Please Explain: Lying

Friday, May 28, 2010

With the recent disclosures that Richard Blumenthal did not serve in Vietnam, Adam Wheeler tricked his way into Harvard, and Columbia's valedictorian plagiarized his commencement speech, this week's Please Explain is all about lying.

Learn why we lie and how to spot it. David Livingstone Smith, author of the book Why We Lie, and Jef Nance, a former undercover cop and author of the book Conquering Deception, join us to discuss the evolutionary roots of lying and how to avoid falling prey to deception.


David Livingstone Smith and Jef Nance

Comments [20]

Jef Nance from Kansas City

Baby steps: The whole idea of 'being a liar' is interesting because... every one has told a lie! At what point is someone "a liar". Prolific liars, that's who you're concerned with, I'm guessing.

And I think it does start young, but circumstances have a lot to do with it; ie, through necessity, an adult can begin telling more lies, too. Low self-esteem, the need to compete with piers; sometimes brings out our least 'qualities'!

Jef Nance, author of Conquering Deception

May. 28 2010 03:19 PM
Jef Nance from Kansas City

Thanks to all who listened, great calls and some interesting comments here!

hi Gibson: Aspiring liar? No books I know of, but I have a Free audio on my blog, "How to Lie and Get Away with it Everytime!"

Jef Nance - author, Conquering Deception

May. 28 2010 03:14 PM
gibson from Manhattan

Do either of the guests have recommended books for the aspiring liar?

May. 28 2010 01:56 PM
Baby steps

Is it actually important to teach children to tell the truth? Does someone become a liar at an early age?

May. 28 2010 01:55 PM

Regarding the 11-year old who lies regularly, I wonder if the fact that he continues doing it after being confronted with the lies is reason to be concerned. I have known a handful of people who I met around that age that would regularly lie to make themselves sound more interesting or knowledgable. The other students soon catch on, and the kids who lied like this often and were not able to adjust their behavior have been far less successful, especially in social aspects.

May. 28 2010 01:53 PM
Gene from NYC

I had a friend who was a wonderful person but an inveterate liar.

He lived with me for a bit, and at one point a mutual friend said, "Say, haven't seen Raymond for awhile."

I said, "Oh, he had to go back to Syracuse. His father died."

The friend raised an eyebrow and said archly, "Again?"

May. 28 2010 01:53 PM

With regard to infidelity, is lying part of the thrill of cheating or, when done badly, is lying an effort to get caught cheating?

May. 28 2010 01:52 PM
george washington from nyc

hi J from Yorkville, listen to that RadioLab show, because it describes the frontal lobe as having too many neurons, and that this suggested compulsiveness, that these people just couldn't stop themselves. The researcher who did the brain scanning, said that she would also be performing these tests on her daughter [then she laughed]. good stuff.

May. 28 2010 01:49 PM

Is it possible to lie to yourself? For example, when someone shows up late and sabotages a meeting or misses a flight, isn't that an intentional act that we won't admit to?

May. 28 2010 01:48 PM
Ellen from Manhattan

Why do alcoholics lie a lot about things not related to their drinking?

May. 28 2010 01:47 PM
Malu from Sea Cliff, LI

My friend Eric J., told me once that when we lie, we loose our freedom; I thought it was a profound statement; what he meant was that when we tell lies to our fam. or friends, we're putting ourselves in a situation where we are not standing for ourselves, our mistakes, our flaws and virtues, why not; we become slaves of feeling we needed that lie, that those people wouldn't accept us or would condone us for our actions. Well, it's complex, I think you get my gist.

May. 28 2010 01:46 PM
Simon from Long Island from Great Neck

Interesting program. Just wish that Leonard would cease with the clever political quips ("Does Dick Cheney know about this...?) which only display his complete lack of impartiality (especially when the guest goes out of his way to explain that he considers all politicians to be professional liars.) Give it up Leonard, this habit makes you sound petty and unprofessional.

May. 28 2010 01:46 PM
J from Yorkville

I describe my brother as a pathological liar. He spins elabaorate lies about needing money, or will say outright that he knows something about a well known figure. It's really hard to pin him down. I have confronted him directly about lies about money and he always has another story. My spouse says he's not a pathologial liar. Wel then what kind of liar is he?

May. 28 2010 01:40 PM
A question

Have your guests seen the tv show "Lie to Me" and, if so, what do they think of it?

May. 28 2010 01:39 PM
Stephen Braunstein

Is there such thing as a noble lie, or in it's essence would the Noble Lie be a form of self deception?

May. 28 2010 01:39 PM
A listener

When someone cheats on a partner, there a hundreds of lies, big and small. So, why do people get away with it? Is it because we sometimes simply don't want to know the truth?

May. 28 2010 01:38 PM
Pat from Chicago

You comment about being able to detect a lie if is it complex or convuluted(sp) made this famous quote pop into my head:
Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive. - Sir Walter Scott (Marmion, 1808)

have a good weekend!

May. 28 2010 01:38 PM
Ana from Jersey City

How about the old fashion tale of "hiding or not telling" information is not lying?

May. 28 2010 01:36 PM
Ronald Gross from Great Neck, Long Island

LYING will be the subject of two free Socratic Conversations: on June 18th at the Great Neck Public Library on Long Island; and on June 24th at the Gottesman Library at Columbia University. Lopatians welcome! For more information:

May. 28 2010 12:21 PM
george washington from nyc

i heard this on radio lab awhile back Radio Lab: Into the Brain of a Liar and it was good.

May. 28 2010 02:38 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.