Why We Lie

Update: 2016-08-196


Let's face it: people lie. We lie to each other and to ourselves. Is there a deeper reason why we do it? In this episode, TED speakers deconstruct the hard truths of deception. (Original broadcast date: June 20, 2014).

Following script is auto-generated by Speech to Text Technology:

support for this podcast and the following message come from Ministry of Supply Ministry of Supply makes professional performance dress clothes that keep you comfortable during an active commute and an air conditioned office get fifteen percent off your first purchase at Ministry of Supply dot com slash NPR hey it's guy here just a quick note to let you know we are taking a quick summer break or to be back soon with a bunch of new episodes so many tentacles into this one it's called Why We lie and in this you will learn about why we convince ourselves that it's OK to cheat and also had a spike if someone is lying enjoy This is the Head Radio Hour each week groundbreaking had the Ted Technology Design at Stanford delivered and Ted conferences around the world gift of the human had to believe in impossible the true nature of reality beckons just beyond those talks those ideas adapted for radio NPR guy tries to shape ideas about why the lie why cheat why we deceive in why we still seem to believe soul much of what we're told and who knew him so damn late this is Dan R E L E D James B Duke professor of psychology and behavior economics at Duke beans mushrooms and dance studies cheating me why we do at the the the the the a few years ago Dan was a business trip to consulting conference and I meet John Perry Barlow it turns out that John Perry Barlow use of a lyricist for the grateful Dead the the I Love The grateful Dead than I was very impressed with it to break the conference it was it was just delightful to meet somebody like him so they started talking and talking full well it turns on the fuel is also a consultant for Enron how grateful Dead and the stunning collapse us around was of course a giant energy company based in Houston for six straight years fortune magazine named the Most innovative Company in America the company of some one hundred billion dollars last year he filed for bankruptcy this year but those hundred billion dollars in revenue ally of fiction was totally up because the company was cheating by making up sales figures and they've been doing it for years and most people just assumed it was you know a few bad apples at the top but turned out that hundreds of people accountants managers consultants they were all in on the scam is well and so when did I really met John Perry Barlow a few years later at the conference he was curious about whether he was involved too in asking about the end he basically said he didn't see anything going bad he believes in the company in unbelievable ways and kind of suspended his own understanding of reality and was very happy to buy into a new and of course the moment he basically asked myself How could a belief that yeah I mean how could he have been there and not seen any of that and his Evo smart guy and it's very hard to take somebody you admire and think I often can basically said this is a crook instead this basically propose a very different mechanism if you are getting paid by and on wouldn't you want to see reality in the way that they were presenting and the interesting thing is that if you think that's normal just have three bad people would say had to stop hiring bad people is find ways to kick them out oh and if you think that's wishful blindness and all of us are capable of that debt basically request a very very different approach the approach it opened and the possibility that maybe instead of a few really bad apples there might be a lot of kind of battles and picks up the idea from the Ted stage so like we usually do I decide to do a simple experiment and here's how it went a few wind experiment I would pass two sheet of paper with twenty simple math problems that everybody could solve but they will give you enough time when the five minutes were over I would say Pass me the sheets of paper in opioid up question people did this people four dollars for the task than average people with soulful problems other people and tend to cheat I would pass the sheet of paper with five minutes over and say please read the piece of paper put the little pieces in your pocket and you back and tell me how many questions got corrected people now sold seven questions on average it was and as if those few bad apples a few people due to the top instead what we saw is a lot of people who cheat a little bit knowledge in the economic theory cheating is a very simple cost benefit analysis you say what's the probability of being caught how much they stand to gain from cheating and how much punishment with a Get the Free get caught and you weigh these options are to the simple cost benefit analysis and you decide when it's worthwhile to commit the crime or not so we try to test this for some people we've how much money they could get away with how much money they could steal we paid ten cents for correct question fifty cents a dollar five dollars ten dollars but correct question you would expect that as they mull this money and on the table increases people would cheat more but in fact it wasn't the case we got a lot of people cheating but still by little but what about the probability of being caught some people shred has issued if a person is some evidence left something but rather the whole sheet of paper some people shredded everything went out of the room and paid himself in the bowl of money that has one hundred dollars you would expect that is the probability of being caught goes on people who cheat more but again this was not the case again in other people cheated by just by little bit insensitive to these economic incentives so sad if people are not sensitive to the economic rational theory explanations to date these forces what could be going wrong and we thought maybe what is happening is that the two forces one hand we all want to look at the sofa the mirror and feel good about ourselves so we don't want to cheat in the head we could teach a little bit and still feel good about the stuffs so maybe what is happening is that the Congo over but we can still benefit from cheating a little degree as long as he doesn't change or impressions about ourselves because he's like a personal fudge factor how would you test a personal fudge factor initially we said What can we do to shrink the fudge factor so we got people to live and said We have two tests