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Fingers crossed Fingers crossed (Charlotte McKnight/flickr/CC-BY-2.0)

Lies, liars, and lie catchers. This hour of Radiolab asks if it's possible for anyone to lead a life without deception.

We consult a cast of characters, from pathological liars to lying snakes to drunken psychiatrists, to try and understand the strange power of lying to yourself and others.


Gordon Burghardt, Paul Ekman, Ruben Gur, Barry L. McManus, Harold Sackeim, Steve Silberman, Joanna Starek and Yaling Yang

Catching Liars

In this segment, Gordon Burghardt introduces us to a snake that plays dead. Then, from a highway median at John F. Kennedy Airport, Paul Ekman tries to teach Jad how to catch a liar the old-fashioned way: by reading their facial expressions. Because if you know where to ...

Comments [18]

People Who Lie

What's going on in the mind of a liar? Producer Ellen Horne tells the story of a con woman and the trail of mistrust she leaves in her wake. Then we delve into the brains of pathological liars with Yaling Yang, a psychologist at the University of Southern California. She ...

Comments [64]

Lying to Ourselves

Can we lie to ourselves? If you are the liar, wouldn't you know the truth? In this segment, we explore the confusing and contradictory idea of self-deception. We go back to the early 70s, when psychiatrists Harold Sackeim and Ruben Gur came up with a set of embarrassing questions that ...

Comments [83]

Comments [135]

l joyner from New Hampshire

I loved this report. It is very interesting. Now I can be a bit easier on my daughter and her "storytelling". Anyway, just that. I wonder if people who make a living at "storytelling" would have more white parts in their brains, and/or very creative people? Authors for example, might they have more white? What about comedians....improve comedians especially? and inventors? and actors? It is very interesting to explore and research. Can't wait to hear more about the findings.


Sep. 14 2015 10:54 PM
george miller from west virginia

this broadcast explains why we seem to have a high number of liars holding public office. they are human in that they want us and themselves to see a perfect reality.these folks are destroyed when forced to face their own short comings for the world to see.I see the real world and and yes i faced down depression many times but i dream of improving the world around me thru being a positive force as a good example for others to follow if they so choose.that is my way of fighting depression.admitting to myself and those close to me of my quirks is liberating too.

Sep. 13 2015 12:21 PM
notjustme from Califorrnia

Thank you.

I very nearly married a pathological liar. I never caught him, but he died some years after we broke up. In reading and hearing friends' tributes, I suddenly watched nearly everything he'd ever told me unravel.His death after a long illness kept me from being angry at first, but eventually you have to rprocess something like that. The aftershocks analogy is quite apt. It does create a lot of self-doubt.

Sep. 12 2015 07:03 PM
Barbara Walsh from Las Vegas. NV

People who lie to themselves may not experience as much depression as those who don't lie to themselves, but there is no better motivator to offer aide to the world than to feel the depression of the state of other people. We are all connected. To lie to oneself is a selfish abomination and has no positive effect on the connection to global human spirit.

Sep. 12 2015 04:12 PM
Colleen from St. Louis

After googling Hope Ballantyne, I found a flicker post with her image. 3 months ago, someone commented that she looks like a "con lady" that lives in Colorado that goes by Hope Bana.

Aug. 08 2014 02:38 PM
Sam Shortis from Madrid Spain

Before I go on, Long time listener and I love the show and all the effort that you put into it and the integrity in responding openly to controversy. That said I think a disclaimer in this story needs to be there, one that says "before we go on, this story features a moment where two scientists while drunk assume that everybody secretly wants to rape or be raped" because the moment when that question was asked and laughed about I was shocked that nothing of consequence was said about it.

Firstly I think the term "rape" is poorly defined in these questions. Someone might have a sub-dom fantasy but in that fantasy sexual consent may be there. Or someone might think about the horror of rape and imagine it happening to them- does that mean they "fantasized" about rape or that they imagined it. I cannot imagine that the term "rape" as used by two drunk scientists is the same as the term "rape" understood by a woman or by a victim of rape. Words and their meaning exist in context.
Secondly, the suposition that everyone wants to rape or be raped by somebody- um lets think about what that means for women. The conclusion this grossly unscientific supposition implies is that either all women have at some time wanted to rape or be raped...

