LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

Born Liars

by Ian Leslie.

As an autistic, I have long been fascinated about why people lie. Of course, I have lied (yes, I love your hat), but as a skill, it’s only come to me later in life, and I find it uncomfortable – an approach to be avoided whenever possible. So I was curious to explore the reasons why other seem able to lie pretty much all the time, and with such ease.

What I learned is that most people are hardwired to lie, and that deceit – on a varying scale of untruthfulness – is a vital part of surviving social interactions. It seems the ability to lie goes back a long way in evolutionary terms (Ian Leslie shows us how good apes are at deceit), suggesting the fittest were also the best liars, passing on their ability to their descendents: us. (And it’s not just primates; in Corvus: a life with birds, Esther Woolfson describes two of her pet birds, a magpie and a crow, also displaying clearly duplicitous behaviour.)

Leslie explores lying in many areas of life, including (not surprisingly) relationships, politics, work, and advertising. He looks in more detail at conmen, the “tell”, the lie-detector, self-deception, lying as a comfort blanket (my words), and the ethical boundaries around deception – concluding it all with an afterword about honesty.

I really had my eyes opened by this book. It has helped me understand neurotypical people much better (and stop being so confused and frustrated by deceitful behaviour). it has also helped me better understand where my own vulnerabilities are, so I can better protect myself in the future.

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