Everything you’ve ever heard about giraffes was false. Seriously, a horse-like animal with long legs, a long neck, a long tongue, two mushroom-lookin horns on its head, and spots? Sounds like something from a Dr. Seuss book. There is no such thing as giraffes. What?! You don’t believe me?! Alright, I don’t blame you. That deception was laughably transparent and substantial evidence exists to disprove me. However, what if I told you that we all tell equally ridiculous lies every day, and that 83% of those lies, are lies that we tell ourselves? Would you believe that?
This is true. There is an inherent comfort with dishonesty that has become very prevalent among my peers and our culture. But what are the purposes for dishonesty? Even when someone is looking us in the face, begging to hear the truth, we still lie. I intend to attempt to provide adequate incentive to persuade people to stray from the path of dishonesty, and to begin to live more honestly in speech, action, and intention, both internally with themselves and externally with one another.
What is the purpose of deception? Deception is a natural occurrence. Many organisms employ deceptive devices as a means of survival (i.e. camouflage, mimicry, distraction). Humans have evolved to a point where for lives such as ours, we are no longer survival organisms in the primitive sense. So, by that logic, we should take it upon ourselves to utilize our consciousness to make decisions deserving of our heightened state. When dishonesty is used in human interaction, it is usually for the purposes of monetary gain, or for avoiding discipline or consequence. So we lie for purposes that would be unnecessary if we had honestly expressed ourselves in the first place.
Dishonesty has fairly prevalent effects on us. Most of these effects begin in the subconscious mind. According to Diana Mertz, author of an article in the Journal of Value Inquiry, “Dishonesty produces errors in critical thinking, while inhibiting moral growth by concealing character flaws and diminishing motivation to change.” This speaks volumes to me having witnessed numerous people that live stagnated lives full of deception and manipulation, and clearly are filled with shame and guilt because of it. Yet they continue their patterns of false excuses and self-misrepresentation because they have fixed themselves into that pattern. To further elaborate on this point, the widely regarded German philosopher, Immanuel Kant made the connection between self-esteem and self-respect as being correlated to honesty. He states “Honesty as a virtue means refusing any falsification of facts. Honesty is the most remarkable expression of self-respect and respect for others, without any concessions to self-deception or deception to others.”
Deception and manipulation lead to the proliferation of self-doubt and guilt, which diminishes self-respect and self-confidence. Furthermore, it puts at risk the trust necessary for good relationships. On a neurological level, dishonesty requires elevated cognitive effort in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain used to interpret stimuli to produce a schema, or a “conceptualization of an organizational pattern or structure”. Thus when a person lies, they are actually creating a false reality in their own minds. So, a person can literally lie so much that they believe themselves.
Additionally, a 1994 series of studies at University of Delaware and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands have shown that there is a correlation between a person’s honesty and their perceived level of intelligence relative to others. The smarter a person thinks he or she is, the more honest they will be toward someone of lower perceived intelligence. So, in reciprocal, the less intelligent are more likely to be dishonest toward someone they perceive to be more intelligent, I would infer, as a means of self-embellishment for the sake of competition.
Neurologically, we are affected by morality in our embodied states. A 2012 study here in the UK, gave participants a description of a moral event prior to rating the same neutral tasting beverage (Lemon Water). When told of moral transgressions the beverage was rated the beverage with disgust. When told of morally neutral control events it was rated medium. When told of moral virtues, the beverage was rated highly delightful. This shows that the moral perspective of a person’s mentality given an abstract conceptual representation can directly affect their embodied cognition. I have observed this myself in recognizing that those who lead lifestyles of depravity and moral disharmony are often plagued by ill-favored events and negative personalities. What some might call “Karma” is actually just neurological distress from creating a dissonance in their cognition from what they know is right.
Taking a social perspective, from the European Journal of Social Psychology, from multiple authors: “Research on the fundamental dimensions of social judgment, regardless of the task goal, showed that traits related to morality and sociability are differently processed.” When asked to form an impression of someone, regardless of their own moral perspective, people are more interested in obtaining information about morality rather than sociability. Furthermore, the traits of honesty, sincerity and trustworthiness were more vital than friendliness or likeability, even among those people whose peers considered them to be dishonest and untrustworthy.
To roll all of this together into the greater point, I would implore everyone to begin to recognize the value and importance of honesty and morality, and to put forth effort to live in an honest way. This requires more than just telling the truth. This means being true to yourself in speech, thought, and action. This means having a positive desire to recognize your own shortcomings and putting forth honest effort to make improvements in yourself. To behave in a way that is contrary to reality is very easy; to behave cocky, arrogant, conceited, content (in lifestyle). But to honestly express yourself to actually attain a state of happiness and confidence through your actions is much more difficult and much more rewarding.
In conclusion, I have demonstrated how dishonesty and immorality have distinct physiological, neurological, emotional, and social consequences. I have described how behaving in a moral and honest way can result in the propagation of self-respect and positive life perspectives. I hope that I have given you reason to be honest whenever possible, to yourself, as well as to the people around you. I trust that you will use the scientific evidence provided to adjust your own mentality. I am brutally honest more often than not, and I’m always recognizing that things go much more smoothly, and without error, than if I had been dishonest.
“Consistently honest, rational behavior provides the greatest capacity for love and passion in life.”