for you today first we have half the people to recall that in books to read in high school or to recall the Ten commandments and then we tend to do with cheating turns out the people who try to recall the Ten commandments given to produce it and she did not cheat at all it wasn't that the more religious people the people who remembered more for the commandment you that less and less religious people the people who couldn't be almost any command that you did more the moment people thought about trying to recall the Ten commandments the still cheating now Ten commandments or something it is hard to bring it to the education system so isn't one to get people to sign donor could get people to sign I understand that the show so that falls on the day might be on a code issue of the day no cheating whatsoever but the interesting cousin Mikey doesn't have an aunt I this amazing sermon to introduce an element of moral accountability likes sitting on a coed the students are less likely to cheat so it's basically all about what the thinking about no I don't think this effect last very long ride is not as if we can get people to recite the Ten commandments once a week and will be on this for the whole week but at least it's all something about the moment to remind in saying that at the moment you can get people to think more deeply about honesty to be more attentive does change your own understanding of what's right and wrong in your ability to rationalize this moment it's almost like an auntie rationalization mechanism to think about morality in this way have you ever like taken some printer paper home like some just paper home to use in your home printer boy of clothes yet but I can justify that very easily but that that's not really cheating or being dissed deceitful is an action being helpful I get to work more at home exactly to bless what you mean so why is that scene is bad behavior well I think the thing is that we have the capacity to rationalize all kinds of behaviors like taking paper home but the feat was money in we said would they take money from the office to buy paper for my home printer I think you would think about these very different because that's that's Ron that stealing is stealing but if the same thing is friend or something else like a pencil or piece of paper something of that office suddenly can think about these very differently and maybe they would think is a bit strange because we basically don't think about it and by not thinking about it very clearly were basically allowing ourselves to misbehave and still not think of yourself is that people do you assume that everyone knew me or carry is a cheater and some ice well I think this is human I don't think it's easy to cheat or doing the same way that we have a hard time not overeating in saving money and all of those things but he's honest he's also different in a sense that we teach our kids to lie and you know nobody nobody tell the kids that when they grow up they should always say Honey you look terrible and actress right yeah to suffer and we do understand that people have some benefit from dishonesty and it's important lubricant for society but then people move to the business world and what I want my wife to care about my feelings I don't want my count and talk about my feelings I think about something else what happens if your company and some a few friends of misbehaving and now you have a confident new frenship your loyalty to the new loyalty to the company and honesty which brings us back to two thousand won to the US and to Dan's friend John Perry Barlow he basically said he didn't see anything going back out Dan started his research with one question the question was are just a few really bad apples or are there lots of bots of a kind of bad apples but what if there isn't a huge difference between the two like what if the worst of the worst start out like you or me so for the past two years dance been trying to figure out the answer that question has been interviewing some of these were really big cheaters and what they did at the end is just in comprehensible can you say I conned possibly see myself behaving this way yeah but then you look at the details and you look at step one step one was often innocent and not selfish at all it was to help other people it is really the slippery slope of taking one step often for something that at the moment people think is for good cause I mean I think that most of us have a limit I mean we have some kind of limit in our minds and any that slippery slope cannot apply to everyone so of course I don't know if it applies to everybody so the first thing to recognize is they think the ability to rationalize some some dishonesty is within us all on top of that knowledge is a question of each of us would be able to just cheat a little bit from time to time and which ones of us would be able to go into a slippery slope and let's assume that you admit that from time to time you less than perfectly honest but you've never been on the slippery slope and you know you going to get a job it's a Bank and Goldman Sachs and the things about the local culture and the things about how people treat each other and things about how the talk about their clients and their ideology and so on and you can you should ask itself whether you think that you would be immune from a slippery slope of the DOE's those conditions and I don't have evidence for that but I think it'll be hard to imagine that's why a lot of us who are good right Nile would not have a chance of being bad if we're in the wrong conditions the reality is a behavioral economist and psychologist at Duke University can watch all four of his talks at Ted dot com when we come back the human lie detector with us and Kai rise and you're listening to the Ted Radio Hour from NPR The aural Hey Everyone Just a quick thanks to two of our sponsors who help make this podcast possible first to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center every day they're confronting cancer breakthrough treatments innovative therapies and the largest cancer clinical research program in the world it's all geared to put an end to cancer for good their message to cancer is simple workout to make you history catcher Andy Anderson Cancer Center is ranked Number one in the nation for Cancer Care by US News and World Report There More Making Cancer History com Thanks also to blue apron they know that incredible ingredients make incredible meals labor and work for the community of art is no suppliers family run farm sustainable fisheries and ethical ranchers to deliver