Beating a lie detector, the movies people lie about seeing, the most common lies we tell daily and more.
I’d tell you why I had lying on the brain, but I’d prefer to lie about it to make it more interesting. (The truth is I happened upon the article cited in the first point on the list. The fanciful version is that I’m an international spy who goes by the codename Mister F.)
Here are 11 true facts about lying, compiled from various studies, surveys and other reliable sources. Some of which I even linked to in a burst of ferocious thoroughness.
1 | Americans tell an average of 11 lies a week
Some days I feel like the number 11 just keeps popping up everywhere in my life. I feel like Jim Carrey in that movie where he kept seeing the number 23 and everywhere he looked there were 23s and more 23s. He became obsessed with the number 23. I believe it was called The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down. (Source)
2 | There are three lies people are willing to accept in online dating
As a general rule (and as is discussed in the future Caldecott Medal-winning book the 11 Points Guide to Hooking Up), lying in online dating is a pretty solid foundation for a lot of first dates (and no second dates) with a lot of very disappointed people. But a study last year found people actually do expect a few small-ish lies as they go through online dating profiles; there are three they’re basically fine.
(1) Small exaggerations, like lying about an inch in height or a few pounds. Things where the average person couldn’t eyeball the difference. (2) Things you can hide, like calling yourself a non-smoker when you’re a casual smoker. And if things got serious, you could quit smoking without the other person ever knowing. (3) Idealized things that might come true, like a new hobby. By the time you go on a date with someone, it could happen. (Source)
3 | The most famous moment of honesty in history is a lie
In the U.S., very few presidents get deified to little kids like George Washington. And every kid learns a story about how, as a boy, George Washington chopped down his father’s cherry tree. When his father confronted him, he said “I cannot tell a lie. I cut down the tree.” And then he and his father ordered some of their 300-plus slaves to plant a new one. (I may’ve taken some editorial license with that last line.)
Anyway, that parable about not lying… is a lie. It was made up by a writer/pastor/traveling book salesman named Mason Weems.
4 | People tell more lies in January than any other month
The average person tells 217 lies in January (about seven per day). Usually about what they did on vacation, what they got and gave for Christmas, just how much they gorged themselves on holiday food, and, I’m guessing, how happy they are to see all their coworkers again. (Source)
5 | The top lies about food include portion size and eating cookies
A British study came up with the top 20 food and drink lies people tell. (Well, they said they’re the top lies women tell, but I think men lie about food too.) You have to do a little translating from British English to American English — the list discusses five-a-day, biscuits as cookies, fizzy drinks and daily tea — but I think it generally applies. The most common lie is “It was only a small portion.” Number two is “I’ll have a big lunch so I won’t eat much later.” (Source)
6 | People are more likely to lie when they’re writing than when they’re talking to you, face-to-face
When you see someone, you can tell they’re lying. Because their eyes get very narrow and their eyes start darting side-to-side. Or something. A study found that people tell about three more lies in an instant message conversation than they do face-to-face and about five more lies over email. (Source)
7 | There are four tricks to catching online dating liars about two-thirds of the time
A team from Cornell and Wisconsin figured out four things to look for that are signs of a liar.
(1) They don’t write “I” or “me” very much, to distance themselves from the lies. (2) They use negation, like “not sad” instead of happy. (3) They write shorter self-descriptions with few specific details. (4) If they have a photo up, they don’t also describe their appearance.
Looking out for those four things you can spot liars online two-thirds of the time. Or, conversely, you can go edit your fake Art Vandalay Match.com profile and add a bunch of first-person pronouns and comments about your appearance. (Source)
8 | One in 12 people lie on their resume and a decent number get caught
A survey from a few months ago found eight percent of Americans (or about one in 12) have lied on their resumes. But of that group, 27 percent were caught and fired, three percent were caught in the interview process and not hired… and only six percent were caught and kept their job. (Ironic source)
9 | Almost one-third of people lie about having seen The Godfather
I’ve definitely lied about the movies I’ve seen. Or, at least, movies I’ve seen without falling asleep. (I’m looking at you, Darjeeling Limited.)
A survey found the most popular movie to lie about watching is The Godfather — 30 percent of people claim to have seen it but haven’t. The rest of the cowardly top 10 list, in order: Casablanca, Taxi Driver, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Reservoir Dogs, Spinal Tap, Apocalypse Now, Goodfellas, Blade Runner and The Great Escape.
Not making the list? Liar Liar, The Invention of Lying, True Lies, sex, lies and videotape, What Lies Beneath, Jakob the Liar or Big Fat Liar. A few of which you lie about HAVING seen. “No, I never watch Frankie Muniz movies, do you?” (Source)
10 | We don’t think people with beards are liars
A study found that people, for whatever reason, think guys (or, I suppose, sideshow women) with beards are more trustworthy than clean-shaven men. And people prefer bearded men in advertisements for everything except… underwear. Then we want our men clean-shaven. That’s the transitive property gone wild. (Source)
11 | The best way to beat a lie detector is by scaring yourself
If you ever have to take a polygraph test — on Maury or otherwise — don’t do the thing where you put a tack in your shoe. Various studies have found the best way for someone who’s not Jennifer Garner on Alias to beat a lie detector is to think scary thoughts the entire time. Sure, you might make the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man appear, but at least you’ll beat the test.