Lies, Damned Lies, and Lying to Ourselves

When and how does a small child learn to lie? By imitation? Is it a program that’s there, inserted in him by nature, should he or she need it? I can remember one of the first lies I was aware of making–my father was angry about something and –though he was not a violent man– his demeanor frightened me. I lied as a way to escape what frightened me. So it was an instinctive survival strategy–even though I wasn’t at risk. As a child of three or four, I didn’t know I wasn’t really at risk.

I was thinking yesterday about lies, and liars. I had my own period of being, well, unreliable and quite loosy goosy with the truth, when I was much younger. Most of it was a kind of “it’s a matter of interpretation” dishonesty. “Yeah girl, I’m not married anymore”. Well, I didn’t actually say I was divorced but in fact we *were* separated… Eventually and thankfully I was forced to grow out of that. But I wonder how lying developed as a strategy, in humans; perhaps it seems self explanatory to you but to me (and these researchers in the linked article) it seems counter intuitive as a sociobiological strategy since cooperation (which usually is not enhanced by deception within the cooperative group) would seem a better overall strategy.

It’s interesting to me, too, and a little unsettling, that the linked article on lying appears at a physics site–it’s about behavior, not physics. But human behavior can be more quantifiable than we’d supposed, it seems…

Here’s the link:

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