How do pathological liars live with themselves

For real? Appearance, existence, lie

Truth has a hard time in our post-factual present. In the palaces of power, the lie is polished and sanded until it is true, while the truth is scratched until it appears like a lie. Obfuscation is the signature of our time. The normative power of the factual is replaced by the striking power of fiction. All over the world demagogues light smoke candles, chase their people into the labyrinth, deceive it, confuse it, until their citizens lose their bearings, no longer trust their own perception or find themselves in search of certainties in such a way that they no longer resist lies. The earth is flat? So what!

Some truths about the lie

No one is born a liar. He has to learn the ability to deceive with great effort. By the age of three or four, their brains are developed enough to empathize with other people's thoughts - a necessary prerequisite for starting lying. It still seems awkward and hardly capable of actually outsmarting the shrewd mum and the dad. The child blushes, blinks, scratches its arm and looks embarrassed at the floor. But the more often it lies, the better it has its emotions under control. At the age of six, it not only dupes its friends, siblings and grandparents, but often its parents as well.

All people lie. Most of them even several times a day. We lie to friends less often than strangers, young people lie more often than retirees, women more often than men - but women also tell the truth more often because they simply talk more. People are more likely to lie instinctively than deliberately. This is easier for them on the phone than when they look the other person in the eye. They lie more carelessly in e-mails than in letters. Time seems to favor the truth, time pressure favors lies.

The wealthy tend to lie more than the poor because they are more independent in their largely self-determined world, make autonomous decisions and are willing to take higher risks due to a lack of control. They perceive selfishness as a positive quality, because selfishness advances them and their company. The rich value greed more highly than altruism, going it alone seems more goal-oriented to them than collective action.

The willingness to lie correlates with the values ​​of a milieu. If parents lie, so do their children. If your friends don't take it too seriously with the truth, your willingness to be honest disappears. In many companies and institutions, too, what is not allowed to leak is kept secret, concealed or lied to.

Some people are obliged to keep secret - and sometimes to lie - (doctors, lawyers, civil servants), others benefit from it by protecting the image of their group (military, police, church) or making personal profit from the lie (banks, Hedge funds). Here as there is the law of omertà. Trouble of conscience is considered weakness, honesty is treason. The courage to be truthful is seldom rewarded. On the contrary: Whistleblowers are defamed and sidelined - they risk banishment, prison and sometimes even their lives.

Lying is more exhausting than telling the truth. We have to hide our feelings and read the thoughts of the other person. We need to manage and assign our lies - who am I lying to and who am I telling the truth? The effort is measurable: when we lie, our brain is more active than usual. Lies leave their mark. Persistent liars have a quarter more white brain matter in the prefrontal cortex than casual liars, conversely 15 percent less gray matter. White transmits the information, gray processes it. Some people get sick after lying for years. The mind punishes the body with typical stress symptoms such as tension, headaches, reddened skin and high blood pressure.

Lying can be trained. Experienced liars outsmart a lie detector themselves. He sometimes turns out to be a liar himself: when he calls sincere people swindlers because they release stress hormones as a result of the interrogation situation. This is called the Othello Effect.

Why do people lie

A liar assumes that the lie is more useful to him than the truth: because it increases his reputation, increases his wealth, protects him from punishment, criticism or degradation. People lie out of fear, need or cowardice, concerns, politeness, consideration, deference, shame or simply because they want to be loved. Even if you pretend that your lie protects someone else, you ultimately always pacify your own soul with it.

Everyone lies, but some people lie compulsively. Pseudologists are characterized by an excessive need for recognition based on a narcissistic personality disorder as a result of psychological injuries or neglect in early childhood. Characteristic of the pathological liar are his winning demeanor, his good memory, his eloquence and his acting talent.

Pseudologists lie to themselves in a life they never lived and invent fates they never shared. Compulsive liars include those who claim to have survived the Holocaust, conquered cancer, freed themselves from the violence of hostage gangsters, or climbed Mount Everest. Piling up, they pretend to be doctors, nobles or hidden children of celebrities. Desperate for pity, compulsive liars take refuge in ever new diseases, pathologized under the term Munchausen Syndrome.

