Posted on 31 January 2013
Telling the truth about lying
So what does science say about lying?
Not lying makes you healthy. Telling the truth when tempted to lie can significantly improve mental and physical health, according to a 2012 study. “Recent evidence indicates that Americans average about 11 lies per week. We wanted to find out if living more honestly can actually cause better health,” said Anita Kelly, professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame in a press release. “We found that the participants could purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday lies, and that in turn was associated with significantly improved health.” Weekly self-reports of mental and physical health for both the control group and the group instructed to stop telling lies improved if they told fewer lies. The link was stronger for the no-lie folks, who also began to see themselves as more honest during the 10-week experiment.
Some parents “parent by lying.” American parents often say “honesty is the best policy,” but they often lie to their kids, according to research2 by Gail Heyman, professor of psychology at the University of California San Diego. In one case, a mother told her child that if he didn’t finish all of his food he would get pimples. College students told the researchers their parents had lied to them yet proclaimed that lying was wrong. “We are surprised … even the parents who most strongly promoted the importance of honesty with their children engaged in parenting by lying,” co-author Kang Lee, of the University of Toronto, said in a press release.
You may miss an online lie. In a recent study of online dating3, Catalina Toma, an assistant professor of communication arts at University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that would-be daters tended to skirt topics like weight or age that they’d lied about in their online profile, probably trying to deflect attention from the lie. The mental demands of concocting untruths likely explained the comparative brevity of liar’s self-descriptions. The study found that software, but not living humans, could sort legit profiles from phonies.