Saturday, July 26, 2008
Some tales are so tall that they trip over their own improbable feats, narrative cracks and melodrama. Yet in milder doses, self-serving exaggeration can be nearly impossible to detect, experts say, and there are several explanations. Some kinds of deception are aimed more at the deceiver than at the audience, and they may help in distinguishing braggarts and posers from those who are expressing personal aspirations, however clumsily. Psychologists have studied deception from all sides and have found that it usually puts a psychological or physical strain on the person doing the dissembling. Trying to hold onto an inflammatory secret is mentally exhausting, studies have found, and the act of suppressing the information can cause thoughts of it to flood the consciousness. When telling outright lies, people tend to look and sound tenser than usual. The findings provide another lens through which to view claims, from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s story of sniper fire in Bosnia to exaggerations of income, charitable contributions and SAT scores. As much as these are embroideries, they are also expressions of yearning, and for reachable goals. In that sense, fibs can reflect something close to the opposite of the frustration, insecurity and secretiveness that often fuel big lies. That may be why they can come so easily, add up so fast and for some people — especially around closing time — become indistinguishable from the truth. All in all, an interesting and informative article by BENEDICT CAREY in NY Times.