Liar, Liar: New Study Reveals 3 Types of Lies



New research points to three different ways we deceive others.

Most people are aware of first two categories of lies; deception and withholding.  Deception, involves intentionally giving false information, and withholding, involves intentionally failing to disclose information.  But have you ever heard about “paltering?”

Other than being a great SAT word, paltering involves misleading by telling the truth.  Often, a palterer uses truth in an overly-specific and legalistic way. For instance, imagine a philandering husband who had a one-night stand with a woman on a business trip saying to his wife, “I’m not in a relationship with anyone but you, darling.”  In his mind, he is telling the truth, because he had a one-and-done fling.  He didn’t have, and doesn’t want, a relationship.  Just sex.  Or, think of the presidential candidate who says, “I won’t raise taxes” because it is technically congress’ job to pass new taxes.  He might want new taxes.  He might even advocate for them.  But he won’t raise them, himself, because that would be outside of his authority as president.  Paltering, as you might imagine, is a particularly insidious form of lying.

A new study looked at how palterers and those who experience paltering view this attempt at what Stephen Colbert referred to as “truthiness.”  According to PsychCentral…

In the experiments, the researchers discovered that people preferred paltering to lying by commission, but the results of being found out can be just as harsh.

While palterers tended to think of their actions as more ethical because they essentially told the truth, when the deception was revealed, they were graded as harshly by their counterparts as if they had lied by commission, according to the study’s findings.

“When individuals discover that a prospective negotiation partner has paltered to them in the past, they are less likely to trust that partner and, therefore, less likely to negotiate with that person again,” said Rogers. “Taken together, our studies identify paltering as a distinct and frequently employed form of deception.” READ MORE

If you’re tired of being hurt by the dishonest people in your life, check out God Help Me, These People Are Driving Me Nuts!  to discover how you can set appropriate boundaries and protect your heart.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! 9 Signs They’re Not Telling the Truth (AND 3 Things You Can Do About It).



New research suggests that, rather than going with our gut to know whether someone is being truthful or not, it is better to focus on a particular cue, like how hard someone has to think about what they’re saying or how much what they are saying squares with what we know to be true.

In general, studies find that the average person has a slightly better than even chance (54%) of detecting a lie from a stranger.  This goes up to 60% for people who are trained. Of course, the closer you are to someone, the more likely it is you also know the “tells” that indicate that they are not being honest.  Likewise, you can increase your skill by becoming aware of the general cues that often attend lying behavior.  For instance…


  • When questioned, deceptive people generally want to say as little as possible. Researchers initially thought they would tell an elaborate story, but the vast majority give only the bare-bones. Studies with college students, as well as prisoners, show this.
  • Although deceptive people do not say much, they tend to spontaneously give a justification for what little they are saying, without being prompted.
  • They tend to repeat questions before answering them, perhaps to give themselves time to concoct an answer.
  • They often monitor the listener’s reaction to what they are saying. They try to read you to see if you are buying their story.
  • They often initially slow down their speech because they have to create their story and monitor your reaction, and when they have it straight “will spew it out faster.” Truthful people are not bothered if they speak slowly, but deceptive people often think slowing their speech down may look suspicious. “Truthful people will not dramatically alter their speech rate within a single sentence.”
  • They tend to use sentence fragments more frequently than truthful people; often, they will start an answer, back up and not complete the sentence.
  • They are more likely to press their lips when asked a sensitive question and are more likely to play with their hair or engage in other “grooming” behaviors. Gesturing toward one’s self with the hands tends to be a sign of deception; gesturing outwardly is not.
  • Truthful people, if challenged about details, will often deny that they are lying and explain even more, while deceptive people generally will not provide more specifics.
  • When asked a difficult question, truthful people will often look away because the question requires concentration, while dishonest people will look away only briefly, if at all, unless it is a question that should require intense concentration.

There are actually three things that you can do to tease apart lies from the truth in those times that you aren’t sure whether someone is being completely honest…

  • Have people tell their story backwards, starting at the end and systematically working their way back. Instruct them to be as complete and detailed as they can. This technique increases the cognitive load to push them over the edge. A deceptive person, even a professional liar, is under a heavy cognitive load as he tries to stick to his story while monitoring your reaction.
  • Ask open-ended questions to get them to provide as many details and as much complete information as possible (“Can you tell me more about…?” “Tell me exactly…”). First ask general questions, and only then get more specific.
  • Don’t interrupt, let them talk and use silent pauses to encourage them to talk.

