In the animal kingdom, humans have the unique distinction of being the species that tell lies, which researcher Victoria Talwar describes as “verbal statements made with the intention to deceive.” An emphasis is placed on the word “intention” because this is what distinguishes lies from other false statements, such as mistakes or sarcasm. During a Neuroscience & Society program held this week in conjunction with the International Neuroethics Society’s annual meeting, Talwar described her work on the development of understanding behind truth and lying in children. Fellow panelists Elizabeth Loftus focused on the malleability of human memory and how this affects honesty, while Charles Dike described the layers of many questions behind pathological liars and the distinctions this type of lying has from others.
One point all three speakers shared is that lying is a normal part of life; it follows stages of cognitive development and persists into adulthood. Adults tell an average of one lie a day, said Talwar and Dike.