Lying and Social Dynamics

I particularly value my article on Lying. I find people are often confused about how to judge what is or isn’t a lie, and about how to avoid lying. So I wrote an article to explain it.

Lying is a routine part of social interaction. Many lies are motivated by trying to gain status (faking reality to claim something positive) or to avoid losing status (faking reality to hide something bad). Lying is frequently used for manipulating oneself or others. People commonly lie to themselves by rationalizing (making excuses) about a problem. They often try to blind themselves to problems to protect their image of what kind of person they are, their image of what kind of life they have, and their self-esteem. Richard Feynman called lying to yourself “fooling yourself” and said it’s one of the main things scientists must avoid.

One of the main reasons lying is dangerous is because lies are ideas that are disconnected from reality. Social dynamics in general is often disconnected from reality, which is one of the reasons lies are so common when people are focusing on social interaction. Social status is determined by what people think about someone, not by the underlying reality. It’s about opinions not facts. To a reasonable approximation, we live in two separate worlds with limited overlap: social reality and real, objective reality. Many of people’s problems come from the conflicts between those two worlds.

I’ve written a lot about how social dynamics work. Here are some of my favorite articles:

I also have a 565 page PDF archiving a long discussion analyzing the lies in only a few paragraphs of philosophy writing.