Psychology professor Robert Feldman, one of the world's leading authorities on deception, offers insights into how and why we lie, and how our culture has become increasingly tolerant of deception. In his new book, The Liar in Your Life: The Way to Truthful Relationships, he examines marital infidelity, little white lies, resumé lies, self-deception, and how children learn to lie. Here is an excerpt of Feldman's interview with Leonard Lopate.
Q: You write that when we meet someone for the first time we lie about three times in ten minutes?
A: Yes. On the average. Most of them are not terrible lies. They are things we say to smooth social situation, [such as] I agree with you... You're right ...I like that movie too.
Q: Is context important? Do we lie about different things depending on what other people want to hear?
A: Definitely, people who are socially skilled know what other people want to hear. My sense is that these lies are just as bad as bigger lies because every lie does create an environment of distrust.
...We teach our kids to lie in certain circumstances. Grandma is coming over. She's going to bring you a gift. You need to tell her that you like it. The message that we're giving our kids is that under some circumstances it is appropriate to lie.
Q: I would assume that the most successful people are the ones who lie most effectively.
A: People who are most popular and most socially skilled are the best at lying. That's because most of the time we don't want to hear the truth. We're very often welcome these lies.
Listen to the whole interview: