Why Do People Lie? Motives For Distorting the Truth

What Are the Most Usual Reasons for Lying?

Why do people lie is an ancient question that never stopped being both prevalent and versatile regarding answers. Ambitions, fear, fun, habit or mental disorders are only some of many motives that induce human beings to distort the truth.

There are many reasons for lying. However, we can extract six basic triggers:

  • Mental illness
  • Ambitions
  • Fear
  • Habit
  • Fun
  • Profession

Mental Illness – Pathological Lying

Joker in the elevator

Maybe not the prevalent cause of manipulating the truth, mental illness of pathological lying also known as mythomania and pseudologia fantastica is certainly the most interesting one. Old as the humans themselves, this mental disorder still hasn’t revealed its causes. Unlike lying for achieving ambitions or avoiding situations we fear there is no particular motive when it comes to people suffering from mythomania.

Recognizing a Pathological Liar

Spy the Lie: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception

Pathological liars are persons who lie compulsively. Although at first glance it might seem they are easy to spot, it is quite the opposite. They are magnificent storytellers that approach people in the most charming manner. Their tales are often full of drama and represent the narrator in the context of a hero or a victim. Sometimes, such tales tend to extract sympathy from listeners targeting empathy and acceptance as final goals. However, if this was the universal case then we would be able to establish motives for lying which would mean that we have a different kind of pathology. Most of the lies told by mythomaniacs do not produce a single understandable benefit to them or others.

More Info About Mythomaniacs and Stories They Tell

The lies mythomaniacs tell sprawl somewhere between conscious lying and delusions. Some portion of people suffering from lying disorder believes in their invented stories. The main feature of mythomaniacs is the absence of any benefits from lies. This can be very harmful to the family and close friends as frustrations caused by such behavior can become unbearable. In addition to this, after recognizing them, pathological liars can still be deceitful. Being so colorful, dramatic and full of details their stories tend listeners to question could this actually be the truth? Hardest mythomaniacs to spot are those using what is on occasion called a bait tale. From time to time they are going to share a strong and truthful story that can be proven and use it as honesty credits for forgeries that are to come. Then, after numerous lies, another truthful occurrence will be shared so that the fate in mythomaniac’s honesty remains preserved.

Stronger Than Lie Detector

Lie Detector
Lie Detector

Lie detector measures blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity while a person answers on a series of asked questions. According to results surmises with the highest probabilities can be established on whether someone is lying or not. However, surmise is another word for an assumption and can’t be taken for certainty as even the lowest statistics are extracted from reality. Another important note is that these assumptions are built on scientific induction that ensued from millions of organic reactions provoked by consciously telling a lie. Both organic reactions and conscious are areas mythomaniacs avoid in the sense of being average. The more false statements a person tells the easier lying is going to become in the future. This means that their organic reactions are going to decrease and will be harder to spot. Another catch is, that these reactions are usually caused when lies are told on a conscious level. What happens when pathological liars believe in their stories? The answer is simple – nothing. The rest of the organism follows their mind pushing the lie detector out of a game. The only way to really know if something is true is to commit a firm check and create an argument-based conclusion.

Possible Cause of Pathological Lying

Although these can’t be held for facts here are some possible causes for the mental illness of pathological lying:

  • Issues affecting the central nervous system can predispose some individuals to become mythomaniacs.
  • Traumas.
  • Head injuries.
  • Abnormalities regarding the ratio of the hormone cortisol.

How to Recognize a Pathological Liar

Due to features previously explained it is very hard to identify a pathological liar. The statistic shows that an average person says two lies on a daily basis. This fact makes it even harder as it reminds us that it is in human nature to lie. However, based on differences in behavior and story content of speakers keeping our attention it is possible to extract evidence for considering someone to be a candidate for pathological lying.

Mythomaniac stories, as well as lies, will have these already mentioned features:

  • Heroic self-representation.
  • Victimized self-representation.
  • Elaborate, detailed, and dramatic.
  • Different versions of the same stories.
  • Detailed but vague answers on the subquestions during narration.

Opposite to these traits, normal person forgeries also known as white lies are not going to be so elaborate. They are usually going to be told to avoid hurting someone or covering some little failures, which, at the end of the day, won’t harm anyone. Pathological liars, in their compulsiveness, don’t have even the slightest deter which cannot be said for representatives of “normal liars party”.

Who Was the Greatest Liar in the History of the World?