Monkfish waves with dorsal fin

Indeed, deception is a fundamental constant in evolution. In the animal kingdom we know them as mimicry, mimetics and somatolysis. Animals and plants use deception maneuvers primarily to protect themselves from predators. Hoverflies imitate wasps, peacock butterfly imitates the evil eye, stick insects turn into branches or twigs, and grass snakes play dead because most predators despise carrion. Conversely, animals also deceive in order to gain prey. The monkfish, for example, baits fish by waving the worm-like appendage of its dorsal fin, blackbirds lure worms out of the earth with tripping noises that sound like rain. Even within their own kind, people are cheated on what they can do. A chimpanzee, for example, utters the leopard warning cry to drive its fellow species to flight and then enjoy their food in peace and quiet.

The camouflage serves the physical survival, deception maneuvers aim at the preservation of the own species. Petty frog males, for example, prefer to crouch next to splendid, impressively croaking competitors in order to snatch away the female approaching willing to mate. Even plants secure their own reproduction by deception. The petals of the ragwurz orchid look like female bees, feel the same with their hair and also emit a scent that amazingly imitates the pheromone of the female bees, which is why males who are ready to mate use all their energy to mate the supposed females, in fact but only pollinate the flowers of the testicle.

Nature teaches us that the ability to deceive is a property that is beneficial for survival and reproduction, which is why it is not surprising that Homo sapiens, the most highly developed mammal from the order of the primates, the subordination of the dry-nosed monkeys and the great ape family, so perfectly mastered the art of deception. In view of his body size, his almost huge brain, the almost unbelievable abundance of his nerve cells and the unique shape of his cerebral cortex render him valuable services. His ability to speak also enables him to verbalize lies - and it may be this, the human condition, that made us humans the most successful mammal of all time.

Slender Rubens figure

Not only those who claim the opposite of what they consider to be true are liar, but also those who semantically obscure or transfigure information. If the Nazis intended special treatment for whom they intended to murder, when the military speak of collateral damage, they mean killed civilians, and when they speak of ethnic cleansing, that conceals the genocide, or at least one expulsion.

Euphemisms are also useful in everyday life. The Rubens figure slims down who others call bold, a price correction conceals higher prices, who perspires doesn't stink, and the killing of a beloved dachshund becomes more bearable if we gently put him to sleep. The semantic lies include not only euphemisms that enhance (housekeeping), mitigate (uneducated) or disguise (protection money), but also abbreviations such as the F-word, anglicisms such as the facility manager, acronyms such as ABC weapons.

Rogues and rascals

After all, our attitude towards liars is also revealed in our language. Rogues cheat, rascals cheat their way through. If the son deceitfully claims that he has already done his homework, he is whispering to us. People we like or respect say the untruth when we catch them telling a lie. On the other hand, whose nose does not suit us is a crook, scoundrel or scoundrel - even if his lie outweighs that of the rascal or rascal. Sin has a special meaning. In our secularized world it has shrunk to a bad word and thus a lie in itself. Those with a sweet tooth, speeders, parking offenders - they are all sinners. We even spare millions of fraudsters in this way, provided they are our idols and heroes: Lying sports stars, singers, actors, politicians, priests and bishops can sometimes be seduced to sin, but if they repent, we want to forgive them: let him throw the first Stone!

We hold fast to the fact that the truth ultimately triumphs over the lie. If we are not mistaken! "If the modern lies are not satisfied with details, but lie around the overall context in which the facts appear and thus offer a new context of reality," pondered Hannah Arendt half a century ago, "what actually prevents this false reality from becoming one to become a fully valid substitute for factual truth? "

Practice early

- No human is born a liar.

- The ability to deceive, he must first learn with great difficulty.

- In old age By three or four years of age, his brain is sufficiently developed to empathize with other people's thoughts - a necessary prerequisite for starting lying.