06/23/2014 01:39 pm ET Updated Jun 25, 2014

14 Ways You're Being Lied To Every Single Day

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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."

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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!

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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.

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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.

  • I Can Negotiate with My Brain
    When it comes to sleep, I get eight hours a night. My insomniac friend Julie follows a more complex system, swearing that if she gets four hours per night over the course of the week, she can make up for the shortage by sleeping 12 hours on Saturday. I maintain that this does not count as adequate sleep. It turns out that science backs up my years of anecdotal research: A recent study suggests that "catching up" on sleep on the weekends doesn't actually work to reverse all the effects of mild sleep deprivation throughout the week. The real lie, however, is the bargaining process. We make so many of these bogus contracts with ourselves: "If I work really hard on this project, then I can drink the whole bottle of wine tonight." "If I run 3 miles, I can eat 3 pieces of salted-caramel apple pie.” (Well, I'm pretty sure that last one is true.) I know these back-and-forths feel like you're rewarding yourself, but remember what you already know: Your body is not your brain. It gets confused when you keep changing the rules.
  • Nobody Will Ever Love My Calves...Including Me
    Maybe you've never been a fan of your bulbous calves, so you've resigned yourself to a life of long pants. We all have parts of our bodies we don't like and have to figure out how to make peace with. (I used to work at a coffee shop with a fellow barista who hated her elbows so much she was sure they were distracting the world with their puckered ugliness.) But do these so-called flaws hold the key to our emotional futures? Listen to wise and wonderful Amy Poehler responding to a woman who says she feels that her body issues have kept her from finding a mate. Her advice: "Don't worry about finding love. There's a lid for every pot."
  • I Can Run a Marathon!
    Technically, you inhabit the same body now that you did in the 11th grade, when you could stay up all night, consume nothing but Mountain Dew and, after months of strict inactivity, run 6 miles straight. Then again, technically, you are also made of the carbon from billion-year-old stars. Actual earthly humans over the age of 20 can't just run four hours straight out of nowhere. Actual earthly humans over the age of 20 will be very sad when they tear tendons they didn't even know they had.
  • I Can't Run a Marathon!
    So you can't hop up and run for miles the way you once could. That's completely normal. That said, don't get discouraged because you start from zero and find yourself wheezing on the side of the running path, while toddlers stumble by faster than you can run. Yes, there are 99-year-olds and paralyzed people who complete marathons, but guess what? Every one of them trains. You obtain proper shoes, with the arch support becoming of a person your age. You start slow. You stretch. You hydrate. You alternate short runs and long runs, days on and days off. It takes some doing to get your body in shape for such a test of endurance. A marathon takes ENDURANCE. It's REALLY HARD. That's the whole point. Whether it's running a marathon or becoming a manager or making meringues, the last thing any of us needs is a resounding, internal can't. Because you can (if you train).
  • Loneliness is Mental
    Feeling lonely isn't just about your state of mind. It can affect your whole body and can lead to hardened arteries, high blood pressure, inflammation and problems with learning and memory, researchers have found. Isolation also affects the immune system, at times, creating a downward health spiral. Sure, you've told yourself you have to get out there and meet new people. But since that hasn't worked, let these potential medical side effects give you a friendly kick out the door. (And if that still doesn't work, try getting professional help. It's worth it.)
  • I Will Magically Know the Moment Right Before I Overtweeze
    I have no idea why there is not a 24-hour help hotline to call when you're considering cutting your own bangs or tweezing your own brows past 10:00 p.m. There ought to be. You think you've got it—okay, just one more—and then you step back and realize you've gone too far and, unfortunately, are not psychologically prepared for a life (or even a week) without eyebrows. Let me be clear: You not only will not know the moment to stop plucking, you also need a friend present to say "That's enough!"
  • I'm Too Antsy to Relax
    I am miserable at meditating. I can't get calm at the end of a yoga class when we lie down in the quiet room for shavasana (aka deep relaxation) because my brain buzzes at me about all the things I have to do that day, that week, that year, before I will have time to be calm... Perhaps yogic meditation is simply not right for me. Perhaps I would do better with a "walking meditation," or with a soothing mantra. Perhaps we can each find our own ways to slow our minds. Perhaps being calm is not, after all, a requirement for getting calm.
  • I Don't Have Time for a Mammogram
    It's not a bikini wax. It's not a haircut. It's not another errand. It's a mammogram. You do it even when you don't have time to do it.
  • I Don't Feel Bad, So That's Good
    So many of us deal with feelings of sadness—or vulnerability, or neediness—with a self-preserving technique that Brené Brown calls numbing. Numbing is a kind of armor that comes in many forms—food, drugs, gossip, social media—whatever way we choose to distract ourselves from feeling our painful emotions. A few generations ago, I think, numbing was simply a way of life. How many of us had grandfathers who wouldn't talk about war or bad marriage experiences, drinking quietly in the armchair instead? Now, we have even more choices. If I'm feeling disappointed by a professional failure, or even just suffering a general life malaise, I can sink into a Netflix drama, or lengthy Twitter exchange. Or...I can consult a certain all-too-relevant Seamus Heaney poem, which says: "The way we are living, timorous or bold, will have been our life." So don't numb out this day. That too easily becomes numbing out every day. Which will have been your life.