August 8th, 2022
According to the research, most adults lie 1-2 times per day, but most lies are not damaging and often related to self inflation for ego or to spare another's feelings. That is great news. Most people are honest most of the time! Ok. Now that we understand that most people are good what are the realities of the others? What do our kids see in us? Over the coming months I am going to dissect Dr. Talwar's book for you in sections as I see them. You can get a big head start on all of this information by listening to the podcast #25 with Dr. Talwar herself.
Let us first start with understanding the Truth Default Theory which states that most of the time humans "default" to honesty and that humans are trying to be cooperative and communicative. This is likely fostered by the ancestral reality that only the tribe survives. Lying would cause division and division leads to separation and to be separated from a tribe was the equivalency of heading to death.
When we deviate from the truth, there can be many instances where that would make sense to the deviator. For example, let us say that you are a really good person and that you overslept one day for school or work, you may choose to make up a different reason to quickly get on with your day and not have to listen to a discipline discussion. No major harm done. If a pattern develops, then life will note it and the person will suffer and be labeled a lier or not punctual which has consequences. Dr. Talwar writes that when the truth serves as an obstacle to our goals that we may choose to deceive rather than be honest.
Lying takes much more effort as you have to use more brain capacity and energy to devise an alternative story and then remember the truth of the new story. Your body language and actions are now self observed to protect the lie which takes vigilance which equals more energy waste. You don't want your squirrelly actions to give you away. The formulation and protection of the lie means that the energy and mental cost are not insignificant, thus the lie would need to be worth it to complete. This calculus plays out in everyone at some point every year.
White lies to protect another's feelings would be another example of a deviation from the truth that makes sense to many. For example, young children often do not lie here as they tend to say it like it is. Your shirt is ugly! They then are reprimanded by a parent that that is a rude statement. It was the truth the child says to herself. That is not fair for you to say to me they think. The parent doubles down explaining feelings and empathy leading the child to surmise that a lie here makes sense. They are learning to lie for the "right" reason. It can get tricky really quickly.
There is also the statement that is used to protect the need for a white lie. " if you have nothing good to say, don't say anything at all". But here again the child will have an issue if asked directly about the shirt. The non response is in itself a response. Is it better to say nothing or lie? Most learn over time to lie and say, " oh that is a lovely shirt".
So the genesis of lying in kids begins with us. We are the teachers through word and action.
From very young ages, children begin to lie and they are very unsophisticated at it. We easily see the holes in their lie as they have a stain on the shirt from the ice cream that they denied eating. With age, they will learn to be better liars which is compounded by intelligence and punishment. From age 7 years old on, the average child will skillfully become a better liar with practice. The major stimulus to improving these skills is the degree of punishment, especially if corporal. The worse the pain inflicted post lie, the more the child will learn to lie to avoid the pain compounding the problem when he or she is caught the next time. Cognitive ability also comes into play here as the higher the intelligence the more sophisticated the lie can be.
Couple all of this information to the fact that based on study data, we are at best a coin toss in our natural ability to detect a lie. We are neither good lie detectors or great lie preventers.
I want to dive deeper into the difference between consequence and punishment as it relates to lying in the coming weeks.
There will be a lot more to unpack over the coming weeks as I dive deeper into The Truth About Lying! Stay tuned.
Lying is not in your long term best interests,