Are you paranoid, or is everybody actually lying to you?
Without a polygraph machine, how are you supposed to separate truth from fiction and spot the real-life Pinnochios in your day-to-day life?
Here's a breakdown of the most frequent deceptions you face, everywhere from your email inbox to your doctor's office.
A University of Massachusetts at Amherst research study found that emails typically contain three times as many lies and exaggerations as face-to-face conversations do. If only there were a spam detector for bullshit.
Ever feel like people are fronting when they talk about all the famous movies they've watched? You're totally right. In fact, about three out of 10 people have lied about seeing "The Godfather," according to a poll conducted by Lovefilm streaming services (since bought by Amazon). Four out of five of those surveyed said they had lied about seeing a movie on at least one occasion. If you catch your favorite foreign film snob mid-lie, though, you should probably be flattered -- most people surveyed said they had beefed up their film IQ to seem more impressive.
Turns out your car's fuel tank gauge is engineered to feed you mechanical little white lies: The fuel gauge is designed to stay in the "full tank" range for longer to make you feel like you’re getting better mileage. AOL Autos spoke to Ford engineer Phil Pierron, one of the masterminds behind this benign fuel mileage trick, who told them that consumer surveys suggest drivers get seriously bummed out when the needle slides away from the “full” mark too quickly. Making that first quarter-tank of gas really seem like it lasts makes people happy, but it also makes them suckers.
It can be difficult to understand how, say, a seemingly innocuous kitchen utensil can cause such blind fury. But researchers in a joint MIT and Northwestern study are calling bullshit on about 5 percent of these reviews, which they say were written by people who did not actually purchase the item they're commenting on. These reviews typically rate the product lower than average. But how do you determine if a user is trolling? For one, fake reviews will often contain more exclamation points. They also tend to be filled with unrelated details, like references to the retailer's brand or references to the commenter's family.
Obviously you didn't lie on your resume -- it's called embellishment, duh! That said, most people are, shall we say flexible, with the details of their first summer job. Last Sam's Club cashier on left? More like "Head of Sam's Club Southern Regional Finances." Forever 21 stock clerk? How about "Forever 21's Chief Overseer of Display Aesthetics."
In a Cornell study of college-aged job seekers, the average resume contained nearly three lies, and at least one lie cropped up in 92 percent of the resumes. The most deceitful resume told eight lies. But those eight lines could be a sign of the creativity and pizzaz said job-seeker could bring to the job! Right?
They learn it like it's their ABCs. When Toronto University surveyed 1,200 children aged two to 17, they came to some startling conclusions. While only about 20 percent of two-year-olds were capable of lying, 90 percent of four-year-olds were. So, at some point during those two years, most tiny tykes lose their innocence. Blame the media, or whatever. The rate of lying peaked at age 12, proving once and for all that middle-schoolers are jerks.
And you drove them to it. A study published by the International Journal of Psychology found that 84 percent of parents in the U.S. and 98 percent of parents in China have lied to their children in order to get them to behave.
"OMG hey, sry running late, got held up in traffic c ya soon" -- blah, blah, blah, LIES. Text messaging is pretty much a cesspool of mendacity. According to a Cornell study, one out of 10 text messages contains a lie. Some of those fibs are what researchers call "butler lies," for the old-world butler who would dismiss his wealthy employer's unwanted visitors with a simple white lie. Today, your day-to-day butler lies are things like "Sorry, came down with a cold. Rain check on drinks?" when your only "symptom" is a desperate desire to binge-watch Season 5 of "The Bachelor."
A stranger is just a
friend liar you haven't met yet. Research from the University of Massachusetts found that 60 percent of study participants couldn't converse with a stranger for 10 minutes without fibbing. On average, strangers exchanged two to three lies during their chitchats. According to the study, women most typically lied to make the person they were talking to feel good, while men most typically lied to make themselves appear more impressive. That said, you are encouraged to subvert gender norms and lie about whatever you damn well please.
Eleven percent of doctors have told a patient or a child's guardian something that was not true in the past year, according to a study published in Health Affairs. A full 20 percent of doctors surveyed admitted that they had not owned up to a mistake out of fear of being sued. Lying by omission -- it ain't just for politicians!
A University of Illinois study surprised no one when it found that teenagers are on their best jerkish behavior when they're screwing with scientific survey results. Researchers dubbed these conniving adolescents "Mischievous Responders." They're the teens who report that they're seven feet tall or have three babies. They’re the reason that 41 percent of surveyed students who said they identified as trans also said they were, uh, “extremely tall" or “extremely short." And, of course, 99 percent of the 253 students who said they had an artificial limb? Oh, they were just kidding.
According to a study from Northwestern University, your memory is even more unreliable than you thought. As lead author of the study Donna Jo Bridge explained, "Our memory is not like a video camera. Your memory reframes and edits events to create a story to fit your current world. It’s built to be current." Bridge said that this phenomenon helps explains why so many couples claim they experienced "love-at-first sight"; they're remembering meeting their honey with the added edit of presently being happily in love. Hey, who needs Hollywood when your brain can take care of the lying for you?
Love is blind, particularly when it comes to finances. According to a study from the National Endowment for Financial Education, about half of spouses surveyed said they had lied about a recent purchase. A third also admitted that they hadn't been totally straight with their partners about their debts. Fifteen percent said they had even concealed a bank account from their love. Hopefully, it was to buy said love a very pretty present.
You're not a saint -- you know you've lied in your life. But do you realize when you're lying to yourself? According to a study from Harvard Business School, people who cheat on tests and receive a high score are likely to attribute that high score to elevated intelligence. According to the study, "People understand they will deceive, but fail to perceive the processes by which that deception leads to self-deception." In other words, the very act of cheating fools the cheater, too.