The Truth About Lying

Meredith Norman/The Omniscient
Meredith Norman/The Omniscient

“I lie to people who think that we’re a lot closer than we are,” an anonymous junior said. “If we were making a Venn diagram, [I would] have a small sliver for people who think that they’re my friends, who I’ll just say to, ‘Oh, sorry, I don’t text that much.’ That’s a lie. I text everyone, just not you.”

Lying has been confirmed as a condition of life according to a study conduct- ed by Dr. Bella DePaulo, a psychologist at the University of Virginia. DePaulo found that most people lie about once or twice a day—almost as often as they snack from the refrigerator or brush their teeth.

“It’s okay to lie when [the truth] will hurt someone’s feelings; you lie to protect those feelings,” said junior Hayden Smith, which is not his real name. “If someone’s like, ‘Hey, do you like me?’ I would say ‘Yeah, sure, why not?’ Like I hate you, but I’m not going to tell you that. I tell a lot of little white lies.”

Multiple studies seem to confirm that lying is more common than some might think. In another study conduct- ed by DePaulo, she found that both men and women will lie about 30 percent of the time to people with whom they interact with one-on-one over the course of a week.

“I’m not totally honest, and some people would count that as lying, but I think of it as defense,” an anonymous senior said. “I don’t like people knowing a lot about me because I’m a very closed person.”

Additionally, certain types of relationships can breed more lies than others, such as lies between spouses, lies between work colleagues or, more often than not, lies between teenagers and their parents. In the same study conducted by DePaulo, she found that college students lie to their mothers in one out of two conversations.

“Parents who are strict raise the best liars,” Smith said. “For me, it’s way easier to lie to my mom than it is to lie to a lot of people because I’ll do it subconsciously. It’s a thing that I do without even thinking about it. Even when there’s not a need for me to lie, I can just do it so seamlessly. My parents have made me a compulsive liar.”

Some students find that they lie to their teachers multiple times a day. In a recent poll conducted by The Omniscient, 20 percent of students admitted to lying to their teachers more often than they lie to their friends or parents.

“I lie to my teachers all the time,” an anonymous junior said. “I’ll lie and make up an excuse about why I didn’t do my homework, even if it’s wrong to lie. School has taught us that we are our number one priority, that it’s better to lie than to get in trouble. I feel like saying to my teachers, ‘That’s your fault.”

The differentiation between “little white lies” and “real lies” varies from person to person, as does the guilt associated with telling a lie.

“When lies start to take on a life of their own and start to have bad effects that you didn’t intend to happen, that’s when it becomes a real lie,” Smith said. “No, I don’t feel guilty [about lying]. I never feel guilty because I don’t really care.”

During one study, DePaulo had 147 people between the ages of 18 and 71 keep a diary of all the lies they told in one week. Those who took part in the study said they would tell about 75 percent of their lies again if given the chance.

“I think lies really depend on the individual, and what their morals are and what their beliefs are,” said Lydia Kiefer, a school-counseling intern at Cary High School. “If they have really high morals, the repercussions of lying could seem more severe. The repercussion of lying is more lying. Once you start, to keep up whatever this story is, you’re just going to keep lying.”

-By Meredith Norman