CS Lewis Web
The Lewis Legacy-Issue 71, Winter 1997
Why We Tell Whoppers
By: Kathryn Lindskoog
The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing
January 1, 1997

Gordon Monson, The Los Angeles Times, 8 December 1992

Psychiatrists say compulsive liars one researcher estimates they account for up to 5% of the population suffer from a personality disorder that leads them not just to tell lies but to try to live those lies as well.

"A lot of these people try to rewrite their personal history," says Bryan King, a psychiatrist at UCLA School of Medicine who has studied lying....

And experts say when compulsive liars start to believe their revised version, a whole new fictionalized world opens up for them. A new self-esteem. A new sense of power.

"Some liars get a thrill that's almost addictive," says Charles Ford, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Alabama-Blrmingham, who is writing a book on the subject. "They get an instant rush by duping someone. They think, Hey, I must be hot stuff to pull this off. Look how clever I am...."

Research shows that, in general, people want to believe what they are told, even if it is an outlandish lie. Complicating matters is the factthat many compulsive itars have a sense of how far to push their lies.

'They have an uncanny ability to tell people what they want to hear,'Ford says ...

Maureen O'Sullivan, a professor of psychology at the University of San Francisco, helped conduct extensive studies that ended with the discouraging conclusion that most peoplc even members of the FBl, CIA and numerous police departments who were tested simply cannot tell when they are being lied to. [Some liars] give no indication, no emotional clues that they are lying,"she says. They look you straight in the eye."

"I should be useless as a schoolmaster or a policeman. Statements which I know to be untrue all but convince me, at any rate for the moment, if only the man says them unflinchingly. The same weakness is why I am a slow examiner: if a candidate with a bold, mature handwriting attributed Paradise Lost to Wordsworth, I shd. feel a tendency to go and look it up for fear he might be right."

C. S. Lewis to Warren Lewis, 21 July 1940