Morally speaking, lying is a despicable action. And people hate being lied to. There’s nothing worse than talking to someone and not having the certainty that they are being truthful. As a society, we like to think we value truth. But that doesn’t reflect in how people actually behave. Even though most people know lying is condemnable, they still do it. Even though the ends can sometimes justify the means, engaging in repeated lies is still not good.

But lying is one of the most destructive behaviors people can engage in. It has the power to destroy even the strongest relationships. Once you catch someone in a lie, the trust you once had in them is broken. And it will never be the same, no matter how hard you try to mend it. Lies and deception give some people an unfair advantage over others. And we see this around us every day. We see con artists who make a living off naïve people’s backs.

Some see politicians who steal from the people they have vowed to protect. Others see parents lying to their children, which can make them believe no one they’ll ever meet is trustworthy. And it seems like, once you start lying, you never stop. Once you get used to getting what you want through deception, this behavior becomes second nature. Some people don’t understand why this happens. But there are simple scientific explanations as to why liars keep lying, even if they get caught.

Some of the reasons are defendable. But, most of the time, liars just keep lying for their own benefit.

Five Reasons Why Liars Keep Lying

phrases of a liar

1.    The Brain Gets Used to It

One of the most common reasons why people lie is because lying can easily become a habit. Most people don’t want to engage in immoral behaviors. But no one can be completely truthful every second of their life. There are contexts in which people find that they need to tell a white lie or lie by omission. Also, some people just like lying, or do it because it benefits them. And even for these people, it can easily become a habit.

A study published in 2016 shows that the world has reached a point in which dishonesty is inherent to society. This is because, as people lie, the brain is affected. Lying becomes a habit as some parts of the brain get used to it. MRI scans have shown that there are changes in the amygdala (which is responsible for primal emotions) due to lying. The participants in the study were asked to consistently tell lies over a period of time. The scans showed that the amygdala was more stimulated at first.

This means that the participants initially felt bad about lying. But, as the experiment progressed, the amygdala was less and less stimulated. Lying was normalized as the brain got used to it. This suggests that lying is a slippery slope. You start with a few small lies, which desensitize the amygdala. Over time, you begin telling bigger lies and lying more frequently. Lying becomes a habit, and getting rid of that habit can be nearly impossible.

2.    Liars Are Insecure

In 2016, researchers from Indiana University and Purdue University conducted a study to find out why people lie online. The study found that an overwhelming majority, around 90%, lied because of their appearance. Even though this study was about lying online, it still shows a general trend that can be associated with society.

The main reason why this happens more often online than in real life is that it’s easier to lie online. No one can know for sure if that’s how you look or not. This phenomenon is so common, that there’s even a term for it: catfishing.

Still, this study suggests that insecurities play a big role in the decision to lie. And this covers all insecurities, not just the ones related to appearance. People will lie about their knowledge, intellect, background, and more. There are many cases in which poor kids lie about where they live or what their parents do.

That’s because they are scared others won’t accept them for who they are. While this behavior is understandable, it’s still not moral. Sure, society should stop being judgemental and putting tons of pressure on individuals. But people should still learn to own who they are.

spot liars

1.    Some People Lie for the Benefit of Others

Until now, we have discussed the bad things that happen when liars keep lying. But there’s a special category of lies that are actually done for the benefit of society. Deontologically speaking, these lies are still immoral, and telling them is a slippery slope. Even from a utilitarian point of view, they are still morally ambiguous. That’s because it’s hard to determine which purpose is moral and which is not. Still, in some cases, prosocial lying can be beneficial. And people do it because they want to avoid hurting others.

One of the most common types of prosocial lies is white lies. Research shows that people start telling these lies from a very young age. A study published in 2015 involved an experiment in which kids were asked to grade an adult’s drawing. If the adult seemed to be indifferent about their drawing, the kids were more likely to give an honest opinion.

But if the adults showed pride in their art, the kids tended to reassure the adult, even if the drawing was bad. This behavior usually starts developing at around five years old and it carries into adulthood. As people grow up, they learn that there are certain social norms and expectations they have to adhere to. And many times, those norms can only be respected by altering the truth.

Lies of omission

Another common type of prosocial lies is lies by omission. This type of lie is not always used for the benefit of others. Sometimes, it’s just a way through which liars get an advantage by withholding information. But it can also be used to protect someone’s feelings. For example, if a colleague made a small error, you might choose to fix it without telling them about the mistake. Even though you withheld information, you did it to not hurt their feelings.

Lastly, people can use a combination of these two types of lies to protect others from facing repercussions. This is common amongst people who care deeply about each other. Many people take the responsibility for their younger siblings’ actions so that they don’t get punished. Or parents take the blame for their children’s missteps because they know they can face the backlash.


Final Thoughts on Some Reasons Why Liars Keep Lying

As a concept, lying is despicable and immoral. And most liars keep lying just to get something. But context also matters when deciding whether a lie was really immoral or not. Modern society is built in such a way that people are sometimes forced to lie to respect certain norms. They might lie to protect others’ feelings. Sometimes, people even lie to take the blame for someone else’s mistakes.

Even though these white lies or lies by omission can be good, lying is still a slippery slope. Lying can easily become a habit. As your brain gets desensitized to lying, you might start telling lies for your own benefit. People often lie because they feel insecure and they want to seem different. To be accepted in certain groups, they might even create a whole new persona.

Or they might simply lie to get out of facing responsibility for their actions. Lying can make your life easier, so that’s why people keep doing it. It’s also important to note that some people lie simply because they are pathological liars. They don’t have a reason why they do it; they just compulsively lie. No matter what your reasons are for lying, it’s important to remember that, in most cases, telling the truth is far better.