A psychologist explains why we need the lies

Interview with psychologist and writer Tomas Witkowski — founder of the Polish skeptics Club, the author of “Psychology of lies. Motivations, strategies, tools”.

Rzeczpospolita: You kidding?

Witkowski, Tomasz (Tomasz Witkowski): Of Course. You can start with polite lies. If a colleague at work asked whether her new blouse, we can’t answer that she looks horrible or ask a tricky question, how much cost such a bad thing…

— If a colleague really wanted to know how she looks, not to improve self-esteem?

— You ask a naive question. (Laughs.) If we start to give in such situations, sincere answers, we violate certain rules of politeness, and it will not bring anything good. We should not demonize every deception is not always a mortal sin.

— Who are we kidding most often?

Themselves, because often we are talking to ourselves. We are constantly engaged in an inner monologue. There are many mechanisms of self-deception, of self-esteem, creating all sorts of illusions.

— If we do not deceive others, it’s still a lie?

— If you’re lying to yourself, sooner or later there will be another lie, which will be sent to the environment. People with very high self-esteem believe in what they say in public. Deceiving ourselves, we can begin to deceive others.

— This is confirmed Harvard University study conducted in 1996, 80% of lies about us. We deceive to impress others, to avoid embarrassing situations or conflicts.

— Lies occurring around the self-assessment, called eroticheskoi. We manage a private way, the impression produced by the view of our skills. However, it is very difficult to say whether the deception of our self-esteem or it becomes a attempt to manipulate other people. If during the interview when applying for work we are a little priukrasil their own skills, it will be eroticheski, and manipulative deception at the same time, because we want to influence the decision of another person to get the position.

— When I heard the word “lie”, perhaps we often imagine it manipulative deception by which a person consciously tries to achieve some effect, to get something.

Is the most common kind of lie. More complex from a moral point of view it seems only destructive lies to which you turn when you want someone to hurt without any benefit for themselves. We just caused someone to net harm.

— Can lies affect mental health?

— For many, it may not produce any effect depends on how strong each individual mechanisms justify their own misdeeds. The problem is that on a lie really does not go far. If we distort the truth about your professional skills, we can harm ourselves, because later we will have to take on excessive weight. A lie is not always beneficial.

— Why do we lie?

— Because lying is often effective in the short term and in isolated situations. In building strong relationships it is useless. If we are interested in such a relationship, to lie is not worth it. Give a simple example. If someone from time to time sells somewhere on the street of low-quality goods to the people never see such deception will be effective. But this strategy will not work in the district shop.

— Are there any people who know how to manage a lie, I know how and when to lie, and then capitalizing on it?

Now the classification of personality disorders has changed, but when it is accepted to speak about psychopathy, was isolated category of impulsive and calculating psychopaths. The second is people with a high level of intelligence and developed social skills, which are often considered the soul of society. Achieving their goals, they can shamelessly lie, cheat, embellish your image.

And that they are good at?

— Yes, they are very effective. Take a look at the factors that make people more or less adventurous. I relate well to businessmen and do not want to offend them, but it is worth mentioning the concept that in the person with a penchant for entrepreneurial activity are sociopathic traits. In the world of business the great value has the ability to control your image.

And to deceive himself?

Depends on the situation. Calculating psychopaths, quite soberly assess themselves and understand what they do. However, if you have mild sociopathy people actually believe in their exceptional abilities and is constantly growing in this confidence.

— How often do we lie unwillingly?

— Every day. It’s all those insincere words themselves fall from his lips. For example, someone turns to us for help and we automatically answer that now occupied. Sometimes we ourselves can’t explain why I said that. Just instead of saying “I don’t want to”, we without hesitation say “I can’t.”

— Where does this automaticity?

— False — it is a social glue. If we start to communicate with all sincerely, the society will disintegrate. Lying is an element of culture, it is inscribed in her and therefore in different people looks different. In our language was not, for example, the word “assertive”. What English-speaking man considers normal assertive behavior, in Polish culture it is considered rude or even aggressive.

We do not know how to be assertive?

— That’s just not in our culture. Instead of forcefully defending its position we often prefer to lie, so it is easier for us. Of course, in recent years the situation has changed, but, for example, when I was a kid, my parents taught me that you should first refuse the offer to drink tea or coffee, even if you want to drink. Older people do believe that before agreeing to the proposals of the master, to be abandoned three times. Too fast accord they can find just rude. Note: refusing tea, even being thirsty, we are de facto lying. We do this unwittingly, observing the rules of behavior, so it is socially accepted, but nevertheless a lie.

— It is present in all cultures?

— All cultures are definitely lying. The comparison is carried out is difficult because different peoples lie can have a completely different shape, purpose and play different roles. However, sometimes these differences appear clearly. For example, the question, “how are you?”, average American every day is: “excellent”.

— Maybe the Americans are just such happy people…

— But I know that they can’t go every day is better than the average for the whole year, and that is the picture studies show. In turn, the poles every single day I think that things are worse than average. So, those and other lie, but it is programmed culture. I was recently in Canada and every day was met with a surprising cultural differences. For example, I gave a negative answer to the question of the waitresses if I’ll take a drink. And she said, “Sounds fine.” I couldn’t understand what the answer is for her good. After all, the waiter most likely not interested in the fact that the client refused to drink to the food. Automatically repeating such phrases, he was lying, but that’s the reaction expected of him in Canada.

