Human Behavior: Lying
Lying is one of the most common human behaviors with many people terming it as wrong but necessary at times. Lying can be described as a form of deception, and has three main features: a lie has to communicate some information; the liar has to have the intention to mislead or deceive and; the liar is aware that he or she is telling a lie (BBC, 2013). Therefore, lying does not have to communicate false information, but it is the intention of the liar to deceive by giving false information that constitutes lying. But what motivates lying?
Humanistic theory of motivation illustrated by Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs best explains the human behavior of lying. According to the hierarchy, human needs are in a series of levels. According to Cherry (2013), lying is tied in with self-esteem. In the hierarchy of needs, there is a need for both self-esteem as well as the esteem of other people. This involves self-confidence, reputation, respect and status. Therefore, people will tend to lie whenever they feel that their self-esteem is threatened (Friedman, 2003). Therefore, lying then becomes a mean of ensuring that reputation, respect or status is not lost. For example, a prominent person mentioned in a corruption scandal might lie to ensure that his image or reputation is not tarnished.
This theory meets each of the four goals of psychology. First, it describes the need for self-esteem as well as the esteem of other people which is all about status, ego, respect, reputation and self-confidence. Therefore, it describes lying as a means of protecting one’s self-esteem. Second, it explains why people might lie, and people lie so as to protect their ego or esteem. Third, it predicts that if a person’s self esteem feels threatened, then he or she is likely to lie. That is predictive. Finally, the theory meets the goal of control in that when a person is has self-confidence and his or her ego is not threatened, then he or she will not lie.
BBC. (2013) Lying and Truth-Telling. BBC Ethics Guide, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/lying/lying_1.shtml
Cherry Kendra. (2013) Theories of Motivation. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/psychologytopics/tp/theories-of-motivation.htm
Friedman, R.A. (2003, August 05) Truth About Lies: They Tell a Lot About a Liar. The New York Times, 2003. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/05/health/behavior- truth-about-lies-they-tell-a-lot-about-a-liar.html