The Truth About Lying

Lying. The first thing that comes to mind is that lying is bad and should always be avoided at all costs. Is that true? Then, why do people lie? How does it affect our brains?

Not every lie is evil.

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Not every lie is evil.

Emily Withrow, Columnist

Ironically, there are many truths behind people’s lies. According to BBC News, the definition of lying is a form of deception. Its purpose is to protect the liar from possible negative outcomes. The Scientific American states, based off of psychologist’s research, that the most common reason people lie for multiple, complex reasons. 

An article by The University of Berkeley claims that the ability to lie emerges at a young age; some researchers say that lying starts around the age of three. They observed through experiments that parents influence the child’s ability to lie and detect a lie. Loving parents often do not want to be dismissive of their child’s hard work, such as a picture that they have drawn, so they lie by encouraging and complimenting them on what seems to be a bad piece of work. By age five, children use lies to their advantage, such as escaping chores or punishments. From the ages of seven to 11, children lie to reassure or protect someone. Berkeley concludes that most lies people tell are motivated by strong feelings or empathy.

Although lying seems immoral, experts cited in The Washington Post supported the idea that lying is an important milestone for kids. Being able to lie requires complex thinking skills, such as being able to see a situation from the opposing person’s view, and then deceiving them. But in time, children quickly learn that lying has its limits before they receive unwanted consequences.

A 2016 study performed by Nature Neuroscience discovered that lying alters activity in the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that produces feelings of fear and anxiety when a person anticipates something is about to happen. Participants of this study were given a game in which they could win money by tricking their partner, and the spectators noticed that the activity in their amygdala decreased when they lied to their partners. They concluded that when people have the option of deceiving others without the possibility of having negative consequences, people’s brains don’t release these anxious feelings because they know that they have nothing to lose.

Having the ability to trick someone is something that almost everyone can achieve, but it is important to understand why do humans do this. The Scientific American states that one of the reasons people lie is to mask their insecurities that may be looked down upon by others or themselves. Some people lie to themselves to create a sense of motivation. Others believe that people lie about themselves because it is what attracts possible partners, either romantic, platonic, or familial. Either way, to make a lie successful, a person needs to persuade themselves into thinking that the lie is the truth first.

But not all lies are necessarily bad. It can be acceptable to lie to someone if they can’t control what’s happening in regards to time or the environment. For example, imagine if one of your parents were to ask you if they looked good right before an important event. You notice that they are running late and will be even more behind if they changed their clothes. The most considerate response to do is to say they look great, regardless of what you actually believe, and avoid them becoming more late for the important event. Even still, most agree that lying is immoral because it corrupts the person telling the lie. People often know when they tell a lie, and sometimes it damages how they see themselves in the future.

Humans are frustratingly complex, which includes the motives of why a person might lie. Lying is a difficult concept that also has difficult answers, so there is no definite way of determining when lying is truly acceptable. It is ultimately up to the person to assess the situation and act upon their judgments.