perfectly push and seasonal ingredients and easy to follow recipe cards right to your door choose recipes based on your preferences with no weekly commitment its first two Blue apron meals and free plus free shipping by visiting Blue apron dot com slash Radio Hour it's the Ted Radio Hour from NPR guy rise and I'm sure they ideas about why we lie most of us believe those lies and can you usually tell when you're being lied to well this is the problem of light spotting this is Pamela Meyer she trained people on how to spot liars to do a test to say Get a right handed or Left and Right ok hold your dominant hand and it doesn't matter right hander left and anybody can do this hold your dominant hand up drive Capital Q on the forehead K Bennett did you draw the tail of the cute ones are left or your right shoulder my right shoulder ok so that means you're a bad liar the science shows that that indicates that you're a low self monitor high self monitors tend to draw the capital Q said the person facing them can actually see it with it down and towards the left and we know that high self monitors are better observers of other people the more perceptive are also better liars because they can perceive how others perceive them more accurately so you've just confirmed I am a bad liar because it was a queue that way well no I that's certainly not proof that it is an interesting way to kind of get a sense of the way you perceive others and we perceive the world and his panel explained on the Ted stage we are in fact born to lie it starts really really early how early for Babies will say good cry cause wait to see who's coming and then go right back to crying one year olds learn concealment five year olds lie outright they manipulate the flattery nine year old masters of the coverup by the time you enter college or going to live your mom out every five interactions by the time we world are bread winners we enter a world that is cluttered with Stan fake digital friends partisan media ingenious identity thieves walk last Ponzi scammers deception epidemic in short what one author calls a host Truth Society life complex work overtly for the ways our society has sanctioned for centuries and centuries and centuries old is breathing think Dante Shakespeare the Bible news of the world but you do well there are steps we can take to navigate our way through the morass they're good liars and about liars they are no real original Ayers we all make the same mistakes we'll use the same techniques so what I'm going to do something patterns of deception and then we're going to look at the hotspot since if we can find them ourselves start with speech I want you to listen to them say this again I did not have sexual relations with that woman Miss Lewinsky I never told anybody to lie not a single time never these allegations are false I remember seeing that and I thought yeah okay of course convinced he was very very convincing course Bill Clinton is one of those convincing politicians and persuasive politicians we've ever seen in modern history but he did demonstrate three of the great indicators of deception on the verbal side for sale he said did not I did not have to that's what's called the non contracted to Niall did not versus didnt could not versus couldn't lie and liars often unconsciously resort to formal rather than informal language he also said that woman sexual relations with that so called distancing language at the other thing he did he said Miss Lewinsky now the Clinton obviously couldn't say hey I never had sex outside marriage my life so clearly he could not issue a categorical denial but still it's a great example because of the liars going to say I did not take twenty from the drawer the truth tellers can see kidding I never stole anything in my life the categorical denial tends to be associated with honesty where's the narrowed specific style tends to be associated with deception should we look at this clip and I and I wonder I just suck I decided to check again for like the seventh time doing so so that was light was like the third time that's okay I am not eyed and is going to be no I I don't I look at Tech three times cool in the the bully once and then the other two times in segments I don't want to give the impression I've watched it three times because it's not exactly how I watch them ok thank you for providing that inappropriate in the May when the lion as a cooperative that think about ally has no power whatsoever by its mere utterance its power emerges when someone else agrees to believe the lie now not all lies are harmful sometimes were willing participants in deception for the sake of social dignity we say nice song you don't look fat and no we say you know I just wish that email out of my spam folder and says Sorry bottom so I mean in situations like that we actually want to be light too yes I think we have a kind of ambivalent relationship with the truth yeah so for example let's say he really wished you had a lot more money much more likely to be susceptible persons trying to essentially sell you a financial scam let's say you wish you a much better looking and much more susceptible the person who says you know you look gorgeous today sever example when we do training sometimes will put people in pairs and will say tell the biggest lie that you can think off to the person across from you oftentimes what emerges is this absolutely fascinating conversation between two people because the biggest lie that you can think of is very often in that area of striving where you wish you could be something that you're actually not lying is an attempt to bridge that gap to connect our wishes our fantasies about who we wish we were how we wish we could be with what we really like and more willing to fill in those gaps in our lives which lies on a given day studies show that you may be light to anywhere from ten to two hundred times now granted many of those are white lies but in another study showed that strangers like three times within the first ten minutes of meeting each other do we live or to strangers than with my coworkers extrovert fly more than introverts men like eight times more about themselves and they do other people women lie more to protect other people have never been convinced that somebody was lying but then found out later that the evidence really show that the person was in fact telling the truth like to have new has happened to me there happens to a lot of people and it's very very important question because it's not a parlor trick and often times people take life studying techniques and they think