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      Lying affects self-esteem and emotions, leading to negative psychological consequences. Self-deception shapes reality, influencing choices and beliefs in positive or negative ways. Awareness of the cost of lying can lead to more honest and healthy communication practices.

      Lying is often natural, but it can become pathological

      The psychology of lying

      "The essence of lying is in deception and not in words; a lie can be told by silence, by equivocation, by stressing a syllable, by a look, by attaching a special meaning to a word , and countless other ways. -Saint Augustine

      This is a two-part series. In the first, I will address the complexity of lying and self-deception.

      The psychology of lying

      The psychology of lying is a complex and contradictory field, and the process is important to our survival. Significant emotional and social costs of deception have been revealed recently in studies of the nature and fabric of our societal interactions (Preuter et al., 2023). In the field of psychotherapy and psychological treatment, the therapeutic effect of expectancies has been studied repeatedly, and it turns out that expectancies are an important factor that influences the outcome of psychological treatments (Sirigatti, Stefanile, & Nardone , 2008), and that the effectiveness of therapy relies on the patient's expectation that it will work (Wampold, 2001). Researchers are even exploring ways to evoke and encourage this type of helpful self-deception (Gibson, 2021, 2022; Nardone, 2015; Nardone & Watzlawick, 1990).

      Many types of "lies" also involve self-deception - whether justifying our choices or shaping our reality to fit our desires - and play an important role in how we perceive the world around us and how we interact with it. In evolution, the art of deception, more commonly known as lying, is described in Aesop's fable "The Fox and the Grapes." The fox, known for its intelligence, is used to illustrate a specific and common form of self-deception. The story goes that the fox tries to catch grapes, but fails. Eventually the fox gives up and leaves, saying the grapes weren't that good, an experience we can probably all relate to. This mental trick of minimizing what we can't have is a common form of helpful self-deception. It helps eliminate the frustration of not getting what you want. The fact that the clever fox is the main character shows how self-deception can be useful in avoiding the discomfort of unfulfilled desires. Logically, it’s about deciding to believe a comforting lie rather than a painful truth.

      This process is also essential for survival and social interaction. After all, who wants to tell their partner or best friend (who is delighted to have spent hours preparing a meal for you) that the meal was not to their liking and was barely edible? Are we all willing to lie rather than accept a painful truth? In prehistoric times, when physical survival was the primary goal, the ability to fool a predator or rival could mean the difference between life and death. This aspect of lying as a survival tool is widely recognized in evolutionary biology and is essential in the process of finding a mate and competing for resources, even today (Nardone; 2015, Smith & Johnson, 2020).

      The clothes and makeup we wear, the way we speak, and the things we pay attention to in our conversations with ourselves and others are all subtle forms of "massaging" reality to our liking and taste. advantage, whether we want to believe it or not (Elster, 1979). This phenomenon can be observed in certain professions, and even in forms of psychological treatment. In some therapies, whether the patient gets better or not, the therapist can justify one or the other outcome as having an explanation based on their therapy model and, in this case, their theory or model wins. It is a non-falsifiable form of reality (Popper, 1959) in which reality proves itself and the preferred reality remains intact.

      Social change

      As humans evolved into more complex social structures, the role of lying became more complex, as it began to serve as a tool for resource acquisition. An individual who has mastered the art of deception can secure a greater share of resources, thereby increasing his or her chances of survival, advancement, and reproduction. This perspective is well observed in evolutionary psychology, which suggests that deceptive behaviors could be favored in certain competitive contexts (Brown & Green, 2021) and even encouraged in capitalist societies. Social scientists and evolutionary psychologists argue that this aspect of lying even plays an important role in the development of social cognition and could be a driving force in the evolution of human intelligence (Lee & Wilson, 2019).

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      Self-fulfilling prophecies

      Self-fulfilling prophecy, a term first coined by sociologist Robert K. Merton (1957), is a prediction that causes a prophecy itself to become true due to the positive feedback between belief and behavior. In other words, a false belief about a situation elicits new behavior, which causes the originally false belief to come true.

      Merton's concept has had great influence and is a key concept in the sociology of knowledge, showing how beliefs and perceptions, whether true or false, can shape social reality. It is particularly relevant for understanding social dynamics in which individuals' expectations (self-delusions) about others can lead to the realization of these expectations. We also see this phenomenon in contexts such as the placebo effect in medicine, where belief in a fake pill or sugar pill can make you feel better. This effect is even used in practice by pharmaceutical companies to market pills for men and women of different colors, changing their effectiveness based on expectations related to skin color (Kirsch, 2010).

      Lies in teaching

      A study known as “Pygmalion in the Classroom” is a seminal text in educational psychology (Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968). Rosenthal and Jacobson told teachers that some of their students were expected to be "intellectually well-rounded" based on a mock test. Although the test is not predictive, students labeled as "bloomers" showed significant academic progress over time, attributed to changing teachers' expectations and behaviors toward these students. This work has had a profound impact on education and highlights the importance of teacher expectations in student performance. Many other studies have demonstrated this fact (Jussim & Harber, 2005; Rist, 1970; Rubie-Davies, 2006; Weinstein, Marshall, Sharp, & Botkin, 1987; Babad, Inbar, & Rosenthal, 1982)


      Self-deception is not just about positive beliefs; it can also be negative, as in a paranoid state, where we believe that no one cares about us. Our past experiences have a big impact on self-deception. For example, a very insecure person may see every situation as proof that they are not good enough. Recent psychological studies have shed new light on this ancient behavior, revealing the hidden emotional and social costs of deception. A pivotal study published in the British Journal of Social Psychology (2024) found that lying to others in a manipulative way, regardless of the intended purpose, leads to decreased self-esteem and increased negative emotions for the person who lies (PsyPost, 2024).

