Telling "Little White Lies"

A degree of lying - you know, white lies - seems to be inherent in all languages and all forms of communication. Matthew Lesko

For all that we value honesty, people still lie for a variety of different reasons. And much more frequently than you might think.  

According to one 1996 study using diary-based research, participants admitted to lying on an average of once or twice a day.   That same study showed that lying can usually be classified as either self-centred (lying for one's personal benefit) or other-centred (lying for someone else's benefit).  This kind of other-centred lying, also known as prosocial lying, typically occurs as a way of avoiding unpleasant situations or to spare the feelings of whoever is hearing the lie.   These kind of "little white lies" are often regarded as being relatively innocuous and a necessary part of social interactions.   

But is this kind of prosocial lying really harmless?  And what motivates us to lie to others?  A new research study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology - General explores these questions as well as looking at the role that compassion can play in prosocial lying.   A team of researchers led by Matthew Lupoli of the University of California-San Diego's Rady School of Management conducted a series of studies using a prosocial lying task designed to induce deception under laboratory conditions.

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.


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