No one can say this for sure, but it is very likely that the greatest liar of all times was Baron Munchausen. Although he was a fictional character of a German writer he was inspired by a real person. The character was based on a baron named Hieronymus Karl Friedrich, Freiherr von Münchhausen. Besides many other things, he claimed that, during a hunt, in the absence of ammo, he used cherry to load a gun and shoot a deer. After he hit him in the forehead the animal escaped. Years later, he claimed that he has seen that same deer with the cherry tree rising out of his head, above the horns. He also claimed to have jumped on cannonballs during battles so he could reach enemy lines faster.

How to spot when a person is lying?

Ambitions Force People to Lie

Painted representation of ambition

Ambition is a strong desire to achieve something. Along the way, it is not rare for an individual to encounter an obstacle that requires lies in order to be exceeded. Sometimes lie is a necessity while in some cases keeping up with the truth is possible but requires a lot more effort or can seriously jeopardize the achievement of a goal. It is in these cases that our psychological scale is put to use by having to decide what weights more: moral or personal gain.

Business Ambitions – Perfectionism and Obsession

The most usual type of ambition that pushes people into lying is the one related to a business career. This is the place where lies are both the most common and powerful as they can lead to severe consequences. Distortion of truth is present in all levels of work, but its peak is achieved when people’s ambitions turn into obsessions. This is often the case with individuals featured by perfectionism which, contrary to widespread beliefs, is more negative than a positive thing.

The reason for being so is that perfectionism often pushes people towards achieving perfection at all costs, which can, after multiple failures, become frustrating and lead to the emergence of hard mental illness. If unable to achieve their professional ambitions due to personal limitations or extern factors, perfectionists turn ambitions into obsessions which can, if not achieved, cause the depression and eventually even result in suicide. Since they hold for fatalities, in order to prevent failure, they will be willing to do almost anything to see their wishes turning into reality. Lying is no exception. Their lies will have some similarities with the ones spoken by mythomaniacs but will also possess traits of their own.

Lies created by business perfectionists with obsessions:

  • Lies will always be motivated by personal gain. Whenever a forgery is spoken or implemented in some other way, it is going to have a precise motivation and a goal.
  • Elaboration and details will be present as it is the case with pathological liars. However, the difference is that the answer to subquestions will not be vague but precise as lies are not created compulsively but with planning.
  • Lies can be used to cover grave consequences such as trickery or even murder. This implies that either there is a complete absence of fear of facing consequences or that urges to achieve ambitions are so blind that all breaks are broken.
  • Lies will be adjusted to listeners. Forgeries are going to be elaborate most of the time but in the cases of estimating that interlocutor is able to recognize what is ahead, obsessed perfectionists will be ready to change their performance and become brief and concise.

Usually, these kinds of manifestations of perfectionism and obsession are indicators of psychopathy. However, not every ambition is related to business, neither is every personal gain measured in profit and rise in the hierarchy.

Meaning of Personal Gain

When we speak of personal gain in the context of ambitions it doesn’t necessarily have to be connected with money as well as lying does not have to be a feature of a bad, evil or psychopathic person. The term should be understood in a more broad match manner. A simple definition as filling our own wishes would be more appropriate for our current discussion. The reason for mentioning such interpretation is overcoming prejudice that lies triggered by ambitions are only tied for business careers and bad individuals. After the previous chapter, it is most likely that you are having an image of a businessman in the suit in your head. He is sitting in the office and negotiating the deal ready to lie without blinking an eye. The psychopath who trampled the corpses to be where he is now. This mental image would be both right and precise. However, even as such, it would be just a little piece of way bigger picture. What if, as a child, the businessman was sexually molested by his alcoholic father who would, until suicide, after finishing with him, go and beat his mother which later died due to bone disease and insufficient funds for medical treatment? The businessman might have a kid with a granny’s genetic heritage that requires expensive treatments. These situations discard the validity of observation through the black and white prism. Now we have a human being with the emotional ambition of preserving the family and a lying ability as the only tool for achieving it. In this case, the term personal gain refers to saving the kid. And being a bad man means being a good father. There are multiple kinds of aspirations that differ in motives but are completely the same in ensuing consequences. Regardless of ambition type, the side of a scale that holds personal gain almost always receives the addition of fear.

Fear – Ambition and Lie Trinity

Letters forming word fear

The psychological bond between wish and fear is almost unbreakable. The difference is in the level of the two components circling around ambition. If the wish is strong, the strength that fear of permanent failure has at its disposal is going to be higher as well. Maybe the best example of this is lying in relationships.

