By Christian L. Hart
At some point, didn’t we all tell a little lie not to hurt the man of the heart, to exaggerate our feelings about something, to minimize some ugly truths about ourselves, to escape punishment? , or to have some sort of advantage over others?
In various surveys conducted on the lie, almost everyone reports that they lied at some point in their lives. But if everyone cheats at some point, then why not call all people liars?
How many lies does one have to tell a day to label a big liar? I suspect this happens to most of us, and we are expected to tell a small number of lies. We see it as typical or normal, for people to lie as part of a negotiation strategy.
We expect people to tell a ‘white lie’ to avoid an unwanted social invitation, rather than telling the truth that the activity they are asked to participate in actually seems boring to them.
But how many lies are too many for a man? Researchers have found that almost everyone likes to see themselves as honest, and we actively minimize our dishonesty.
We probably all have an inner appraisal of honesty, both for our authenticity and that of others.
And when we see others being a little honest here, or getting involved in a not-so-correct behavior there, it doesn’t seem so strange. But in some cases, people cross the line. We see that their lies go far beyond the realm of normality.
In such cases, we begin to label them “liars.” If their lies are shocking or harmful, we may even call them big liars, ordinary liars, liars of grief, or pathological liars.
Over the past 25 years, a number of studies have found that people show on average a very small number of lies a day. But when these data are analyzed more closely, we find that many people do not lie at all, while some say shocking lies every day. So it turns out that most of us are very honest people. But there is a small handful of people who produce most of the lies circulating in our world.
I’m very curious about these “big liars.” They take advantage of mostly sincere members of society, using lies and deception for personal gain. Big liars in politics lie to the population to support controversial policies.
Big business liars deceive naive investors or ordinary customers by taking their hard-earned money. Big liars in the workplace use lies to take advantage of others while hiding their flaws.
While big liars in an intimate relationship, use their dishonesty to take advantage of the partners ’compassion, devotion, and financial resources. The big liars are toxic operators, who with their betrayal tarnish our mostly honest world.
Once we agree on how many lies there are, we can start studying and understanding these great liars. In my latest study, I investigated the psychological traits of people who tend to lie a lot. A common feature is that big liars tend to see lying as something acceptable.
They see deception as a not-so-immoral thing. Also, they don’t think lying is too harmful to others. Big liars tend to be less responsible and trustworthy. Interestingly, one of the traits that most predicts who a big liar is is self-esteem.
People who lie a lot tend to have a much lower self-esteem than honest people. It is unclear whether the lies they tell are prompted by their low self-esteem, or whether they are the result of the latter. But people’s tendency to tell a lot of lies is also driven by their personal environment and circumstances.
Children who see their parents lying too much tend to do the same. Also, when people are placed in situations in which authoritarian and punitive figures rule, they are much more likely to lie, precisely to avoid harsh punishment.
A large number of lies can also be associated with some psychiatric disorders, but in most cases, big liars are people who have not been officially diagnosed with any particular mental illness. It seems like these are very normal people, but they just have a different strategy from others to walk in life.
Note: Christian L.Hart, is a professor of psychology and director of the psychology program at the University of Texas, USA. / “Psychology Today”