— Maybe we can abandon such petty lies? A couple of years ago I noticed that if you are late it is much better not to blame other people or traffic, but admit that I, for one, he’s too late out of the house. People respond to that type of sincerity in a positive way.

— Here works the principle of samoobsluzhivaniya. If you confess to your own sluggishness, because of which even can not leave on time from home, at your buddy when he compares himself with you, at some point, increases self-esteem. But if you will often to pretend to be a simpleton, people will not be happy. (Laughs.) And one phrase “sorry I’m late” will be enough. It is important to inform the reason of delay, although she is not very important. We don’t like to pass people ahead in the queue if they’re just asking for it, right? The experiment Ellen Langer (Ellen Langer) showed that it is enough to somehow justify its request that people treated it much more favorably. For example, it is sufficient to say that we’re in a hurry (although this is not a justification), and people are automatically more willing to meet us halfway.

— There are born liars?

— People are not born liars, but at the genetic level may, indeed, inherit a certain base, which encourages frequent recourse to lies. In General, the simpler the deceit given to people with a high intellectual level, because lie desired three-dimensional “memory.” In order to effectively manipulate the facts, you need to create a system of lies, because if you change just one element, he will have to change everything else. But it requires mind. Studies show that smart people are lying is not only more effective but also more often.

— That is a lie addictive?

It appears so, Yes. Smart people are always aware that their lies are effective, so often refer to it. In turn, people with lower intellectual level, tricking, feel less confident, so they rarely do it, furthermore they are often caught cheating.

— Who are pathological liars?

We don’t know why some people lie a lot. A pathological liar is a person, a lie which is disproportionate to the effect of what he wants to achieve. For example, a woman wants to leave early from work and tells the boss that her mother died. But in the end that the mother is alive, will reveal!

— People who lie, actually exist?

— Of course, Yes. It is a small percentage of the population, but I know of two pathological liars, and heard incredible stories that were, in retrospect, is a complete fraud. The problem is that it did does not stop them, they don’t hesitate and behave very strange. This is a very smart people with exceptional communications skills. Others consider them good speakers who know how to captivate with his stories. Roots grow from the dysfunctional environment families with alcohol problems or connections with the underworld.

— Why do these people bring the lie to the absurd?

— They are characterized by fairly strong egocentrism. In all likelihood, they are guided by a desire to draw attention to themselves. Telling stories, they are at the centre of universal interest. There are always people who will listen to them with an open mouth, as in the XVIII century German — exemplary pathological liar Baron Munchhausen, who flew on the Cannonball, twice visited the moon and pulled himself out of the swamp.

— Are there people who can teach us to notice the deception?

— In certain disorders of the nervous system (e.g., aphasia) people develop a special sensitivity to non-verbal signals, although it can cause problems with the perception of the verbal.

— So they can serve as lie detectors?

— You could say that. However, usually they have to be treated because they can’t function in society. Meanwhile, various intelligence agents or investigators who are learning to recognize the lies, achieve in this area a little more successful than other people.

— It is said that the agents “Mossad” in tel Aviv airport, looking at the faces of the passengers can immediately identify the person who is up to something.

Is probably partly a myth, however, on the face, there are muscles that we can’t handle. Thus, in order to note lies, you need to understand that emotions are fake. If the person smiles and pretends that he’s all happy, but actually depressed and sad, after proper training, we can figure that he’s faking. There are a number of special features, for example, an asymmetrical reflection of the emotions on the face.

How effective the lie detector?

— In fact, he detects not lies and emotions by measuring several physiological parameters. The most important of these is the electrical resistance of the skin, which changes when sweating. This physiological component of emotional reactions appears before the others. When we lie, we experience emotional excitement. Of course, the lie detector is not 100% accurate, so spent with it, research is not used as evidence in court. However, the accuracy of the test is around 90%, making it the most effective tool of all that has created psychology. Without a lie detector psychologists for two days of intensive studies to achieve the result of a maximum of 65%.

But, as we see in spy movies, the lie detector can be fooled.

— If kept in the pocket of a pin and stabbing himself in the leg with a control question, every time in the course of the study we will deal himself another shot, the emotional state on the graph will look the same. That is, provoking a strong physical response, we can fool the device, or rather its operator. To cheat the device, that is, change their feelings, it is impossible. But if we resort to trickery, the man who runs it, will not notice our lies and not know about our strategy.

— Does the lie detector in business?

— Yes, Polish companies use it, although it is not completely legal. Of course, the employee or job candidate may withdraw from the study, but the problem is that he thereby put himself at a disadvantage. Imagine that you want to get to the Bank by the collector. If you refuse to be tested on a lie detector, you hurt yourself. Sometimes, this device is used when the company appears the thief.

— I understand that in this case, the check is also better not to give up…

I know two situations where this check is allowed to drop charges against two people whom everyone called potential plunderers. So the advantages of using a lie detector is.