Why lying is a sign of a powerful mind

Everybody lies. That’s a settled point and anyone who claims they don’t can be sent up the stage as `Exhibit A’. The question is, why do we lie? Donald Trump claiming his inauguration crowd was bigger than Barack Obama’s may be a case of inflating one’s image; Bill Clinton denying an affair with Monica Lewinsky was clearly a cover-up; but we lieeven when nothing as big as the presidency is at stake. Experiments by University of California social psychologist Bella DePaulo in the 1990s showed people lied, on average, one or two times a day. Are human beings compulsive liars? Are we programmed to lie?

It appears that our ancestors learnt to lie as soon as they mastered complex communication through language. It was a wonderful accomplishment because it allowed liars to acquire resources and mates without resorting to physical violence. “Lying is so easy compared to other ways of gaining power,” Harvard Universityethicist Sissela Bok says in an article in National Geographic.

In fact, lying is an indicator of smartness. Instead of greeting their children’s first lies with alarm, parents should heave sighs of relief at this sure sign of mental development, psychologists say.Babies don’t lie, but 30% of two-year-olds do, and they are ahead of their peers on the intelligence curve. By the time they turn three, 50% of children are expert liars, and by eight, the number rises to 80%. “On the other hand, kids on the autism spectrum–known to be delayed in developing a robust theory of mind–are not very good at lying.”

Lying might seem like a base thing but it involves some high-level mental processing. You can’t lie successfully without being able to read your victim’s mind.”Known as theory of mind, this is the facility we acquire for understanding the beliefs, intentions, and knowledge of others.Also fundamental to lying is the brain’s executive function: the abilities required for planning, attention, and self-control.”

So, why don’t we lie limitlessly? Dan Ariely , a psychologist and one of the top experts on the subject, found that when people were given a chance to self-report their test results, they usually inflated their scores by only 50% regardless of the reward. Someone who had answered four questions claimed to have answered six.”The reason, according to him, is that we want to see ourselves as honest, because we have, to some degree, internalised honesty as a value taught to us by society .”

While lying gives us an edge in dealings, truth is the basis of coexistence.”Much of the knowledge we use to navigate the world comes from what others have told us. Without the implicit trust that we place in human communication, we would be paralysed as individuals and cease to have social relationships.”

That’s how lies and scams succeed.Although we are born liars, we don’t always regard ourselves and others so.Thus, when an email claims a millionaire somewhere in Africa has left us all their wealth, and it is ours to take after paying a processing fee of $1,000, we rush to wire the money.