to protect themselves from punishment, to gain a competitive advantage, to hurt another person, and to avoid embarrassment.”

  People lie for a lot of different reasons, and now it’s become an instinct, almost an escape plan.

    “Lying has been part of our history since the beginning of time. Studies done by Michigan University have been done that show that most people tell at least 1-2 lies every day. However, people who are overly concerned with the impression they make on others are likely to lie more often. There is a difference between little white lies and much more significant compulsive liars,” said Povletich.

  I’ll level with you, I lie all the time too. Yes, maybe the cupcakes you made and had me sample tasted like sawdust, but I still said you did a good job. But those are just white lies.

    Let’s take a minute to talk about said pathological liars and compulsive liars. Pathological liars are defined as people who tell lies frequently, without any rational motive.

  “Pathological liars will look at a situation entirely from their own perspective. They have no regard for another’s feelings about what might happen as a result of their lies,” said Robert Feldman, PhD, professor of psychological and brain sciences and deputy chancellor at the University of Massachusetts. Pathological liars, compared to compulsive liars, are manipulative and will lie about anything simply to get their way. No, they’re not using psychology, they’re just plain lying.

  However, compulsive liars lie because it’s a reflexive response, almost an instinct.

  “Compulsive liars have a need to embellish and exaggerate,” says Paul Ekman, PhD, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California in San Francisco. “They tell the stories they think want to be heard.” I’m not exactly a compulsive liar, but here’s an example of compulsive lying. I’m talking to someone with whom I’m not the best of friends, and we’re going over test scores for a class we’re both taking. She said she got a 94. I immediately respond and say I got a 96, even though I scored a 92. Because I’m particularly competitive with this person, I lied about my score. That’s compulsive lying.

    Today, lies are practically everywhere. No matter where you look, there are products lying about their results and Kellyanne Conway’s citing made-up massacres to defend the president. It’s almost as if we can’t help it. Now we’ve explored the ethics of lying, the types of lies, and the liars behind it all. Join me in the final article in the series, soon to be available on the Paw Print website, where we’ll be discussing just how we know when someone’s lying, and how we can stop it.