One Lie Is Enough To Question All Truths

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How Lies Hurt


As children, most of us were instructed that lying is bad and that we must never lie. We were admonished when we strayed too far from the truth. When people lie to us, we view them unfavorably and treat them accordingly. In cultures around the world, there are powerful social sanctions against lying. For such a widely denounced behavior, one might expect consensus in our understanding of what constitutes a lie. If you say you have never lied, you are almost certainly lying. Many lies we tell are trivial and are told simply to keep the peace or make someone feel good. Though at some point, haven’t we all told a little white lie to spare someone’s feelings, exaggerated our feelings about something, minimized some ugly truth about ourselves, or told a lie to escape punishment or to gain an advantage? Whatever the reason we lie pervasive in our culture. Once we start lying, the extent of our dishonesty increases over time. And when that happens, our brain begins to tamp down its emotional response to our own immoral behavior, signaling in effect that lying is no big deal. That makes it easier to lie again … and again . . . and again. Only little lies, you say? Well, it’s long been thought that’s where the seeds of dishonesty are usually sown. The tendency to lie is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history, as other primates have been observed to cheat and deceive.

So why is lying bad?

you may already know the morale/social contructs why lying is bad but to understand lets take a look at what effects lying has on our brains. Why does the brain care about honesty? As social animals, our reputation is paramount. Consequently, most people work very hard to maintain an image of trustworthiness and integrity. Knowing that dishonesty risks irrevocable damage to one’s reputation, lying is an inherently stressful activity. When we engage in deceit, our respiratory and heart rates increase, we start to sweat, our mouth goes dry, and our voice can shake. Some of these physiological effects form. People vary in their ability to tell a lie due, in part, to differences in the brain. To take an extreme example, sociopaths lack empathy and therefore do not exhibit a typical physiological response when lying. Liars can also pass a polygraph if trained to stay calm during the test. Similarly, innocent people may fail the test merely because they are anxious about being hooked up to the intimidating equipment. For these reasons, the accuracy of polygraph testing is heavily contested. In contrast, brain imaging studies are proving to be much more informative for learning about the body’s response to lying. Symptoms of anxiety arise because lying activates the limbic system in the brain, the same area that initiates the “fight or flight” response that is triggered during other stresses. When people are being honest, this area of the brain shows minimal activity. But when telling a lie, it lights up like a fireworks display. An honest brain is relaxed, while a dishonest brain is frantic. Studies have shown constant lying is associated with an array of negative health outcomes including high blood pressure, increased heart rate, vasoconstriction, and elevated stress hormones in the blood.

how can you spot a liar?

The ability to separate a liar from a truth-teller is one that most people feel they need, but few people actually have. You’re talking to someone you just met, who claims to know your best friend from years ago, but this doesn’t quite ring true for you. Is it possible that this person wants something out of you, such as personal information that could be used against you or your family in some way? You’re reluctant to divulge anything, but on the other hand, what if this person really does know your long-lost pal? In general people are not good detecting lies as  more than 80 percent of lies go undetected. While people will always get away with lying, most lies are pretty easy to spot if you know how to read the signs. The first step you can take is by start by asking neutral questions. By asking someone basic, nonthreatening questions, you are able to observe a response baseline. Ask them about the weather, their plans for the weekend, or anything that would elicit a normal, comfortable response. When they respond, observe their body language and eye movement—you want to know how they act when they are telling the truth. Do they shift stance? Glance in one direction or the other? Or look you dead in the eye? Make sure you ask enough questions to observe a pattern. Being able to observe a pattern, will allow you to find a hot spot. Once you move from neutral territory to the “lie zone,” you should be able to observe a change in body language, facial expressions, eye movement, and sentence structure. Everyone will give different subconscious clues when telling a lie, which is why it’s important to observe a normal baseline prior to entering the lie zone. Some you should body language you should look out for when you want to determine someone is a lair is see if they pull thier body inwards. Liars often pull their body inward when lying to make themselves feel smaller and less noticeable. Many people will become squirmy and sometimes conceal their hands to subconsciously hide fidgety fingers. You might also observe shoulder shrugging. You also need to observe micro-facial expressions. People will often give away a lie in their facial expression, but some of these facial expressions are subtle and difficult to spot. Some people will change their facial coloration to a slighter shade of pink, others will flare their nostrils slightly, bite their lip, perspire slightly, or blink rapidly. Each of these changes in facial expression signifies an increase in brain activity as lying begins. People will often give away a lie in their facial expression, but some of these facial expressions are subtle and difficult to spot. Some people will change their facial coloration to a slighter shade of pink, others will flare their nostrils slightly, bite their lip, perspire slightly, or blink rapidly. Each of these changes in facial expression signifies an increase in brain activity as lying begins. Often when a person is lying they will slightly change the tone and cadence of their speech. They might start speaking more quickly or slowly, and with either a higher or lower tone. Often, the sentences they use become more complex as their brain works on overdrive to keep up with their tale. Thenb watch for when they stop talking about themselves. People who are lying will also sometimes start removing themselves from their story, and start directing the focus on other people. You will hear fewer me’s and I’s as liars try to psychologically distance themselves from the lie that they’re weaving.

