Liar, Liar: Four Reasons We Don’t Tell the Truth

As human beings, we’re hard-wired to lie. In the Name of Science investigates the ways our brain deceives us into making false associations, protecting our egos, and even lying with our wallets.

1. Our brain can’t resist celebrity endorsements.
The Halo Effect is a powerful cognitive bias, a phenomenon that explains how people’s perceptions of a product are easily swayed by positive association with another product or person. In the case of celebrity endorsements, consumers project their feelings about a public figure onto what they’re selling. Whether it’s cereal, sneakers or luxury cars, if your favorite actor is the face of the product, you’re more likely to feel drawn to it. Marketers capitalize on the Halo Effect, exploiting your basic desire to fit in. And as hard as you try to fight these judgments, the Halo Effect operates subconsciously to dupe your brain into making these artificial associations.

2. The Halo Effect has an evil twin: the Devil Horns
Equally as powerful as the Halo Effect is its negative counterpart, the Devil Horns. If the Halo Effect links positive associations in your brain, the Horns Effect does the opposite, projecting negative feelings from one trait to other unrelated ones. The Horns Effect manifests itself in all sorts of ugly ways, including in interpersonal characteristics: if you notice an unfavorable trait in a person, you’ll often assume the person is deficient in other ways too. That coworker that’s always late? By the logic of the Horns Effect, it’s human nature to assume he or she is also lazy, negligent and has a messy desk.

3. Your white lies have selfish motives.
We see white lies as a necessary societal evil, told to protect people’s feelings and keep the gears of social interaction running smoothly. However, our egos are tied up in telling white lies more than we think. Because social dynamics dictate that we conform to a group, people tell white lies to protect their standing in a conversation, with the intention of keeping the other person from thinking ill of them. Choosing to skip the white lie and tell the truth signifies that a person has enough ego strength to not worry about how the other person is going to see them. But more often than not, most people would prefer to tell the white lie and maintain their social standing the easy way.

4. Studies show the more money you make, the less honest you are.
According to a controversial UC Berkeley study, your wallet size and propensity to lie may be related. The study found consistent results linking dishonesty and wealth, examining how test subjects from different levels of wealth behaved while playing games of chance, obeying traffic laws and endorsing unethical practices like cheating at work. The most amusing offense? Test subjects were offered a few pieces of candy from a bowl, then were advised that the candy was meant for children who were taking another test. Richer participants took twice as much candy from the children’s bowl as poor participants.

Tune in to In the Name of Science tonight at 9:30P.