BP #8: The Snowball Effect of Lying

In a recent study, researchers found that people who lie start out with smaller lies and then gradually move on to larger ones. The study gave participants an incentive to lie, trying to emulate the self-interests in careers. This pulled in a more realistic emotional component into the study that gave participants the choice to lie. Although dishonesty can be hard to study, results of the experiment indicated that people who tell big lies usually start out with telling smaller, less consequential, lies.

This study and its findings reminded me a lot of the class discussion of Kant’s universal law formulation as a test for rational actions. Specifically, it reminded me of the self-defeating example of lying about repaying people who loan you money. If you lie about repaying someone who lends you money, it is in your own self-interest to do so in order to get the money. However, if everyone were to do it, no one would benefit because everyone would be lying and no one would be lending money.

Essentially, these two examples are the same. So, perhaps if everyone just told small lies that were not as big of a deal, it might be okay. This study, though, suggests differently. If everyone were to start telling small lies, then everyone would gradually progress to telling much larger lies. Just like the example in class, once everyone starts lying, no one is able to trust each other, so according to Kant’s test and the results of the study, it is irrational to lie.

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