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Lies a Part of Human Nature

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Believe it or not: The average ten minute conversation between two acquaintances will result in several lies per person. It's science not cynicism that provides such a statement. And the fact that everyone lies every day points to the conclusion that untruths are an indivisible part of human nature.

From a very young age, we're told not to lie, but we're also simultaneously lied to about Santa Claus, or about the pet dog's death. We're similarly told to lie in order to avoid hurting another's feelings. All these conflicting messages make it easier to be deceptive later in life.

We lie to ourselves all the time to make problems, fears, and failures seem less daunting. A New Year's resolution, which we'll likely drop by March, can be considered a lie, too. After all, we have little intention of sticking to the promise. Or you'll likely give a positive answer the next time a friend or coworker asks, "How are you?" To do otherwise would be to flaunt social conventions, because your friend or coworker doesn't necessarily want to hear that you're tired, overworked, underpaid, or have problems at home -- at least not at what should just be a passing pleasantry.

Psychologist Paul Ekman offers a number of basic reasons for lying. We lie to escape punishment, to elude uncomfortable social situations, to give ourselves an ego boost, to receive a reward, to protect someone, or to control the flow of information. A large exaggeration, a fib, and everything in between, falls into one of these categories.

Despite the fact that lying is ingrained in our psyche, we can only catch a lie about fifty percent of the time. It's almost as if we don't want to know that another person isn't being honest. Lies, some experts argue, are the glue which holds society together.

Preview some of the lesson material:

Brainstorm: Brainstorm with a partner(s) words and ideas associated with "human nature" for 2 minutes. Spend another 5 minutes or less discussing the words and ideas together.

Do you agree or disagree?:

  1. Everyone lies.
  2. Everyone lies every day.
  3. It's impossible not to lie sometimes.
  4. Lying is an important part of society.
  5. I have told three or more lies today.

post-Comprehension: Talk about the following questions in pairs/groups. Remember to support your answers!

  1. How often do you think you lie? Is it too much? Why?
  2. What are some of the reasons you've lied recently?
  3. Do you think lies hold society together? Why/not?
  4. What situations would it be better to lie than to tell the truth? Why do you think so?
  5. Do you think one gender lies more than the other? Why/not?

Google Search: Type "human nature" into Google. Look at the websites, and/or read additional articles on this topic. Discuss or write an essay about your findings.

Download the lesson:

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