For some strange reason studies of liars seem to pop up all over the net right now. NYmag has a long and very interesting article about why kids lie and how they learn it from their parents. Kids start as early as age 2 or 3, and the smarter the kid the earlier they start lying. Telling the truth is easy, but making a believable lie takes a lot more effort.
The always excellent Radiolab had a show last week about lies where they presented the results from several studies on the subject. They interviewed the famous psychologist Paul Ekman about facial expressions and how to tell if people are lying. The whole concept of microexpressions is fascinating. And Ekman's vow he took when his daughter was born to never lie again seems incredibly difficult to keep.
Another part of the program discusses a study Yaling Yang did on pathological liars. Brain scans of them showed that they had a lot more white brain matter in their prefrontal cortex compared to the control group, but less gray matter. The researchers believed that the huge increase in connections in the brain made lying practically effortless for these individuals and they could reply instantly with a plausible lie.
The radio show continues with a segment about a con-woman called Hope and how she used unsuspicious people by constantly lying.
People who are good at lying are generally more happy and have greater success in life. People with serious depressions are "too realistic" and seem unable to twist the truth into a brighter version. Being able to lie to yourself as well as others have many advantages even when you don't abuse it to the fullest.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how to interact with people and even more observing what people do and how they react. If I had no moral or empathy there's no limit to how much I could take advantage of peoples good will. Most people want to help and trust other peoples "good nature", but I'm afraid there's too many who don't have that in them. I'll be sure to keep my eyes open for the slightest "leakage", be it a microexpression or an inconsistency in the story. Just never let people know you caught them lying, that just makes them more careful next time and harder to catch.
This cynical post is written while listening to Billy Talent - Lies