Lies, All Lies

Clancy Martin in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

ScreenHunter_957 Jan. 23 23.52Practically speaking, I’ve always been interested in lying. But I remember when the subject first caught my intellectual attention: I was 11 or 12, in a Waldenbooks, and the shelves of the philosophy section—I’ve walked straight to that aisle since I was a kid, with my dad, who loved philosophy, though he was kicked out of college after only one semester—were lined with copies of Sissela Bok’s best-selling Lying. I was nervous even to pick it up, fearing, as many people do, that taking an interest in lies would expose that I was a liar.

This is one of the curious facts about lying. It’s treated a lot like the subject of masturbation was at around the same time. Among my friends, everyone suspected that all of us masturbated, but when one kid, my closest buddy—now a respected psychiatrist—tried to bring it up honestly, we laughed at him and nervously changed the subject.

This is how we handle embarrassing open secrets about popular “vices.” And we lie even more often (a lot more often) than we masturbate. In Dallas G. Denery’s excellent new history of Western thinking on deception, The Devil Wins, he cites a recent study that shows that “during every 10 minutes of conversation, we lie three times and even more frequently when we use email and text messaging.”

More here.