Born Liars Book Summary - Born Liars Book explained in key points
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Born Liars summary

Ian Leslie

Why We Can’t Live Without Deceit

4.2 (73 ratings)
16 mins
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    Born Liars
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    Lying is an essential part of who we are.

    Even if you consider yourself an honest person, you probably tell a lie every now and then. Or, to be more precise, you utter a falsehood with intent to deceive. These lies may not be malicious. Indeed, they often aren’t. Lying is simply something we’re hardwired to do.

    We lie for a number of reasons, most of which stem from our social nature.

    It isn’t easy being a social species. You have to keep track of dozens of relationships, predict how your actions will affect others and how best to react to the actions and reactions of those around you. Just thinking about it is exhausting!

    When our ancestors started becoming more social, they began developing bigger brains to cope with these proliferating interpersonal demands. Bigger brains helped them make better decisions, which in turn reinforced their developing intelligence. This narrative is the basis of the “social intelligence” hypothesis proposed in 1976 by the academic Nicholas Humphrey.

    Relatively speaking, it wasn’t long before we discovered that deceit is an invaluable tool in society. Say a certain caveman needed more food. It wasn’t long before he realized that he could hide what he’d received from the others and then say he’d never been given his share in the first place.

    Society always presents us with rivals and competition, difficulties that we learned to brush aside with a few apposite untruths.

    In the 1980s, primatologists Richard Byrne and Andrew Whiten discovered that primates also lie to get ahead.

    Two young chimpanzees were once observed digging for food. When they noticed an older chimp approaching, they quickly sat back, scratched their heads, relaxed and began pretending like nothing was going on. Once the older chimp was out of sight, they immediately got back to digging.

    This kind of deceit requires intelligence.

    To be able to convince that older chimp, the two youngsters had to have good timing and needed to pick the right gestures and posture to make it believable.

    According to Byrne and Whiten, human intelligence directly evolved from these scenarios of successful deception.

    In other words, lying is an essential part of how we came to be.

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    What is Born Liars about?

    Born Liars (2011) uncovers the truth about lying and the important role it plays in our lives. Far from being some undesirable glitch in the human system, lying has not only made us smarter but saved many lives and become an essential ingredient to our overall well-being. In these blinks, you’ll learn all about the history and neuroscience of fibbing, why it might be impossible to detect every lie and how central mendacity truly is to being human.

    Best quote from Born Liars

    Pinocchios nose remains a fairytale.

    —Ian Leslie
    example alt text

    Who should read Born Liars?

    • Anyone working with advertising
    • Armchair psychologists and philosophers
    • Cultural anthropologists

    About the Author

    Ian Leslie lives in London, where he writes for a variety of UK and US publications. He is also a writer and performer for the BBC Radio 4 comedy show Before They Were Famous. His second book, Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It, was published in 2015.

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