but what about white lies?

Do you remember when you first learned about the concept of the white lie? It might have been when you were you a child and an adult fudged the truth to keep you from being upset or sad. Or, someone might have promised you a reward for a behavior, but the “reward” really didn’t exist.Most of us have probably been in a position where we’ve been asked a question in which we provide a not-so-honest response in an effort to be kind. Sometimes it’s to protect feelings. Sometimes, it’s to protect our own ego. When we lie about having stolen something from a friend or a store or about our grades or our behavior, we are learning to use white lies to protect ourselves from punishment. We might tell a boss that we have the flu and are taking a sick day when we’re really needing a “mental health day” just to hang out at home and binge watch. The marker between types of lies usually comes down to the purpose of the lie or its intent. Lies that are meant to protect others or ease their burdens are lies that are generally considered to be acceptable under specific circumstances. If someone is terminally ill and death is growing imminent, assuring them that they are going to “get better” is not usually “acceptable,” unless the certainty of imminent death would be too much for her to hear at that moment in time. However, reassuring a child that “grandma doesn’t feel well right now” might be considered a kinder choice than informing a young child that death is near. If you’re lying to spare others harm or pain, that’s considered prosocial lying and is often a sign that you’ve got a well-developed sense of empathy and can choose to act compassionately towards others. If you’re lying to keep yourself out of trouble, that’s not exactly a testament to your altruism or kindness. Though white lies spares people from unnecessary hurt it may cost you emotionally. We need to pay attention to the way we respond to others. More often not tell the truth can take its toll on you, it’s not always about the person the white lie is being told to. For example someone who always tells others that “all is good” when it comes to an ailing parent in an effort to avoid discussions about how serious their health issue really is, can eventually face stressful experiences. When that parent eventually passes away, the person who always conveyed an “all is good” response ends up emotionally broken, finding it more challenging to accept the help she needs from others — emotional help they could have received all along had they have not fibbed. White lies can also initiate mistrust between individuals and the kind of white lies that are told to avoid one’s personal accountability can compromise one’s integrity. It all ties back to the concept of fairness, which our brains actually are hardwired to respond to. We simply want the same chance and opportunity as the next person, to be able to defend ourselves. We struggle to feel good about being on the receiving end of a white lie because the power the liar exerts as they fib challenges our belief that we’re on the level playing field. We idealize that level playing field because it makes us feel more secure and worthwhile. Who are they, we rationalize about the liar, to make decisions for us? Who gave them the authority to dictate what we can and can’t know? And how dare they make us feel foolish, even if it’s just for a moment? It all ties back to the concept of fairness, which our brains actually are hardwired to respond to.  We simply want the same chance and opportunity as the next person, to be able to defend ourselves. We struggle to feel good about being on the receiving end of a white lie because the power the liar exerts as they fib challenges our belief that we’re on the level playing field. We idealize that level playing field because it makes us feel more secure and worthwhile. Who are they, we rationalize about the liar, to make decisions for us? Who gave them the authority to dictate what we can and can’t know? And how dare they make us feel foolish, even if it’s just for a moment?

