Friday, 11 May 2018

The art of lying by telling truth

The line between truth and lies is becoming ever murkier. There's even a word for a very different form of lying. Misleading by "telling the truth" is so pervasive in daily life that psychologists describe it as - paltering.
  • It is no secret that politicians often lie. They can do so simply by telling the truth.
  • A classic example is when your mum asks if you've finished your homework and you respond: "I've written an essay on Tennessee Williams for my English class." This may be true, but it doesn't actually answer the question about whether your homework was done. That essay could have been written long ago and you have misled your poor mother with a truthful statement. You might not have even started your homework yet. 
  • We lie all the time, despite the fact that it costs us considerably more mental effort to lie than to tell the truth. 
  • Many of the lies were fairly innocent, or even kind, such as: "I told her that she looked good when I thought that she looked like a blimp." 
  • Many people are not aware of how many lies they told, partly because most were so ordinary and so expected that we just don't notice them.
  • When individuals use lies to manipulate others or to purposely mislead that it is more worrying. And this happens more often than you might think.
  • Politicians dodge questions during debates they realised something else was going on. By stating another truthful fact, they could get out of answering a question. They could even imply something was truthful when it was not. Politicians do this all the time.
  • Paltering was an extremely common tactic of negotiation. Most business executives admitted to using this tactic. The persons doing the paltering believes it was more ethical than lying outright.
  • The individuals who had been deceived do not distinguish between lying and paltering. It probably leads to too much paltering as communicators think is somewhat ethical, whereas listeners see it as a lie.
  • It is also difficult to spot a misleading "fact" when we hear something that on the face of it, sounds true. For instance, the UK's Labour Party campaign video to lower the voting age said: "You're 16. Now you can get married, join the Army, work full-time." A reality check team discovered that these facts do not tell the whole truth. "You can only join the Army aged 16 or 17 with your parents' permission. At that age you also need your parents' permission to get married unless you do so in Scotland. 16 and 17-year-olds cannot work full-time in England, but can in the other three home nations with some restrictions."
  • Politicians want to achieve their narrow objectives, but they also want people to see them as ethical and honest. Even if we do spot misleading truths, social norms can prevent us from challenging whether or not they are deceptive. 
  • While paltering is common in politics, so too is it in everyday life. A real estate agent tells a potential buyer that an unpopular property has had "lots of enquiries" when asked how many actual bids there have been. A used car salesman who says a car started up extremely well without disclosing that it broke down the week before. Both statements are true but mask the reality of the unpopular property and the dodgy car.
  • Paltering is seen as a useful tool. It happens because we constantly have so many competing goals. We want to achieve our narrow objective [selling a house or car] but we also want people to see us as ethical and honest. These two goals are in tension and by paltering, people believe they are being more ethical than outright lying.
  • We now frequently expect lies from those in power, it remains challenging to spot them in real time, especially so if they lie by paltering. When we're lied to by people in power, it ruins our confidence in political institutions – it makes the population very cynical about [their] real motivations.
  • Lying can and does clearly serve a devious social purpose. It can help someone paint a better picture than the truth, or help a politician dodge an uncomfortable question. It's unethical and it makes our democracy worse. But it's how human cognition works.
  • The prevalence of lies might stem from the way we are brought up. Lies play a role in our social interactions from a very young age. We tell young children to be grateful for an unwanted present. We give our kids very mixed messages. What they ultimately learn is that even though honesty is the best policy, it's also at times fine and preferable to lie about things.
  • So next time you hear a fact that sounds odd, or someone to be deflecting a question, be aware that what you think is the truth may very well be deceptive.

No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar ... Abraham Lincoln

Today not only politicians but most citizens resort to paltering for no tangible gains. People think some thing, talk some other thing and do altogether different thing. This has resulted in lower trust levels in the society making life difficult for everyone. Society has become too hypocritical. Life has become too tough, risks have increased and people have to be on guard all the times. Lots of stress and no gains at all. God has gifted humans to think, talk and communicate effectively and truthfulness would have made life simpler and easier but hypocrisy and lying at all times made life harder and miserable for human beings. 

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