What are lies

lying

Common: lies out of politeness

In the Bible, the snake is the epitome of mendacity: in the Old Testament, it seduces Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge - with a trick. But in truth man is the master of deception.

A good liar is always a good actor. He has studied his lie down to the last detail, can tell fluently, and appears confident. It is difficult for the listener to distinguish between truth and falsehood. And that is exactly the goal of the liar: He deceives and cheats - but wants his counterpart to take what has been said at face value.

There is not malicious intent behind every lie. Often lied out of politeness: We admire a friend's dress, even though she looks pale in it so as not to offend her. The writer Mark Twain put it in a nutshell: "None of us could live with a notoriously honest person."

Many people use tricks to avoid a conflict or to gain an advantage. Shame or fear also motivate people to cheat. There are differences between the sexes as to what is lied about - this is what US researchers Bella DePaulo and Deborah Kashy discovered.

Men allegedly prefer to lie about their lives, their career prospects or their salaries. Women fool their fellow human beings by giving out exaggerated compliments or by being extremely friendly.

Scientists estimate that every adult tweaks an average of twice a day. Some reports and press articles even mention up to 200 lies a day. However, it is unclear where this number came from.

Children must first learn to lie consciously

Children have to live with lies early on. The parents, of all people, are to blame for this - they hide and cover up, for example when it comes to the illness of a relative.

But even the little ones learn to cheat early on. This is indicated by a famous experiment from the 1980s: An American research group led by Michael Lewis observed three-year-olds lying.

The little ones had illegally turned around to look at a toy, but then denied breaking the rules. Apparently they feared punishment - and wanted to avoid it with a white lie.

For the former Sigmund Freud student Viktor Tausk, lies played a key role in child development: He was convinced that children only learn that they have their own identity through lies.

Researchers Bella DePaulo and Audrey Jordan think that children from the age of three and a half have developed a feeling for the consciousness of others. From this point on, they should be able to lie consciously in order to gain advantages.

This realization is a shock for parents. They see it as a breach of trust when their children lie to them. There is consolation in the knowledge that childlike lies are easy to unmask.

An everyday anecdote that should sound familiar to all parents: the son or daughter denies having eaten cookies - but the crumbs at the corners of the mouth tell a different story.

Micro-expressions can betray liars

If there are no indications of a lie, the other person's face remains. The US psychologist Paul Ekman researched for decades whether and how a liar can be convicted on the basis of his facial expressions.

His realization: Those who lie, often smile in order to cover up their true feelings, such as discomfort or fear. So-called micro-expressions provide information about the real emotional life of the cheater.

These involuntary facial expressions can only be seen for a split second on the liar's face, but they show real emotions such as disgust, anger or fear. A hypocrite will try to hide these emotions with an artificial smile: the corners of the mouth roll up, but the eyes do not laugh with them.

Liars can also give themselves away by changing their behavior. If you suddenly speak quieter or louder on a certain topic, smile or sit down differently, you could be speaking the untruth.

Signs of stress also reveal the cheater: he speaks with delays, repeats himself, pauses for thought or blinks particularly often. The German psychologist Jack Nasher has written a book about the art of exposing lies. He knows: "If you look closely, even trained liars are usually not perfect actors."

James Mackenzie invented the lie detector (polygraph) in 1902 in order to be able to convict swindlers in a targeted manner. It records physical symptoms, measures respiratory rate, pulse, blood pressure and changes in skin resistance caused by sweating.

First of all, the respondent is asked harmless questions - this is how his or her normal values ​​are to be determined. If changes occur in critical questions, these are interpreted as an indication of a lie.

In practice, however, the device could not prevail: resourceful liars outsmart the detector by deliberately distorting their measured values. Apparently, this effect is already achieved when respondents bite their tongues or press their toes against the floor.