that they've learned them instantly they got in they wrongly accuse people is a very serious thing to do a real process of figuring out somebody is lying involves preparing having a conversation observing him carefully going back observing them again they're so many things that you can this line starters rely on they know as someone once said character Seymour in the dark kind of interesting is that today we have so little darkness our world is lit up twenty four hours a day it's transparent to one challenge we have is to remember over sharing that's not honesty are Matic tweeting and texting can blind us to the fact that the subtleties of human decency character integrity that's still what matters that's always what's going to matter so in this much noise or world it might make sense for us to be just a little bit more explicit about our moral code just a little bit more explicit because the signal to everyone say hey my world our world it's going to be honest one my world is going to be one where truth is strengthened and fall so does recognize and marginalized and when you do that the ground around you starts to shift just a little bit and that's the truth the The L A Meyer life harder to get her entire head cocked head of NPR dot org The So what do you think about my hair has great looks fabulous and I swear to God on my mother's grave a few slugs great that we would call a religious reference combined with how over emphasizing one street pharmacy line unlike the King your hair really doesn't cut it and think be sure who or when you say eye year for me sole think about how easy it is to lie now over email or in a text all this technology has made lying so much easier for the first time in human history we can lie to each other about where we are who we are who were with what we're doing this is Jeff Hancock is a professor of psychology at Cornell he studies how people lie on the internet before we talk to each other we had to be in the same room at the exact same time and that's the crux of the paradox that we see so it would seem that now that I can live oh all those things and I can do without you seen my face and any of my vocal tones or any of my body movements that we should see a lot more line and I think it's wrong ok so this all might seem completely counterintuitive right but it turns out that the Internet might be keeping us honest here's Jess take from the Ted stage now let's put aside the online anonymous sex chat rooms which I'm sure none of you have been and I can assure you there's deception there and let's put aside the Nigerian princes you mailed you about getting the forty three million of the country let's forget about that guy too let's focus on the conversations between our friends and family and our coworkers our loved ones those of the conversations that really matter what this technology to deception with those folks wanna say is we are called Irish Studies in which we ask people to record all of their conversations all the lies for seven days and we can do then is calculate how to play spur conversation within the media and the fine that we get that surprises people the most is that email is the most honest of those three media it really throws people for Luke because we think well there's no nonverbal cues so why don't you lie more the phone in contrast the most lies again and again and again we see the phone is the device the people around the most in need use it like the melody the easiest way to to serve mislead somebody right over to lie to them and you're saying that this is the most honest form of communication right it's a it is really amazing that being able to see the person doesn't improve your ability to detect deception and this is really surprising to a lot of people was surprising to me but it's been shown again and again and again that we don't really rely on non verbal cues to tell someone's line so the fact that those go away doesn't make email that much more difficult or easy to lie and the reason that email I think is more honest and again we're not talking about spam or any of that but in our conversations with family friends co workers we leave a record we provide the recipient of the lie with a record of July and that is not good for deception irony is that as we have all these like different avenues like in different places we can lie it is actually a lot harder because you basically Glee cute rainy lately if you lie there's a good chance Assembly Will Beall to call you add on it because so many more people are exposed to that lie or that slight exaggeration about something exactly right I think that in all the ways that technology can on the surface seem like it will facilitate deception they can see me I can call from anywhere I can say anything I want technology allows for all of that but at the same time it provides all these other tools for detecting deception in ways that ten twenty thirty years ago we never would have thought about but in addition to that like you say we have all these other tools so Google just think of the power Google provides now imagine a Google search algorithm twenty years from now and the kinds of things and information will be able to parse and go through and surface for us so this is one the reasons why people say well I think or line a lot more now and technologies big reason for it that's one of the reasons I just think that that's wrong I think that technology allows us to lie in some ways and we're certainly going to adapt and evolve or deception the technology provides a lot of other constraints on how and when we lie to the what does that mean what's the next big idea from well as a social scientists now I can look at all those words that used to for millennia disappear I can look at lives that before were set in and gone so one thing we didn't give the example of looking in the language is we pay people to write some fake reviews one of these reviews is fake person ever was at the James Hotel the other review is real the person stated that your task now is to decide which review is fake so in one of the reviews it's the person talking about today with their with my husband and I stayed at The James Chicago hotel for our anniversary the place is fantastic and talked about that they went shopping and hotel is really lovely staff very attentive and wonderful really really beautiful rooms we will definitely be back to Chicago and will sure be back to The James Chicago in the second one I've stayed at many hotels traveling for both business and pleasure
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Why We Lie