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Hello [subscriber.first_name] [subscriber.last_name]!
Welcome to Our Newsletter
by Dr. Jennifer Lagrotte, DMFT

I was recently told a story about how a mother was telling her daughter before their big trip on an airplane that she was two years old instead of three. The mom told me that she kept on reminding her daughter to say she was two and not three so she could sit on her lap during the flight and not have to buy a plane ticket for her daughter. Well, at the airport the child states at the ticket counter, .My mommy told me to say that I was two but I am really three years old.. Of course the mother was embarrassed and we just learned the lesson of how children learn to lie. Lying is not a trait that we are born with; it is something that is learned from the people in our lives. I have listed a few of the types of lies out there. Of course there are more but I think you will get the general idea from this list.

If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything.
~ Mark Twain

What is a lie?

Lying is a form of deception, but not all forms of deception are lies. Lying is giving some information while believing it to be untrue, intending to deceive by doing so. A lie has these essential features:

  • A lie communicates some information
  • The liar intends to deceive or mislead
  • The liar believes that what they are 'saying' is not true
  • A lie does not have to give false information
  • A lies does not have to be told with a bad intention - white lies are an example of lies told with a good intention

This definition says that what makes a lie is that the liar intends to deceive or at least to mislead the person they are lying to. It says nothing about whether the information given is true or false.

This definition covers ordinary cases of lying and these two odd cases as well: The case where someone inadvertently gives true information while believing that they're telling a lie

  • I want the last helping of pie for myself, so I lie to you that there is a worm in it.
  • The case where nobody is deceived by me because they know that I always tell lies

Lying under serious threat

The reason for lying that gets most sympathy from people because something terrible will happen if you don't lie. Examples include

  • lying to protect a murderer's intended victim
  • lying to save oneself from death or serious injury

Mental reservations

This legalistic device divides a statement into two parts: the first part is misleading, the two parts together are true - however only the first part is said aloud, and the second part is a 'mental reservation'. Here are some examples:

  • "I have never cheated on my wife" (except last Thursday)
  • "I did not steal the cakes" (on Thursday afternoon)
  • "I did not touch the painting" (but my glove did)

White lies

A white lie is a lie that is not intended to harm the person being lied to - indeed it's often intended to benefit them by making them feel good, or preventing their feelings being hurt.

For example:

  • I go to a dinner party and my hostess asks how I like the dish she's prepared. The true answer happens to be 'I think it tastes horrible' but if I say 'it's delicious' that's a white lie. Most people would approve of that white lie and would regard telling the truth as a bad thing to do. (But this lie does do some harm - the hostess may feel encouraged to make that dish again, and so future guests will have to suffer from it.)

White lies usually include most of these features:

  • they are not intended to harm the person lied to
  • they are not intended to harm anyone else
  • they don't actually harm anyone (or only do trivial harm)
  • the lie is about something morally trivial
  • they aren't told so often that they devalue what you say
  • the person being lied to is deprived of information that they might find useful even if they found it unpleasant
  • the person telling the lies may find it easier to lie in future and they may come to blur the boundary between white lies and more blameworthy lies

White lies weaken the general presumption that lying is wrong and may make it easier for a person to tell lies that are intended to harm someone, or may make it easier to avoid telling truths that need to be told - for example, when giving a performance evaluation it is more comfortable not to tell someone that their work is sub-standard.

Compulsive Liar

A compulsive liar is defined as someone who lies out of habit. Lying is their normal and reflexive way of responding to questions. Compulsive liars bend the truth about everything, large and small. For a compulsive liar, telling the truth is very awkward and uncomfortable while lying feels right. Compulsive lying is usually thought to develop in early childhood, due to being placed in an environment where lying was necessary. For the most part, compulsive liars are not overly manipulative and cunning (unlike sociopaths), rather they simply lie out of habit - an automatic response which is hard to break and one that takes its toll on a relationship.

A Sociopath

A sociopath is typically defined as someone who lies incessantly to get their way and does so with little concern for others. A sociopath is often goal-oriented (i.e., lying is focused - it is done to get one's way). Sociopaths have little regard or respect for the rights and feelings of others. Sociopaths are often charming and charismatic, but they use their talented social skills in manipulative and self- centered ways.

If you fit into one of these categories then you lie. Society has given us a pass on lying but if you lie to protect yourself or others you are still lying. It is up to you how and why you lie and whether you want to change you're lying habits.

Happy New Year!

If you have any feedback for this newsletter or a topic of interest, please do not hesitate to email

Dr. Jennifer B Lagrotte, DMFT
Dr. Jennifer Lagrotte, DMFT

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