National Geographic : 2017 Jun
experiments performed better on tests of theory of mind and executive function than those who didn’t. Even at 16, kids who were proficient liars outperformed poor liars. On the other hand, kids on the autism spectrum—known to be delayed in developing a robust theory of mind—are not very good at lying. on a recent Morning, I took an Uber to vis- it Dan Ariely, a psychologist at Duke University and one of the world’s foremost experts on lying. The inside of the car, though neat, had a strong odor of sweaty socks, and the driver, though courteous, had trouble finding her way. When we finally got there, she asked me smilingly if I would give her a five-star rating. “Sure,” I replied. Later, I gave her three stars. I assuaged my guilt by telling myself that it was better not to mislead thousands of Uber riders. Ariely became fascinated with dishonesty about 15 years ago. Looking through a magazine on a long-distance flight, he came across a men- tal aptitude test. He answered the first question and flipped to the key in the back to see if he got it right. He found himself taking a quick glance at the answer to the next question. Continuing in this vein through the entire test, Ariely, not surprisingly, scored very well. “ When I finished, I thought—I cheated myself,” he says. “Presum- ably, I wanted to know how smart I am, but I also wanted to prove I’m this smart to myself.” The experience led Ariely to develop a lifelong interest in the study of lying and other forms of dishonesty. In experiments he and his colleagues have run on college campuses and elsewhere, volunteers are given a test with 20 simple math problems. They must solve as many as they can in five minutes and are paid based on how many they get right. They are told to drop the sheet into a shredder before reporting the number they solved correctly. But the sheets don’t actually get shredded. A lot of volunteers lie, as it turns out. On average, volunteers report having solved six matrices, when it was really more like four. The results are similar across different cultures. Most of us lie, but only a little. The question Ariely finds interesting is not why so many lie, but rather why they don’t lie a lot more. Even when the amount of money of- fered for correct answers is raised significant- ly, the volunteers don’t increase their level of nearly a century ago, some mem- bers of the Chicago White Sox baseball team accepted a bribe—as much as $100,000 (about $1.4 million today)—to deliberately lose the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Suspicions arose in the first game after uncharacteristically sloppy pitching by the White Sox, who were heavily favored to win. “I don’t know why I did it,” pitcher Eddie Cicotte testified before a grand jury. “I must have been crazy.” He and seven other players, including “Shoeless” Joe Jack- son, were indicted on nine counts of conspiracy but acquitted by a jury. They were banned from the game for life. lance armstrong: “I’ve said it for longer than seven years. I have never doped.” As he had many times, the seven-time Tour de France winner lied to CNN’s Larry King in 2005. Stripped of his titles, in 2013 he admitted to having cheated. rosie ruiz: “I ran the race. I really did.” Crowned the female winner of the 1980 Boston Marathon even though she bare- ly broke a sweat, Ruiz denied cheating. Her title was revoked after evidence showed she hadn’t run the full course. scandals in sports other famous fibs The White Sox shocked the nation when they threw the World Series.