How to wean people from lying


We are evolutionarily created to be honest. We have morality built into us. It’s crucial for such social animals as humans are. But this morality has no clear boundaries.

When a person commits a bad deed or lies, two factors need to be aligned:

1. The person wants to get something of value (even if it is a question of raising his/her status) with the help of this bad deed or lie;

2. From the person’s point of view, this act will not have serious negative consequences for his/her status in society. I mean, there are no serious risks of being strongly condemned by others or criminally punished.

I stress that it is from the point of view of the person making the decision. Do not forget that people tend to overestimate small events and underestimate the big ones.

In reality, therefore, it happens to be normal for people to slightly exaggerate the truth. It happens everywhere. In this case, there is almost no risk for the status, there is even a slight increase in it.

It is worth noting though that when a person begins to lie (or commit bad deeds) constantly, his/her brain simply stops reacting to it. The blocking is released. And then lies and bad deeds follow him/her all the days of his/her life.

Now let’s figure out the way people doing bad stuff emerge.

If you examine the stories like that, you find out that it’s a rare thing when people directly become drug dealers or swindlers. It’s a path consisting of stages. If shown what he/she ends up in, none of ordinary people with a healthy brain can imagine themselves being a drug dealer.

But if you distinguish the stages that constitute the path, you realize that each decision was made according to the above two-point scenario. Examining each of the stages, you no longer find it unbelievable to commit.

So we’ve got an idea of the mechanism of lies and bad deeds. Let’s get back to the topic of the article.


How do we wean people from lying? Dan Ariely, an acclaimed behavioral economist (who is actually an author of a rather fascinating non-fiction book on lies, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty) offered a wonderful option for the insurance company.

When a person fills in a form, it has to have a box on honesty inserted right at the top. By checking this box, the person psychologically gets into an “honest” thinking before the testing. It does not mean that no one will lie, but such a box will significantly increase the number of truthful answers.

There is no point in inserting this box at the bottom, because in that case few will change the answers they’ve given before.


But what if it is society you want to wean from lying? You’ve got to make it really unacceptable. You can ensure in many ways that society begins to blame the lie.

Obviously, when it comes to large groups of people, it is more difficult to achieve this result. But I think you remember Dunbar’s number, don’t you? My careful readers know that I suggest applying Dunbar’s number to organize groups among the fans.

In this case, it does not matter whether we are talking about 50, 100 or 150 people in the group. What matters is that it has to be a relatively small group, which will have a strict desire for the absence of lies as its foundation. Our hormones affect our strong desire to comply with the rules. And when people know each other well enough within a certain group, it’s pretty easy to get honesty.

Consider the two points affecting the dishonest act, which were described at the beginning of the article. Another thing I’m going to remind you is that according to suicidology, one of the main factors of committing suicide by a formally healthy person is rejection by society.

We do not like to be rejected. We want to be part of a group of people. Even if you think it’s better to be alone than inside any group, you probably just did not find your interest group, the group you will be respected in. There is even a term called “homophily”. It is the desire of people to associate themselves with similar to them, as well as to be in the society of these people.

It is a usual “us and them” division that takes place. It can also be described by the clustering character inherent in our universe both in physics and in sociology.

We are so keen to follow the group that we voluntarily agree to conform everywhere in much more stupid ways than the evolutionary reasonable for us striving for honesty, which, moreover, is regulated by oxytocin.

Think about the Solomon Asch conformity experiments. He demonstrated back in the middle of the twentieth century how much people were inclined to conformism. They were followed by a great variety of experiments on conformism.

“No soap radio” is one of the examples. It is a common name for the jokes that are illogical and not funny, in other words, nonsense. We will normally laugh though at such jokes if the others do. Those creating sitcoms with the laugh track are trying to exploit this phenomenon.

Perhaps, it is less effective with sitcoms, but in life, such conformity does manifest automatically. Our unconscious mind pulls this kind of behavior pattern out of its depths. Evolutionary psychology explains the conformity in a very simple way: if you behave like others, the probability of survival increases.

Using the mechanism of conformity, society can just develop the desire for truth, honesty or other action. You can use the mechanism I described as a basis for the development of a strategy for your company, sports club or just a group of friends. It would be much easier and more effective!

If you want us to consult you, to develop a specific detailed strategy for you and help you with its implementation, write to me at E-mail, and we will reply you within 24 hours.


Best regards,

Leon The Alien


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SEE ALSO: 3 ways to use the evolutionary power of a smile to grow your brand


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