top of page

Who Lies and Why

Who lies? We all do at one time or another, for one reason or another. Some are little white lies that we believe protect others. "No, your butt doesn't look big in that outfit." or "Yes, you could be a model honey. You are as beautiful as any of those girls."

Or they could be black lies, the kind of lies that are so manipulative and evil that they break the hearts of anyone who might hear them. Most of us don't believe we are the evil kind of liars. Even manipulative liars sometimes convince themselves they are really lying. So let's look at some research and learn more about who lies, and why?

**According to Paul Ekman, a retired UCSF Professor, prolific writer, and facial expression researcher and expert people lie for 9 basic motives:

1. To avoid being punished. This is the most frequently mentioned motivation for telling lies (by both children and adults). Who wants to be punished? It’s important to note that there were no significant differences for lies told to avoid punishment for a purposeful misdeed versus an honest mistake. 2. To obtain a reward not otherwise readily obtainable. This is the second most commonly mentioned motive, by both children and adults. An example of this is falsely claiming work experience during a job interview to increase chances of hire. 3. To protect another person from being punished. As with lying to avoid personal punishment, motive does not change with intent. We’ve seen this occur between coworkers, friends, family, and even with strangers! 4. To protect oneself from the threat of physical harm. This is different from being punished, for the threat of harm is not for a misdeed. An example would be a child who is home alone telling a stranger at the door that his father is asleep now and to come back later. 5. To win the admiration of others. Telling lies to increase your popularity can range from “little white lies” to enhance a story being told to creating an entirely new (fabricated) persona. 6. To get out of an awkward social situation. Examples of how telling lies can look when motivated by this are claiming to have a babysitter problem to get out of a dull party, or ending a telephone conversation by saying there is someone at the door. 7. To avoid embarrassment. The child who claims the wet seat resulted from water spilling, not from wetting her pants, is an example if the child did not fear punishment, only embarrassment. 8. To maintain privacy without notifying others of that intention. For example, the couple who claims to have eloped because the cost of a wedding was beyond their means when, in reality, they were avoiding the obligation to invite their families. 9. To exercise power over others by controlling the information the target has. Famously embodied by Hitler, this is arguably the most dangerous motive for telling lies.

But Mike Foster has seven similar but different but I find, relative motives:

1. People don't want to lose something/someone. 2. It is more convenient in the moment. 3. They really want to believe it's true. 4. Their status or belonging is threatened. 5. They don't want to hurt you. 6. It is beneficial to their goals. 7. To avoid exposing other lies they have told.

Whatever the reasons or motives, most people lie. Lying can be a really bad habit. It can be laziness and manipulation. It can be cold-hearted and calculated, but for the most part lying is humans trying to avoid accountability for the choices and actions. Lying can also be influenced by your color personality tendencies because different color tendencies cause different people to define lying in different ways.

Dawn is the author of the Primary Colors Relationship Personality Tests and Insight Tools, and is the founder of a website dedicated to providing resources to help strengthen and heal relationships. As the Executive Director of the Relationship Help Resort in Arizona, Dawn hosts private couple's retreats and marriage intensives to help people restore the love and connection in their marriages.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page