born liars

From my company blog at The Inimij Group.

My son was five years-old when I first detected a lie from him, or better, when I first admitted he was capable of lying. It was a Saturday morning and he was zipping through the house without his recently prescribed glasses.

“Hey Buddy, where are your glasses?”

And he stopped dead in his tracks and locked his eyes on mine, unblinking.

“I don’t know.”

I was floored. How did he know how to do that? With him still locked on me I asked a follow up,

“Well, where did you have them last?”

And his eyes moved up to his right. He was visually accessing, but he was accessing the side of his brain that is creative, instead of the side more prone to memory.

“At Jake’s.” Eyes back on me, boring into the back of my head. Lie number two. I was incredulous at that point. Not my kid.

A few years later his kid sister came along. She was at the brink of toddling when I noticed her first deception. She was down for a nap and was obviously awake by the sound of her crying. I made my way down the hall to her room. I’m guessing she must have heard my footsteps because she stopped crying. So, I stopped my walk and made a more stealthy approach to her door.

I peeked in between the jamb. There she stood in her crib, listening intently. Hearing nothing, she belted out another completely convincing cry of catastrophe. Her little body still standing, holding onto the crib rail, her mouth in full scream-engagement, her eyes dancing across her room.

Silence. A wry little smile on her perfect little lips. Well, I’ll be darned.

A Northeastern University study on gossip revealed that the human brain is wired in a way that exploits gossip as a defense mechanism; gossip, that social faux pas our good mothers taught us to avoid. If you don’t have anything good to say…

The study finds that gossip is an innate defense mechanism.

As is that other social faux pas, lying.

Remove the moral turpitude from lying and one is left with its pragmatic applications, instinctive methods of deception to perpetuate survival. We’ve been lying as long as we’ve been communicating.

But not my kid, right? Wrong. Realizing this somehow assuaged the sting of being lied to by my son. It wasn’t an indication of my parenting, rather it was his innate survival skills at work.

Ditto his sister. She wanted attention, and to this day more than a decade later, she knows how to get it.

His mother found his glasses, broken. Somewhere in the reasoning of his remarkable little mind he concluded he’d risk the punishment of lying over the punishment of having broken his new glasses.  Perhaps he thought he’d get away with it. Self-preservation. In fact, in modern human history we might coin that as the impetus to lying; saving face.

Go back a bit further and find tribes decoying big game in hunting, indigenous survivors falsifying warning signs of serpents in petroglyphic carvings to keep others away, an ancient massive terracotta army.

She catches me peeking through the door jamb and giggles. I think it’s adorable, giving no thought to how I had been manipulated.

Regardless the reason, the lie is justified in the most innocuous contexts and severe circumstances.

The body responds to lying. It’s a physiological effect from a psychological impetus, a neurological transmission that something’s amiss, usually because the liar knows the lie, that inconsistency of character, and has taken the risk to see if the lie works.

It’s in that inconsistency where the body responds, the detection of which is very complicated in the density of human expression.

That’s what this blog is all about.

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