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Why do people lie?

If you ask me, I would say because of one of two reasons:

  1. Because people want to manipulate others.
  2. Because people want to manipulate themselves.

The first one we are all to familiar with. People lie -for example- to get money.

The second one is a bit unfamiliar, but most of us have heard the movie phrase: “You want the truth? … you cannot handle the truth!”

While in the movie that was said to somebody else, it also applies to ourselves.

Humans are not good at handling the truth, i.e. reality.

Simply said: Evolution does not care about truth, evolution only cares about survival.

Our brains have not evolved to be truth seekers, but to help our genes survive.

If our brains have to trick us in order to survive -and if that trick was successful- then this is fine with evolution.

The term “lie” in this context is a bit wider than the conscious lie. The lies we tell ourself are often subconscious. And though we might experience a slight uneasiness when we “explain” this lie to others, we also suppress any thoughts or feelings that would allow us to question it.

Lately (early 2017) the term “cognitive dissonance” has gained some popularity.

Cognitive dissonance is what happen when a “lie” that we have been telling to ourselves faces an insurmountable obstacle in reality. I.e. when reality clashes with our model of that reality.

Lies that we tell ourselves have helped us in the past to stay alive (directly or indirectly). When such a lie is uncovered, we seem to perceive that as a threat to our survival. The reaction can be violent (and include violence). For an outsider it can seem as if we totally “lost it”.

It is my opinion that most violence in the world in not due to the first kind of lies.

Most violence finds its root in lying to ourselves and the cognitive dissonance that follows when the inevitable clash with reality occurs. (Note: The inevitable clash can take generations to develop)

So the next time you find yourself trying to convince somebody else, ask yourself: Am I lying?

Am I?

Originally posted at: 2017-03-06
Last modified on: 2017-03-06