We’re More Distrusting Than We Used To Be, But Expert On Lying Says All Is Not Lost

By Kim Ode
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Jeff Hancock, founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab, is known for his research into lying. In this article he discusses the concept of lying and the cost that comes from being paranoid and/or cynical of liars.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

There’ve been a lot of references lately to the childhood tale of Pinocchio, whose nose grew when he lied, or the schoolyard chant of “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” Our political landscape is rife with charges and countercharges of lying.

Yet Jeff Hancock says it’s important to remember that most of the time, people do tell the truth.

Honest.

Hancock, founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab, is known for his research into lying, and the effect (a positive one!) of technology and social media on honesty. We spoke to him about how we evolved to believe others, social media’s impact on lying and how we’ve Ubered ourselves into new forms of trusting.

Q: Are we hard-wired to lie? Is it a natural human trait?

A: Actually, I think we’re hard-wired to trust. We have what’s called “truth bias,” which means that we tend to believe other people, and there are cognitive, philosophical reasons that that’s the case.

If you and I were standing in a field and you said, “There’s a lion behind you,” if I have a truth bias, I will believe you. From an evolutionary bias, that’s good, because if I don’t believe you and you’re telling the truth, I’m dead. If you are lying, I may look bad because you fooled me, but I’m alive.

The point here is that a lot of work shows that our first instinct is to trust other people. Then, sometimes, we may become suspicious.

Q: But everyone seems to be more skeptical these days.

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