The most important thing to remember is that trust is a critical part of healthy relationships.  Whether or not you can “prove” wrongdoing on the other’s part, the feeling that you can’t trust, say, your spouse or your child, is a significant problem in and of itself that deserves attention.  If you can’t figure out how to rebuild the trust in your relationships on your own, don’t wait.   Seek professional help to heal the hurt before suspicion undermines the relationship altogether.


Lead Them Not Into Temptation: Preventing Lying in Little Ones

A new study shows that lying is quite common by 2 years old that by 3 most children are masters of deception.

Understandably, this might be a cause for serious concern among most Catholic parents.  We know the value of honesty and trust, and we want to raise our kids to be honest and trustworthy.   That said, it’s important that we remember that lying at this age isn’t the same thing as lying at age 6 or 7 and, if you handle “lying” at this stage appropriately, you might just be able to prevent your kid from becoming a professional con artist by the Second Grade.


There are three things you need to keep in mind about lying and little ones.  First, 2-3 year olds aren’t anywhere near the age of reason.  Developmental psychologists tell us that children this age don’t connect actions with consequences.  Secondly, and more importantly for this conversation, kids this age often don’t know the differences between fantasy and reality.  They tend to think that if they think or feel something to be true, it is true. For instance, using the example in a study, the child who looked at the toy knows he wasn’t supposed to and feels bad for disobeying.  He doesn’t want it to be true that he was disobedient, so, in his mind, it isn’t a lie if he says he didn’t look at it.  The third reason a lie isn’t really a lie at this age is that kids have very little control over their fight, flight, or freeze response–the reaction that keeps us from getting eaten by a sabre tooth tiger. The thing is, the underdeveloped brain of the toddler/young child really isn’t picky about the nature of the threat.  If it FEELS threatened then IS a serious threat–whether it is in reality or not.


All this is important to know so that parents can resist accidentally encouraging lying in young kids.  For instance, imagine your rule is “no snacks before dinner”  but your 3 year old sees a cookie and eats it when he thinks you’re not looking. Meanwhile, you happenned to come around the corner at the last moment and you caught your child cookie-handed and crumb-faced.  If you say, “Johnny!   Did you eat that cookie?”   What do you think will happen based on the information I shared above?

If you guessed that the child will stare you right in the face and, with the biggest eyes in the world, say, “(chew, chew)  No, mommy (chew, gulp)!”

Granted, that looks like a lie.   But here is what is going on in your little one’s head.

1.  “I shouldn’t eat the cookie, but I was hungry and it was right there, but I didn’t want to make mommy mad by eating it so therefore I didn’t really eat it.”

2.  “Maybe mommy didn’t see me eat it, and if she didn’t see it and I didn’t want to do it, maybe it didn’t really happen.”

I know it looks crazy to a grown-up, but this really is what’s going on in your little one’s head.  He is being deceptive, but he really is not intending to lie.

But obviously, this isn’t acceptable, so how do you handle this?  Simple.  Don’t lead them into temptation.  Don’t ask questions you already know the answers to.


Let’s replay the scene.  You child eats the cookie.  You see him do it.  This time you say, “Johnny, you know our rule is ‘no snacks before dinner.’   Because you chose to have your dessert first, I’m afraid there will be no sweets for the rest of the night.  Do you understand?”

Child:  Yes mommy.

Mom:  Okay, cookie-face. C’mere and let’s clean you up.

Short and sweet.  The rule is reinforced and the consequence backs it up.  The child has no idea how you knew, but he learns that, somehow, you know everything so there’s no point trying to get one past you.  Lying–even this relatively benevolent form–is largely extinguished before it gets started.

If you can be gentle, matter-of-fact, and let the consequences (instead of your anger and yelling) do the talking, you can do a lot to cooperate with the brain God gave your child and help your kid develop the virtue of honesty from the earliest age.  All you have to do is show your kids the same mercy we ask of our Heavenly Father in the Lord’s Prayer and lead them not into temptation.


For more great parenting tips for raising (almost) perfect kids, check out Parenting with Grace:  The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids.