Opinion and Analysis

When telling the truth or lying is a valuable social skill

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PHOTO | FILE Ms Kethi Kilonzo addresses a political rally in Wote, Makueni. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission tribunal on Monday revoked her candidature for the Makueni Senate seat following a dispute over her voter registration status.

PHOTO | FILE Ms Kethi Kilonzo addresses a political rally in Wote, Makueni. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission tribunal on Monday revoked her candidature for the Makueni Senate seat following a dispute over her voter registration status.   NATION MEDIA GROUP

By MARVIN SISSEY

Posted  Thursday, July 11   2013 at  16:39

In Summary

  • Psychologists have found an association between socially successful people and a skill at deception.

In a separate study, Feldman was able to show that in a typical 10-minute conversation between fresh acquaintances, most people tended to lie at least three times.

The motivation for lying? They are diverse. Profit — a mechanic will inflate the cost of a spare part for material gain. Or greed — a spouse will cheat on you with the hope that they can enjoy emotional duplicity at your expense. Avoidance of punishment — a child will deny breaking the glass for fear of being scolded by a parent. All these make sense.

But how do you explain the type of lying where the liar does not stand to gain in any way? It has been shown that two strangers who meet each other, say at a cocktail party, and are both aware that they may never meet again, are more likely to lie to each other than if they knew that their paths will cross again.

Somehow, you find the need to inflate achievements and improve your image in temporary feel-good moment. Sometimes, we lie even when it does not boost our image at all.

There are generally two types of lies. One is lies by commission where we deliberately say a statement that is not true. Second, is a lie by omission, where we withhold information that we know if we divulge, would materially alter the perception or action of the other party.

Could it be that we have a natural lying gene ingrained deep within us, somewhere? If you think about it, it’s probably in our genes because believe it or not, lies tend to maintain the harmony in our society.

Take a simple conversation and imagine strict adherence to the truth. “How are you?” A friend asks you. But you are well aware that one is least interested in whether you slept in a ditch or a bed last night. All that is expected is a simple “I am fine”. Even if it is an outright lie of omission. It’s seen as a lie of social convenience.

Psychologists have found an association between socially successful people and a skill at deception. This means that popular people (read politicians), for whatever reason, tend to be good liars. No exception. This makes lying a valuable social skill — even a survival tact.

Maybe lying may not be as disadvantageous as we may want to think and that integrity in the strict sense of the word is slightly overrated.

Reverting to the original question, did Kethi lie to us? Let me answer it with a rhetorical question — so what if she did, really?
Let him or her without aspersion cast the first stone. For if she did lie, she just proved she is merely human after all. That, my friends, is the painful truth.

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