We Can’t Handle the Truth | Lecture 2 | Guilty Party: History of Lying


– Sometimes, a lie is a good thing. A lie to impact others though can just as easily be cruel. (orchestra music) The History of Lying. I will confess, at first,
I thought it was a pain to teach Professor Moynihan’s class on top of doing his clerical work. But I’m enjoying having my own course. You’re a delight. Your alibis get the Liar’s
Club a run for their money. I mean, honestly, there are maybe two believable alibis.
(orchestra music) And a perfect segue into our next lecture. The definition of the
storied life of the lie. (light piano music) What is a lie? The generally accepted definition is that it is an
intentionally told untruth. To lie, you must aim
to make someone believe something untrue, which you,
yourself, believe to be false. In plain language, you
have to know you’re lying, and you have to want to trick someone. (light piano music) But why do that? Why do we lie in the first place? If we needed the truth to keep
civilization from crumbling down into the ocean, isn’t
lying self-defeating? Back in the 90’s, Bella DePaulo did a
study in which 147 people self reported lying one
or two times every day. Most every day lies are harmless, little white lies told to
spare somebody else’s feelings. If you would’ve told this
woman that her hat was hideous, that would unkind, though true. By lying, you have protected yourself from an awkward social interaction. You’ve also chosen not to embarrass her, protecting her sense of self. By the by, even the most honest people know there’s such a
thing as too much truth. Preferring not to use white
lies is known academically as truth dumping.
(light piano music) A truth dumper says
everything and anything that pops into their heads, then protests, “I’m just being honest! “It’s just my opinion,” I’m
sure you’ve all seen them in the comment sections. So sometimes, a lie is a good thing. (light piano music) A lie to impact others, though, can just as easily be cruel. We might not all be Regina
George with a keen instinct for malice, but I’m sure
some of us have lied to take someone else down a peg. And what about making yourself look good in front of others? Self promotion can have
a range of motivations. Lying for financial gain. Lying for personal
advantage, other than money. Lie to make ourselves look good, and most endearingly, lying to make people laugh. Who hasn’t made themselves
look better on a day by telling a not entirely true anecdote? Hm, or said they’re capable
with Excel spreadsheets in an interview when they’ve
never even touched the program? And what about lies where you
say something impulsively? Thoughtlessly without clear intent. What about the people
who lie automatically? The people who lie
compulsively, consistently, with nothing to gain from
it are lying pathologically, and I think we all know
at least one person who is a pathological liar. So we know why we lie individually. Why do we lie as a species? Well, here’s a fun fact. Little kids will start to lie
at around the age of three. They’re not good at it, but they improve throughout childhood. (light piano music) I actually got interested in lying because I volunteered
at an elementary school. (Simon laughs) Look, I know I’m not exactly Mr. Rogers, but I enjoy my work.
(light piano music) And I was surprised and fascinated by the extravagant lies kids told. I found out that lying
is actually a huge part of childhood development. I mean, kids become more empathetic when they try to guess how
many people are gonna respond to their lies. Also, they learn organization and control, and this is called Theory of Mind. In fact, kids who are better liars, they were better students. So, why is lying so important
to brain development? Some scientists believe that,
like beautiful feathers, deception is a product of evolution. If you’re good at lying, you can get what you
want without resorting to physical violence. Liars survive longer and
pass down the lying gene. It’s also true that people
don’t risk big lies. Of the reasons people lie, there are very few that
rock the social boat. People learn from the communities about the society’s ethical boundaries, and they don’t tend to push them. They keep themselves to
socially acceptable sins. For instance, I heard from a very reliable source that there was a birthday at a sorority. People took a bottle or two
of beer back to their dorms, but everybody was doing it, no big deal. However, when someone made off with an unopened bottle of vodka, it was outrage. There are levels, people. As you can see, everyone
has a criminal instinct. It’s not so much that lying is acceptable, as much as it is inevitable.
(light piano music) Lying is such an ingrained
part of human society, that, I mean, we should
change the name of the course from The History of Lying
to just History (laughs). Yes. There are, of course, the big lies. The memorable ones. The Trojan Horses, the
Greeks brought a gift to their enemies, the
Trojans, and hid inside them, just to leap out at
night and slaughter them. Joseph Stalin, rewrote history to suit his political interest. I mean, talk about the
history of lying, I mean. The history in the Soviet Union was just the history of lies. I mean, he even removed
people he no longer considered allies from official photos. I mean, and that’s not even
taking into consideration the con artist who shaped history. I mean (laughs). The largest and most famous Ponzi scheme was carried up by Bernie Madoff,
you might’ve heard of him. His whole firm was a lie, and in 2009, he pled guilty
to 11 federal felonies and admitted to defrauding about 50 billion dollars from investors. (light piano music) I mean, that’s why everybody’s so excited about Cuff technology. You never know what people
may actually be thinking. Speaking of secrets,
you’ll love what we have in store for the seminar group. I wonder, how many of them will decide that it’s acceptable to
lie by cheating on a test? That’s right, you know
something they don’t. There’s gonna be a pop
quiz for our Liars’ Club. What will they do when
they’re backed into a corner? Meanwhile, I’ll be getting
ready for Cuff’s arrival. I feel like a big brother. Already getting upstaged by a baby. Alright, class, head to
the Google Classroom. I know we’ve been discussing lies, but I actually wanna know a truth. One truth that you’ve
never told another soul, and just as before, I can guarantee that you’ll get something
more rewarding than an A for your hard work, and don’t lie. I can always tell.
(orchestra music)

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