The morale ambiguity of lies

As much as society values the truth in contrary is it also immoral to lie to a child about Santa Claus? Is it immoral for a doctor to spare a person’s feelings by telling them that their family member died quickly and peacefully, when, in fact, they died a slow, horribly agonizing death? A good place to begin exploring the rightness or wrongness of lying is an examination of morality more broadly. The ethics and morality of behavior have been considered by philosophers and psychologists for ages, but recent experimental work has revealed the underlying psychology of our moral judgments. Work by psychologist Kurt Gray and others indicates that we deem acts to be immoral when we sense that a person knowingly does something harmful to another individual who feels that harm. In the context of lying, that means that people perceive a lie as immoral if one person knowingly tells a lie that inflicts harm that is felt by another. Disagreements about the morality of a lie seem to stem from ambiguity about the degree to which the lie caused harm. Clearly, we don’t perceive all types of lies as being equally bad and immoral, and this variability seems to be tied to the amount of harm the lies cause. Some deception researchers have differentiated between broad classes of lies. One such category is the self-interested lie. This type of lie is exploitative in nature. Liars tell these types of lies in order to gain or retain an advantage over others. Examples include lying about one’s qualifications in a job interview or lying to a spouse about one’s whereabouts to avoid a confrontation. These lies give the liar an advantage while placing the dupe at a disadvantage. Another category of lie is the other-oriented lie. These lies are told with the motivation to help or protect others. These lies are altruistic in intent. Examples include benevolent white lies such as telling someone their new haircut looks great when it really doesn’t. This category also includes paternalistic lies people tell in order to help someone. For instance, if a woman knows that her husband is trying to lose weight but is also struggling to stay on his diet, she might tell him that all of the cookies are gone, when they are actually hidden away in the pantry. Are both self-interested and other-oriented lies immoral? Most people believe that the exploitative self-interested lies are immoral, but are less certain about the moral position of other-oriented lies. How do we decide if lies are morally permissible or not? The process for making these types of moral decisions typically falls into one of two approaches: deontological perspectives or consequential perspectives. Proponents of the deontological perspective argue that the morality of lying rests in the inherent and universal rightness or wrongness of the act. That is, there are certain rules, maxims, cultural values, or religious laws, often described as natural laws, that we are morally bound to uphold. The imperative of honesty is one such natural law. From the deontological perspective, honesty is inherently good and lying is inherently evil, so we are duty bound to be truthful. Thou shalt not lie! On the other hand, the consequentialist perspective argues that the morality or immorality of a lie depends on the consequences or outcomes of the lie. From this perspective, some lies can be good and others can be bad, depending on their outcomes. If a lie produces a good, it is good, moral, and allowable. If it produces harm, it is bad, immoral, and not allowable. When it comes to exploitative self-interested lies, both the deontological and the consequential perspectives would characterize the lie as immoral. Through the deontological lens, self-interested lies are wrong because cultural and religious rules tell us that all lies are wrong. Through the consequentialist lens, a self-interested lie is also wrong because such lies necessarily exploit or harm others, thus the outcome is a negative one. But what of the other-oriented lies? The deontological perspective would lead to a conclusion that other-oriented lies are also immoral because they are still lies, and all lies violate the maxim against dishonesty. We should always be truthful. However, the consequentialist perspective on other-oriented lies is not as clear-cut. It may be the case that some other-oriented lies lead to positive consequences. So, this would lead to the conclusion that it is morally acceptable to tell some lies, as long as the lie results in help, not harm. There have been few people that debated this. For example e author Sam Harris argues that there are no good lies. He reasons that all lies, no matter how trivial or well-intentioned, ultimately cause harm. His stance is that all lies erode autonomy. That is, by robbing someone of the truth, you steal away their opportunity to freely make decisions based on the facts of reality. For instance, he would argue that we should not lie to a person about their family member who is dying because such a lie would prevent them from emotionally preparing for the eventuality of their family member’s death. Further, it would prevent them from saying last goodbyes, sharing true feelings, offering deathbed forgiveness, etc. e author Sam Harris argues that there are no good lies. He reasons that all lies, no matter how trivial or well-intentioned, ultimately cause harm. His stance is that all lies erode autonomy. That is, by robbing someone of the truth, you steal away their opportunity to freely make decisions based on the facts of reality. For instance, he would argue that we should not lie to a person about their family member who is dying because such a lie would prevent them from emotionally preparing for the eventuality of their family member’s death. Further, it would prevent them from saying last goodbyes, sharing true feelings, offering deathbed forgiveness, etc. Are there any exceptions? Are there lies that are good both in the moment and in the long view? Well yes, let say you are in nazi occupied europe and a jewish child runs to you pleading don’t tell the germans you saw me when moments later nazi soliders ask you if you saw that child around here. Most people who are asked this question answer that they would lie. They usually report that it would be immoral to tell the truth and it would morally correct to lie. Their consequentialist reasoning is that the lie will spare the life of the child, while causing no real harm to anyone else. Furthermore, many argue that it is not immoral to lie to the Nazis because, owing to their own moral corruption, they do not deserve the truth. In fact, I believe that if you admitted that you would honestly report the location of the child to the Nazis, most people would find you morally reprehensible. That is, by being honest you would be viewed as a moral violator. For most people, consequentialism seems to beat out deontology in this case. Perhaps there are a narrow set of lies that most people view as the good or the moral lies.