Why People Lie in Relationships?

Fear is one of the most usual motives for partners to lie to each other. Fear can be the only as well as only one of the triggers that push people into manipulation and distortion of the truth.

The most usual occurrences are:

  • Cheating
  • Ideal picture crucifix
  • Obsession of control
  • Partners jealousy

Cheating – Egoism or Psychopathy

Scene of adultery being exposed

Sometimes one partner just doesn’t truly love another. On other occasions, moments and urges push aside love and allow adultery to take place. In both cases, it is highly probable that lies will ensue. There is no deeper meaning or philosophy for avoiding to admit what happened. Whether its true love or not, cheater simply fears of losing partner for good and chooses to lie in order to preserve the relationship. However, if there is no feeling of guilt and the pattern of behavior is repetitive, egoism and potential psychopathy are potential explanations. The psychopathy is the strong term relating, between many other things, to lack of emotions which can be more than a valid explanation of simultaneous love statements and adultery sessions. Not having any kind of empathy for a partner persuaded in your honesty and feelings is an indicator of potential mental disorder.

Ideal Picture Crucifix

Most of the time, this phenomenon occurs at a lady’s side but is present in the lives of men as well. One of the partners is in love with the idea of having a relationship rather than the person and is willing to do anything to preserve unity. This is usually followed by a Happy Couple Syndrom related to wish of positive social presentation of the relationship. The main goal of being together, for a woman/man, will be achieving the reputation of a happy couple. The primary focus of the partner suffering from the ideal picture crucifix is going to be how other people see them. Individuals with such disorders very likely didn’t have decent families and happy childhoods. Or were submitted to a series of underestimations that triggered the urge for proving estimates to be wrong. Their wish of preserving an ideal picture is going to be very strong. However, fears are going to be even stronger. It is exactly how this unusual name came to be. A person stands in place while simultaneously trying to compensate for the past and ensure the future with what he/she believes it should be. Both wish and fear aren’t allowing an individual to just let everything and go with the flow. Although they can last for a lifetime as sacrifices that can be made are great, the whole concept of such relationships is based on a lie. Covering problems from others, as well as from the partner in order to avoid fights that could end the relationship are a daily routine.

Obsession of Control

Some people want to have control over everything related to them. This is usually due to some kind of anxiety that emerges when they consider themselves to be in a state of helplessness. They can play to be completely normal, while they are actually following partners, wiring their phones, putting little cameras inside jewelry they give them for present and watch every move other person makes.

Partners Jealousy

Jelaous couple having a fight

Jealousy can be a serious problem that can lead to fatal outcomes. This feeling is usually followed by an impulsive and aggressive reaction that ended up with murders numerous times. However, most of the time its just fights that occasionally reach the level of physical violence. Men and women can equally be physical and psychological victims of jealousy which is why they often chose to resort to lies in order to avoid the problems.

Habit – Got Used to Lying

This term is often used in the context of pathological lying but exists isolated from any previously established explorational branch. It usually ensues as a professional deformation. After following certain behavioral patterns for dozens of years, even when the need for them is gone, certain habits will remain present in your behavior without you even noticing. If a person was a lawyer or an inspector, while leading normal conversations, he might restrain himself from speaking everything he knows. Without intention, the person can also attempt to indirectly manipulate conversation into the direction where the points of his/her interest will be discovered in a subtle manner. This psychological phenomenon was firstly spotted on a physical level. Victims of the relatively harmless disorder were 20th-century factory workers who spent days above the production tracks, clicking buttons and putting covers on the tops of the boxes. After retirement, during their dreams, they would raise their arms in empty air and repeat the movement sequence as they were working.

Fun – Its Party Time

Photo of surprise birthday party
Surprise Party

If words intentionally state differently than reality it is lying. However, this kind of lying has no negative sides since it is purely used to make people have a good time. Eventually, the truth is revealed. The best examples are surprise parties and hidden cameras.

Professions – Poker Starts, FBA and CIA

A pair of cards, double aces and chips
Poker Cards

Some professions are all about covering the truth. If you are an FBA agent or highly ranked CIA operative, it is in a description of your profession to lie. Formally, it is called keeping a secret. But there are many occasions when, in order to allow the surviving of a secret, lie is a necessity enforced by working contract and legal responsibilities. However, there are more unambiguous examples in which working means lying. Professional poker is one of those. Lying is literally the only thing poker player should do in order to trick his opponents and take their money.

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