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THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Lying as easy as talking

Al Gilkes

THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Lying as easy as talking

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If you think about it, “telling lies” are perhaps two of the words most commonly used together in daily life.

Whether it’s in the home, in the school, in the office, in the court, in the Parliament or even in the church, somebody is always accusing somebody else of telling lies, even doing so in saying so.

Traditionally, Barbadians have not recognised certain untruths to be lies in the truest sense, preferring to classify them as “just telling fibs”. The dictionary defines a fib as being a trivial or childish lie.

I never really gave much thought to how many lies, fibs, or whatever else you may call them, that you, I and everybody else tell until a few days ago when I came across a discussion on the online Deep English site, which is dedicated to helping people become more confident and fluent in the English language. The lesson that day was titled Evolving Beyond Lying and read as follows:

The average person lies twice in the first ten minutes of meeting someone new, and up to 50 per cent of the time when speaking to their mother. A study showed that 99 per cent of people lie, and even the few who claimed not to, probably also are lying.

What if just for a day you were incapable of telling a lie, no matter how small?

According to anthropologists, there is a tribe that dwells in the mountains of Central America who are unable to lie, ever. The Tarahumara people avoided the influence of outsiders for thousands of years. In doing so, they also maintained a strict moral code based on utmost honesty.

The Tarahumara still place this value system above all else. Some psychologists believe that over time, their emphasis on truth-telling caused changes in brain chemistry. They may have less grey matter in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for creating lies. What started as a moral obligation to tell the truth may have become a physiological trait of the members of this unique tribe.

So does this mean that it’s possible for all humans to evolve out of lying?

Well maybe, but it doesn’t sound very likely, does it? According to some sources, lying was first used by humans to promote cooperation and to create bonds between individuals. That’s why one of the most common types of lies is a white lie, that is, a lie considered to be harmless. Often, white lies are told to protect someone from hearing something that will hurt their feelings.

When language developed, lying quickly became easier and more common. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to lie without using any words? Language makes it possible for humans as young as two (years old) to lie. Instead of evolving out of lying, exactly the opposite is happening. As we evolve, we lie more.

But there’s good news. Individually, we tell fewer lies as we age. We may not evolve out of lying as a species, but as individuals over the course of a single lifetime, there is still hope. So, am I telling fewer lies or fibs as I grow older? Truthfully, I believe I am but to state that as a fact might even be a lie.

What about you?

Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm. Email [email protected]

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