How about rephrasing the question as have you ever wanted to sexually dominate someone or be sexually dominated by someone? Or "have you ever wanted to utterly destroy someone else's life by raping them or have you ever really wanted that to happen to you".

Maybe questions that people come up with drunk are just that. Questions asked by drunk people for their shock value.

I really hope you guys will say something about this. There's "rape" as in sexual domination fantasies and college boy jokes and there's Rape as in the life destroying experience which is the soul destroying nightmare which happens more than men realize to our mothers sisters daughters and peers, and is used as a weapon in war.

May. 28 2014 05:41 AM

I am a rape survivor. I was going on a holiday trip this weekend to camp. My boyfriend and I decided to listen to your show since we listen to a lot of NPR.

The question about rape which puts in on the level of if you enjoy bowel movements makes it a joke. You are making rape a joke by asking that question.

No one wants to rape except criminals. If you mean rape fantasy, you should say that, but there is no thing as a rape fantasy either. Because fantasy denotes pleasure. Being a victim of a violent rape before my sexuality peeked, I would say I never have had thoughts of rape, since the violent crime almost destroyed my well-being and my career since I was raped at work.

But you would say I am lying. I am not. At all.

Nor would I dream of raping someone and putting them through that Hell.

So, this triggered me most of the day, making my trip less fun and me wondering if going off with a group of only guy friends was wise. I worry about even the guy friends I trust raping me because my co-worker and teacher raped me and I never knew it was coming until I was forced and could not stop it from happening. I was knocked out for one.

I think people like you think it is an ok question to ask because maybe no one you know has been raped or at least told you so. If you have a desire for someone to dominate you, it isn't rape, it is a domination fantasy. And vice versa and it is done for pleasure ultimately. Rape is violent and cruel an dehumanizing...and it is near impossible to get over.

So, an innocent show on the radio made me pretty sick and scared a lot of the weekend. Good job, RadioLab. What about a warning next time if you are going to stick the R word in there as a cutesy joke on your "embarrassing" survey? Rape is beyond embarrassing if it happens to you. I signed up here to make sure other rape victims know this whole thing scared me too. How innocent it is to spout out about rape? Ha, ha and all.

May. 26 2014 01:40 AM

GAHHHHHH!!! In general, Radiolab is more entertaining than it is a good source of information. Jad and Robert seem to get some of the most incompetent scientists on their show and don't seem to vet any of them. A couple of drunk men from a culture that already justifies rape in too many ways decide one night that everyone has rape fantasies. And somehow we are supposed to just accept that "fact," which is so casually thrown into the show without regard to how offensive it is, in particular, for victims of rape. (Worse than that, anyone who doesn't have these fantasies is deemed a liar! What a way to encourage people to start fantasizing about rape...) Good thing this segment came at the end, because I couldn't listen to the rest.

Thanks for helping to perpetuate rape culture, Jad and Robert. How about making up for this by doing a show about how scientists introduce their cultural biases into their work and present socially damaging ideas as scientific fact. There's plenty of material for you to draw on.

May. 25 2014 10:45 PM

The story on lying was fascinating. I think that test should be used on all Government officials both elected and appointed. I bet you would find a slue of liars. Start from the top and work down.

May. 25 2014 03:06 PM
Leslie from California, Northern CA

There are lies we tell to others.
There are lies we tell about others.
But the lies we tell ourselves . . . our own personal and private ordeal or bliss.

May. 24 2014 06:32 PM

Great episode. Does anyone know what happened to Hope? Also, I'm dying to see a photo, just out of curiosity.

May. 23 2014 04:47 PM
Nate from Pennsylvania

Here's my biggest issue with people who study people with disorders like "pathological lying." They will NEVER get it unless they have experienced it. Mostly because they start from the wrong place. You can't think of it as a person with the need to lie, someone who continually has the impulse to tell a lie. It is the feeling or the need to hide the truth. Not specifically to tell a lie, but to do whatever possible to not give up the truth. In the mind of a liar the first thing that pops up is "the truth" and that liar will do everything possible to never let the truth come out. That is the real starting point in this topic.

