Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Lying and cheating

A former colleague used to say that our director was able to (i) tell different lies to different people and (ii) remember which lie he told to whom. Claiming to be less intelligent, he preferred telling the truth as it was easier to remember. I agree(d) but I doubt that is why I prefer telling the truth.

Lying and cheating is not a specific human trait because animals do too (eg, Britannica, Conversation, Mirror, Quora, WaPo). According to a 2016 Science Daily article, even plants cheat. Also see this 2009 ResearchGate study. The fact that animals and plants (lie and) cheat, should limit the number of explanations.

Examples show that lying and cheating is a mating and/or survival technique. A mating technique is ultimately an evolutionary survival technique for gaining an advantage (eg, competitors). Moreover, individual survival is more important than group survival; see my blogs on competition vs cooperation.

Has lying and cheating in humans evolved beyond an evolutionary survival technique?

Clearly, any human lying is about surviving a specific situation (eg, error, mistake, offense, wrongdoing).

There is an interesting debate: is lying part of our personality, our behaviour and/or our attitude?

“Researchers who study everyday transgressions believe that character isn’t the real driver; situational forces are. We might break the rules under some conditions and in some mind-sets, but not in others.”

Quote from 4 Powerful Psychological Reasons Even Honest People Lie and Cheat Sometimes

Notwithstanding the above quote, some people are compulsive or pathological liars (eg, Trump). This may suggest a personality issue. The Wiki definition, however, argues that this is “chronic behavior“. Note: bold marking by me. This makes sense as it’s (much) more likely that lying is about nurture rather than nature.

There’s another and final argument: if lying would be a personality issue than trust (eg, in a group or in society) would be impossible.

Clearly, lying & cheating are about nurture (eg, parenting) and about individual behaviour in specific situations.

Men lie for gaining advantage. Women appear to lie for very different reasons. Offering emotional support may, however, increase one’s likeability or popularity.

Hence, men and women both lie for creating an advantage, either direct (men) or indirect (women).

I think, feel and believe that lying taints our soul. I’m not alone in my view (eg, Joseph Conrad, Genesis, Ibn Mas’ood, JSTOR). This is, however, the first time that I acknowledge this to myself. Before, I said it’s easier remembering the truth.

I Lie and I Cheat (1987) by Won Ton Ton
artistslyricsvideoWiki-bandWiki-song

Every night I sleep well and I dream
I dream about everything I’m not
Ooh, I’m not a loser

Cause I lie and I cheat
That’s why I lay down at your feet, boy
I lie and I cheat
That’s why I lay down at your feet, boy

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.

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