Occasionally, a student of psychologist and lying expert Bella DePaulo,Ph.D., will insist that he or she can be entirely truthful for three or four weeks. But no one ever succeeds.
"Everyday lies are really part of the fabric of social life," says DePaulo, a professor at the University of Virginia. While some lies damage relationships and destroy trust, other fibs fulfill important interpersonal functions, like smoothing over awkward situations or protecting fragile egos.
But how often do people lie, and when do they do it? To find out, DePaulo and colleagues asked 77 college students and 70 community members to keep a diary detailing each lie they told. The students, it turned out, admitted to lying an average of twice a day, while local residents lied half as often. Among the study's other findings:
o Community members lied in one-fifth of their social interactions; students, one-third.