Oct. 16 2013 04:19 PM
Dan from NH

In response to Caroline,
I think that while acknowledging truth is a vital part of buddhism, compassion and acceptance are equally important. While reality can be difficult to accept, when you consistently respond to reality with compassion it is much easier to respond with loving-kindness. Practicing this feeling towards others can make it much easier to practice it for yourself, which can for some people be more difficult.

I would also point out that if a person regularly deceives themselves it is unlikely that they would be able to accurately report their own happiness. Lying to yourself can make you feel happier, and believe you are happier, except when you reality is forcing itself on you. This is why many people can be upset by honest criticism. When you react to such truths with disbelief and anger it hinders self-improvement and forces you to reengage with your self-deception.

Of course self-deception can be used as a tool. You can use it to increase performance, or to allow you to continue to function in times of great stress when reality is too much to accept. In fact, I suspect it is nearly impossible to truly acknowledge reality all the time. Our brains and senses are not designed to reflect reality, but to allow us to deal effectively with it. This can be overcome to a degree, but it requires mindfulness and practice.

I suspect that in almost every case your mind will not allw you experience much more reality than you can comfortably accept. As you process more and more reality not only are you likely to become more resilient, you will also be able to improve your actions to the benefit of yourself and others.

On balance, I think it is worthwhile to pursue truth.

Jun. 08 2013 09:56 AM

So, how does the conclusion that self-deceivers lead happier lives square up with the Budhist premise that bearing witness to naked reality is the path to lasting bliss? (Not exactly the same as the feeling of happiness, but that kind of transcendent peace.)

I'm really chewing on this... can it be counterproductive to try to overcome the "unsatisfactoriness" of life by facing reality openly, the way Buddhists do? Alternatively, does the practice of self-deception lead the individual to endure *greater* vulnerability/suffering because their self-accepted lies obscure important bits of reality, leading them into dangerous situations?

Apr. 17 2013 01:59 PM
Dave in Japan from Tokyo

What I don't get is how you determine that the people who answer the "universal truth" questions are lying to THEMSELVES, rather than just lying TO THE INTERVIEWERS. Certainly there are social pressures at work there?

That qualm aside, certainly unshakeable belief in the face of adversity is advantageous. I'm not sure if that constitutes "lying", if by believing "I am the best" you contribute to making it so…

Feb. 28 2013 04:39 AM
spider from Austin, Tx

Now I am totally depressed. I answered yes to all the questions! Live a regular not outstanding life, prefer to be alone now that the kids are grown and just lost my job because I would not lie. I don't think I am going to start lying because of it.
Wonder how much white matter Lance has.

Feb. 13 2013 11:18 PM
Kobert Rulwich

Why wasn't that lying sack of sh!t Jonah Lehrer on this show? Talk about your pathological liars.

You promised to have him on again and again!

Feb. 12 2013 08:27 PM
honest liar from Philadelphia

I would like to know if there is a connection between religiosity, honesty, success and happiness. I would also like to know how this relates to intelligence as well, but less so.

Feb. 12 2013 12:52 PM

I loved this show. To me, for many reasons, my identity is aligned with and dependent upon being authentic. If the result of seeing the world as it is brings sadness, so be it; it also brings a resolve to bring about change. My religion is based on "Repairing the World', I have always believed and been taught that the world is broken and we are meant to change what is wrong. If I lied to myself and thought that the world was all roses without the thorns I would not have become a mental health psychotherapist, a progressive Democrat, or a person who supports Civil Rights for all. I didn't get that Olympic medal, but I have helped many children, and others who didn't have voices in society, and will continue to do so. Happiness has many forms.

