The why of the lie

Everybody lies. It is something that we do from being a small child right the way through our lives. We adapt our behaviours and speech to get something we want. As we move towards adulthood we become more and more adept at deception, and as a result, more frequent as liars.
We are even taught to lie and lied to by our parents. “When Auntie Violet gives you your birthday present look happy and say you like it very much”; “If you don’t stop misbehaving the policeman will come and take you away.”; “Father Christmas is watching you and if you are bad you will not get any presents for Christmas.”

Some studies have indicated that the average person can lie around eight times in a twenty minute conversation, but how do we define a lie?

Ekman defines as lie as “A deliberate attempt to mislead without prior consent.” Breaking this down gives some clarity. A deliberate attempt – There has to be intent to deceive. If we repeat a lie told to us by someone else does it still remain a lie? Incorrect information passed on is not a lie, unless the person passing that information on is aware that it is inaccurate. If you believe the information you are passing on, there is no intent to deceive.
Actor and magicians lie to us all the time. The actor pretends to be someone he or she is not. This is surely a lie. They know they are not the person they are portraying, and they are doing their best to make us believe they are. This is where consent comes in. The actor calls it “suspension of disbelief.” The very act of going to a play, watching a movie, or seeing a stage magician is implied consent to be deceived. The audience all know that Anthony Hopkins is not Hannibal Lecter but we accept him in that role.

What about little white lies.
“How are you today?”
“I’m fine, thanks”

We tell this type of lie all the time and there is always something of consent to be deceived about them. This question is a social lubricant allowing the smooth transition of a social interaction. If we translate that question and answer into what it really means:
“I am asking you how you are, but I don’t actually want to know, I am just engaging conversation or being polite to reinforce our interactions or move this conversation forward to the real subject.”
“I know you are being social and have no interest in my well being at the moment, so I will lie to you so we can move this conversation forward or accept that you are somebody that I will engage with socially at a later time.”

Two people just lied to each other and probably didn’t even consider that they were lies. But what would happen if you change the context. What if the question is being asked by a Psychiatrist and the respondent is a patient on suicide watch? There would be no implied consent for deception, indeed a failure to pick up on a lie in this case could detrimental to the well being of the patient.

Next time you are asked a question examine your response. Have you just told a lie, and what was the motive for doing so? Social lubrication, personal gain, avoiding punishment or to protect someone else?

In my area of expertise, it is not when someone lies, it is why?

With a curl of the lip, he is not Elvis

“Contempt is the weapon of the weak and a defence against one’s own despised and unwanted feelings.” – Alice Miller.

We are all capable of it.  We see a quality in someone who we don’t like or find immoral or substandard and we start the climb to the moral high ground.

Human beings are naturally a social creature and as such we have a certain established social hierarchy.  This has been much convoluted over the years, mainly through the development of our higher brain processes, established deferential protocols in business and so forth.  you have to love that neo-cortex.  However, we are still at the mercy of our limbic brain when it comes to some of our daily interactions.  Contempt is one of the most unusual of the seven base emotions for two reasons.  Firstly, it is the only unilateral expression in that it only happens on one side of the face.  Secondly, it requires a moral comparative to take place.  The other six base emotions do not have to have a second individual involved.  You can be happy, angry or sad, even disgusted without another person being involved.  Contempt requires direct interaction with another individual.  It comes by the assessment of that individual and their actions in direct comparison to how we would behave in the same situation, or as a direct result of a previous interaction.  Contempt is filled with self-identity.  It requires an element of higher brain function but is still shown at the Micro-facial expression level showing that it can still appear on the face before the cognitive mind has a chance to get in the way.

As mentioned contempt is the only unilateral universal expression.  There doesn’t seem to be any definitive study on which side of the face it tends to appear on, but I have noticed (not scientifically measured) that right-handed people tend to show contempt on the left side of the face and vice-versa.  Perhaps others would like to confirm or deny this observation.

Contempt is shown by a tightening of the cheek muscle, pulling the lips up and outwards, almost a half-smile, though there is no involvement with the muscles around the eye.  Sometimes, though not always, the head will tip backwards slightly giving the appearance of  “looking down the nose”.

Let me point out at this time, that Elvis was not showing contempt in his lip curl, though that lip is almost the further extension of the contempt expression into the sneer.  A demonstration that is almost a contempt/disgust blend.  Sometimes the contempt comes with dismissive emblems, the flick of the hand, the closed shoulder and a prolonged blink when using dismissive language.

Contempt is not a pleasant emotion to be on the receiving end of.  It is degrading, it makes you feel worthless.  In a working relationship if a staff member demonstrates contempt for a superior, that working relationship is likely to be unrecoverable.  This can be said also for a customer to a supplier.

As the quote from Alice at the head of this post says; you often see contempt being raised when someone sees something they don’t like about themselves in another person.

Contempt can easily lead to disgust and anger, and that itself leads to a whole heap of problems of its own.