Covering up for the dent that suddenly appeared in the car; sneaking out to a concert with friends under the pretence of a group study session or exaggerating about the number of celebrities you spotted during summer break in Los Angeles. Sounds familiar?
Fast forward a couple of years and I still find myself in similar situations. The only thing that has changed is the reason behind spinning stories.
"Sorry I missed your call, I was in the shower."
"You look like you've lost a bit of weight..."
"I love the socks you got me, Grandma!"
We have all been there and if you believe you are different, then you are probably lying to yourself.
According to the psychologist, Robert Feldman, people tell two to three lies every ten minutes while talking to a stranger or casual acquaintance.
The million dollar question here is: Why do people lie? What is the reason behind telling grandma you love the ugly socks or not telling someone you missed their call on purpose?
Timothy Levine, a behavioural scientist, found out that people's motivations for deceit can be shared across cultures and these boil down to four categories: to protect oneself, to promote oneself, to impact others and for unclear reasons.
TO PROTECT ONESELF:
1. I'm on my way - translation: "You'll definitely hit the roof if I tell you I'm still in the shower!" You were supposed to meet your friends for dinner but you got distracted while shopping online and completely lost track of time. So you lied about getting stuck in traffic to cover up your mistake. If only they had known it was online traffic you faced while browsing for a new top!
2. It wasn't me - translation: "Some things are not worth taking credit for." Remember when you broke mum's favourite crystal vase and pinned it on your younger brother? Or when you planted your sister's diary on Dad's study table so he could accidentally read about her secret escapades with her boyfriend?
3. I'll call you soon - translation: "You wish! I'll probably see you in another life." When your calls are forwarded to voice mail and your texts go unanswered for some time, it's very obvious that you are being purposely ignored. This concept is know as ghosting. It's not very ideal to just fade away from someone's life, but people use this tactic to avoid confrontation or a painful conversation.
TO PROMOTE ONESELF:
4. It's an original - translation: "Would I be sitting at this exclusive charity gala if you knew it's a fake?" Not everyone can afford to or prefers to invest thousands of dollars on a single purse. Replicas of branded bags provide a shortcut to the power, success and class that most women like to exude. In fact, it can be quite intoxicating to wear a fake designer bag with so much confidence that it feels like the real thing.
5. I love to read - translation: "Reading the back of a cereal box counts no matter how old you are." When people are not aware of their self-worth, they believe that others can't possibly like them as they are. Therefore, we lie about our accomplishments, our beliefs and about who we are to make ourselves appear more appealing to others.
6. I'm feeling great. Back on my gym grind - translation: "I feel miserable and all I really want are some french fries!" At times we need to lie to convince ourselves that we are happy. In reality, we might feel sorry for ourselves but there is a social stigma surrounding the idea of being seen as unhappy. This is why people post so many pictures on Instagram to show how amazing they feel, even if they are crumbling inside.
TO IMPACT OTHERS:
7. I love it - translation: "I can't tell you it sucks, can I?" On certain occasions, we've become so accustomed to lying that we may not even notice them. For instance, you're put in a spot when when someone asks if you like the awful meal they just served you or the hideous outfit they are wearing.
8. I got it half price - translation: "What you don't know won't hurt you." We often lie to the people close to us for fear of worrying them. It might not be good for your mum or your husband to know what something actually costs, especially when your shopping habits have spiralled into a full-blown lifestyle.
9. I don't trust her - translation: "If you hear it often enough, you'll start doubting her as well." According to a study led by Lisa Fazio (Vanderbilt University) in 2015, repetition has the power to make things sound more true. Research showed that if people repeated the phrase, "The Atlantic Ocean is the largest ocean on Earth" enough times, the Atlantic Ocean did indeed begin to seem like the largest ocean on Earth. This cognitive bias is known as the 'illusion of truth effect' and it can be used to manipulate someone's thinking.