      Social ties and deception

      In addition to these emotional aspects, another study looked at the impact of lying on social relationships. Researchers analyzed a large dataset of naturalistic conversations, part of the CANDOR corpus, to understand how deception affects interpersonal relationships. The CANDOR corpus, "Causal Analysis Using Natural Language and Domain Ontologies for Requirements", is a specialized dataset designed for use in natural language processing, particularly in the field of requirements engineering. This corpus is designed to facilitate the extraction and analysis of cause-and-effect relationships from natural language texts, focusing specifically on requirements engineering documents. The results are clear: engaging in certain types of deception is linked to reduced feelings of closeness and trust with interlocutors, underscoring the importance of honesty in establishing and maintaining relationships. meaningful social connections (Nature, 2024).

      Lying, however, emerges from all of these studies not as a simple matter of moral right or wrong, but as a complex array of behaviors with varying implications and necessities. It is a nuanced dance between truth and deception, where the reality we perceive and create is shaped not only by our words, but also by the invisible emotional and psychological processes of the lies and deceptions we let's use it to influence it.

      They are artifacts of human psychology, biology and existence. Whether we want to admit it or not, they exist and so we must learn to use them effectively to survive and thrive as individuals and as social groups. Studies of lying challenge us to rethink our relationship with honesty, deception, and the nature of our social reality. Understanding the emotional cost of a lie manipulated in ways that unfairly discriminate or increase net pain should lead us to more conscious communication. Honesty is not only a moral choice, it is also a path to better mental health and stronger social bonds, as is learning to use self-deception about ourselves and the world around us can propel us beyond ourselves.

      Think for a moment about the Olympic athlete who must tell himself and convince himself, without any concrete proof, that he will win gold at the next Olympic Games, all so that he can get on a bike and ride 60 miles on a cold, wet day. winter day and put himself through a grueling schedule for the next four years.

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      • Babad, E., Inbar, J. and Rosenthal, R. (1982). Pygmalion, Galatea, and the Golem: Investigations of biased and unbiased teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 74(4), 459-474. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.74.4.459
      • Elster, J. (1979). Ulysses and the Sirens. Norton. NY
      • Gibson, P. (Escaping The Anxiety Trap. Strategic Science Books.
      • Jussim, L. and Harber, K.D. (2005). Teacher expectations and self-fulfilling prophecies: Knowns and unknowns, resolved and unresolved controversies. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 9(2), 131-155. doi:10.1207/s15327957pspr0902_3
      • Kirsch, I. (2010). The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth. New York, NY: Basic Books.
      • Mayo, E. (1949). The Social Problems of an Industrial Civilization. Routledge.
      • Merton, R. K. (1957). Social Theory and Social Structure. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
      • Nardone, G. and Watzlawick, P. (1990). The art of change: Strategic therapy and trance-free hypnotherapy. Jossey-Bass.
      • Nardone G. L'arte di liere a se stessy e agli altri. Milan, Italy: Ponte alle Grazie; 2015.
      • Popper, K. (1959). The logic of scientific discovery. London, England: Hutchinson & Co. (Original work published in 1934).
      • Preuter, S., Jaeger, B. and Stel, M. (2023). The costs of lying: Consequences of telling lies on liar's self-esteem and affect. British Journal of Social Psychology, 00, 1-15.
      • Rist, R. C. (1970). Student social class and teacher expectations: The self-fulfilling prophecy in ghetto education. Harvard Educational Review, 40(3), 411-451.
      • Rubie-Davies, C. M. (2006). Teacher expectations and student self-perceptions: Exploring relationships. Psychology in the Schools, 43(5), 537-552. doi:10.1002/pits.20169
      • Sprigings, S., Brown, CJV & ten Brinke, L. Deception is associated with reduced social connection. Commun Psychol 1, 19 (2023).
      • PsyPost. (2024). Psychological studies on the effects of lying. Retrieved from:
      • Sirigatti, S., Stefanile, C. and Nardone, G. (2008). Expectation as a Factor in the Outcome of Psychotherapy. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 64(7), 871-885.
      • Wampold, B.E. (2001). The great psychotherapy debate: models, methods and results. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
      • Weinstein, R.S., Marshall, H.H., Sharp, L., & Botkin, M. (1987). Pygmalion and the student: Age and classroom differences in children's awareness of teacher expectations. Child Development, 58(4), 1079-1093. doi:10.2307/1130530

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      A team of more than
      50 trainers in France
      and abroad

      of our students satisfied with
      their training year at LACT *

      International partnerships

      The quality certification was issued under
      the following category of actions: Training action


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