So how can we determine when lying is the right thing to do? what justfies a lie?

So how do we decide when it is acceptable to lie and when it is not? Is there any guiding criterion or any consensus about which lies are the morally acceptable ones? Consensus is exactly what the philosopher Sissela Bok advocated for in her seminal book, Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life. First, it should be noted that Dr. Bok is very much opposed to lying. However, she acknowledges that an absolutist position on prohibitions against lying is not tenable. She argues that in some rare instances, it may be morally acceptable to tell a lie. Bok argues that when we make a decision about whether it is appropriate to lie, we should ask two questions. First, she argues that we should ask ourselves if there is a more honest alternative action we could take instead of telling a lie. Obviously, we tend to be biased in our own favor when guessing what others would find justifiable, so we must be as honest with ourselves as possible. If our own conscience tells us that the lie is necessary, and if we find that a panel of reasonable people would find the lie justifiable, only then, Bok argues, can we ethically tell a lie. I believe that Bok’s analysis would let you off the hook if you lied to Nazis in order to spare the life of a child.If there is not, the question we should ask ourselves is whether our lie passes the reasonable person test. If we presented our lie to a jury of reasonable peers, would they unanimously agree that our lie was morally acceptable? Sometimes, our immediate circumstances do not allow us to consult peers about the morality of a lie, and so we must consult an imaginary group of reasonable people. We behave immorally when we knowingly do something harmful to another person who feels that harm. Our lies often cause harm, even though that harm may not always be readily apparent to us. If we are honest with ourselves—really honest—and we take the time and effort to openly consider the many ways that even our supposedly trivial white lies might cause damage or harm to others or to society, we might find that the number of lies we once saw as morally justifiable shrink down to a minuscule number of ethically defensible falsehoods. Challenging ourselves to be completely honest all of the time is arduous. From childhood, most of us are taught that there are certain social niceties that require us to deceive in order to protect others’ feelings or to preserve social harmony. Perhaps if we try to be completely honest even when it is difficult, there will be large benefits that outweigh any immediate social costs. It may be that total honesty will strengthen our relationships as our peers see us as more genuine and vulnerable. If we are always truthful, people may learn that they can always trust us at our word and can ultimately count on us for our honest point of view. Being entirely honest would also remove the screens of deception that we use to conceal our bad behaviors and manage impressions, so perhaps it would drive us to live more honorable and virtuous lives. Maybe treating our little everyday lies as immoral and avoiding them will lead us all to become better people.

Questions

1. What was the first thing you remeber lying about?
2. How often do you lie?
3. what is something you lie about the most?
4.how can you spot a lair?
4. How are white lies cruel?
5. What is the wrost part of a white lie?
6. When can white lie do the most damage? What kind of white lies hurt the most?
7. When is lying the right thing to?