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"They make it easier for people to get along," says De Paulo, noting that in the diary study one in every four of the participants' lies were told solely for the benefit of another person.
In fact, "fake positive" lies—those in which people pretend to like someone or something more than they actually do ("Your muffins are the best ever")—are about 10 to 20 times more common than "false negative" lies in which people pretend to like someone or something less ("That two-faced rat will never get my vote").
(Incidentally, when researchers refer to lying, they don't include the mindless pleasantries or polite equivocations we offer each other in passing, such as "I'm fine, thanks" or "No trouble at all." An "official" lie actually misleads, deliberately conveying a false impression.
So complimenting a friend's awful haircut or telling a creditor that the check is in the mail both qualify.) Saxe points out that most of us receive conflicting messages about lying.
Show up late for an early morning meeting at work and it's best not to admit that you overslept.
Freud wrote next to nothing about deception; even the 1500-page , published in 1984, mentions lies only in a brief entry on detecting them.
But as psychologists delve deeper into the details of deception, they're finding that lying is a surprisingly common and complex phenomenon. D., a psychologist at the University of Virginia, confirms Nietzche's assertion that the lie is a condition of life.
And De Paulo finds that dating couples lie to each other in about a third of their interactions—perhaps even more often than they deceive other people.
Fortunately, marriage seems to offer some protection against deception: Spouses lie to each other in "only" about 10 percent of their major conversations. That 10 percent just refers to the typically minor lies of everyday life.
Still, De Paulo warns that liars "don't always fit the stereotype of caring only about themselves.