Why Humans Are Natural Liars

Humans lie as often as two or three times in a 10- minute conversation. Why did we evolve to lie and what might it tell us about our species?

Did you know that here at Seeker World Headquarters -- actually a series of geosynchronous orbital platforms -- we recently cloned a Pliocene-era mammoth and engineered an operational tesseract?

No, not really. These are lies, all of them. But that's OK, because research shows that we humans are genetically wired to deceive. And we're not the only duplicitous species on the planet, either.

Take, for instance, the nursery web spider. A study in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology found that males of this species regularly lie to potential mates. Female spiders give preference to males who come bearing gifts, ideally dead insect wrapped in spiderwebs. But the boys have tumbled to the idea that if they just bring a ball of webs, minus the insect, they can still get some action.

And it works! The study found that 92 percent of the fake-gift spiders still got to mate. It's the latest example in a mountainous pile of research that suggests deception thrives throughout the animal kingdom. In instances where deception can provide a competitive advantage, species after species proceed with their metaphorical pants on fire.

RELATED: The Curious Case of Ryan Lochte's 'Robbery'

We humans are particularly good at it, if we do say so ourselves. According to a 2002 study in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology, people lie as often as two or three times in a ten minute conversation. Cross those numbers with statistics on how much time we spend talking, and it appears that the average person tells about 30 lies per day. Well, these were U.S. studies, so I suppose we should say the average American lies 30 times per day. That seems about right.

Still another study shows that, by age four, 90 percent of children have learned to lie. This may seem discouraging, but child psychologists actually consider it a sign of normal development.

So, yes: Humans are natural liars, as are many other species on the planet, and we have evolution itself to thank, or blame. It's all about socialization, cooperation and competitive advantage, you see.

-- Glenn McDonald

Learn More:

Proceedings Of The Royal Society B: Cooperation Creates Selection For Tactical Deception

Huffington Post: The Evolution Of Lying

National Library Of Medicine: The Role Of Prefrontal Cortex In Psychopathy