The truth behind lying


“What’s wrong with me? I can never tell the truth – I’m a compulsive liar,’’ Bianca Williams* (26) of Bellville, Cape Town, says.

We all lie when it’s absolutely necessary, but some people make a habit of it. It’s almost as if they’re addicted to lies.

One reader wrote to us asking for more information about lying, asking whether it could be an illness, because she’s fed up with people who don’t tell the truth. We then asked on Facebook for people to tell us their stories. And scores responded, including Bianca.

In academic circles the phenomenon of lies and liars is thoroughly debated and researched. One surprising finding of a study by the University of South Carolina in America was that pathological liars’ brains actually differ from those who aren’t habitual liars.

They have “significantly more white matter and slightly less grey matter” in the pre-frontal cortex of their brains. Thought processes occur in the grey matter (brain cells) and the white matter connects these brain cells with one another other, carrying messages to and from the grey matter.

Because liars have more white matter it’s as if they have the “equipment” to think up all sorts of lies. The grey matter enables people to make moral decisions and suppresses the impulse to lie. Because liars have less of it they have fewer negative feelings about lying, cheating or manipulating.

But why do people lie and run the risk of being found out when they could just tell the truth?

Read more of Pieter van Zyl’s article in YOU 24 January 2013.

*Not her real name.

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