At the heart of the season finale of Game of Thrones was the lie. One character could not lie. Another could only lie. One liar received his deserved demise. All the turmoil, pain and anguish that the characters have endured was created and caused by a lie.
I was disturbed a little by how the character whose honor prevented him from lying was chastised by his entourage. The lie would have prevented a great deal of problems however his value system made it impossible for him to promise what he could not deliver.
I began to think about lies. Research indicates that we all lie a couple of times a day. Who do we lie to and why? Are there instances where a lie is better than truth? Are some lies justifiable?
We lie to strangers, coworkers, friends, loved ones, ourselves and anyone who sits still long enough. I believe that there are types of lies with varying intents and accompanying consequences. We must look at the intent of the lie to determine if we can accept it, once it is found out of course.
The white lie is the subtle, inconsequential lie and is the least damaging. It is intended to preserve others’ feelings and possibly avoid an unproductive confrontation. “I’m on my way now.” “I’m not feeling up to it today” “My phone lost the reminder for the deadline for this column.” “No, your butt does not look big in those jeans.”
People lie for many reasons: deceive, mislead, self-gain, guilt, shame, aggrandizement, self-protection, protection of others, avoid rejection, self-deception, cause damage, habit, and probably many other reasons.
Some lies cause more harm than others. The degree of damage is determined by the recipient as is the degree of absolution given as a result. This requires that the lie be discovered. There are some semi-reliable means of detecting a lie however mostly we cannot tell when others are lying, except some whose lips-in-motion is the indicator. Mostly we can only discern that someone is exhibiting signs of discomfort such as face touching, fidgeting, etc.
In my communications presentations I speak on how the discomfort of lying may result in pacifying moves such as scratching an itch on the back of the head or an arm. The Pinocchio effect is where the discomfort of a lie causes the blood flow in the nose to increase. Which then causes an urge to touch or scratch the nose in a self-pacifying move.
In a Ted.com talk titled “Can you really tell if a kid is lying?”, developmental researcher Dr. Kang Lee, presents very interesting findings on how and when we learn to lie. Children as young as two years old are already developing the ability to lie. Apparently, to be able to lie, we need the ability to know that the other person does not know what we know and we must have the self-control not to give up the lie with body language and intonations.
His research also indicates that people who should be in the position to detect when a child tells a lie cannot tell. People like social workers, judges, other children’s parents, even the child’s own parents can’t reliably tell when their child is lying.
However, he has developed a technique called Transdermal Optical Imaging that will detect a lie with 85 percent accuracy. Lying causes discomfort as we have stated. The emotions involved, such as fear, guilt, delight, cause the autonomic system to decrease blood flow to the cheeks and increase blood flow to the nose – the Pinocchio effect. His imaging technique will discover this even if we are successful at resisting the urge to scratch the nose.
I will leave you to imagine all the useful applications of this technology. Wouldn’t it be great if your phone had it nicely hidden and no one else had it when you were talking? I heard somewhere that phone conversations carry the most lies and emails the least.
One final comment: Just because you believe what you are saying does not make it true and that’s no lie.
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