Feb. 11 2013 10:26 PM
Faceman from California

Very interesting! Some "nits":

- when the professor explained his "honest" response to the invitation for dinner he didn't want to go to? Too funny! He did not give an honest reply! Haha. The response / explanation he told the interviewer that he gave to the invite-or was entirely different / not the same as his reaction to the invitation. He gave a reason he knew would be more acceptable to the receiver (he gave a reason that made his motives appear more noble than they were, in fact, based on his earlier reasoning)

- to define a lie only as a "misrepresentation without notification" is incomplete. It leaves out all other kinds of subtleties & misrepresentations that we would be "mistruths", but not necessarily be "lies";

- The definition also excuses some lies that an unscrupulous liar might justify as okay due to acknowledged or unacknowledged "notification". Like COPs, who can legally lie to you, but who you may trust to tell you the truth due to the "color of authority", or whatever. Those of us who have been deceived by Law Enforcement undeservedly, to gain an advantage, no longer believe what we are told by men / women wearing badges as a result. I personally think that it's a shame.

- I would prefer a definition of lying that included the desire to gain an unfair advantage by the lie. Without an attempt to gain an unfair advantage or achieve personal gain based on trust, there is no reprehensibility, and therefor no lie.

- I would also exempt the mistruth that seeks to do good, or to ease pain, or to calm nerves. AKA the "white lie". Telling a wounded soldier to hang on, that he will make it, to ease his passing, when you know he will die. Telling your grandmother she looks marvelous. Not "lies" in my book. Honesty should not demand knowing cruelty.

- And there's also the basis of the 5th amendment, or control of your own communications: i.e., "it's none of your business, and you have no right to ask, and I'm not obligated to confess"

Bottom line: nice start, but it was not exactly clear that the "experts" in this piece had as much real, qualifying experience with core philosophy of honesty as they apparently thought they did.

Give us more.

Feb. 11 2013 02:31 PM
Bobby from Los Angeles

Want to know what happened to HOPE?
Is she still wanted by the police and is there any news?
What a great story.
Oh--and where is her daughter and how old would she be by now?

Feb. 11 2013 02:17 AM
Philip Baranko

People with dyslexia have more white mater in there brain (connective tissue). Is there a connection between them and compulsive liars?

Feb. 10 2013 11:11 PM
BriT from GA

When I was listening to this podcast, and I love listening to you guys and NPR in general, to be clear, but when I was listening to this, the main thing I thought was "duh!" I mean, some of the questions that you came up with to me weren't the best. But, the idea that we lie to ourselves, and that the most "successful" people are good at it isn't so shocking when you really think about it. unfortunately, often times, when people are honest with themselves about themselves, there are negative connotations associated with their true state of being (I blame religion for some of that). So it's easier to believe something else, and such ways of thinking are perpetualized in our society. If you don't think optimistically (without merit) about everything, you're a "downer," or "negative."

Life basically forced me to learn how to be honest with myself about myself and the world around me. I've honestly lost the ability to convince myself of things that just aren't true, whether it's about myself or any other situation. (I can certainly distract myself, but only for so long). I'm certainly no longer necessarily a happy-go-lucky type of girl/young woman. I've become disenchanted with religion. I'm not blissfully happy, but I am content. Etc, etc. Shouldn't we learn how to deal with the truths we discover about ourselves and the world, and realize that those truths/realities don't have to be seen negatively?

I don't see talking about real life and thinking about the "ugly" things that happen in this world and the possibly "ugly" things about myself as being "negative," but as being in touch with reality. What is wrong with reality? If there is something "wrong" with it, instead of being in denial, what can we do to fix it? How can we change ourselves and live in such a way that there is progress and change? I wasn't sure what vibe I was getting from your conclusions about what you learned, but my question is should we continue to lie to ourselves just to be blissfully happy and "successful," or should we learn how to deal with the world and ourselves exactly how it is and we are? I dare say doing so may just help us to dramtically change how the world works and rid us of some the ugly we don't seem want to face.

Feb. 10 2013 10:03 PM

Ouch. Bob; by these statements- I'm the person you know who is most in touch with reality...

At last I understand! The bits do make sense, in a highly disturbing way.

To the various nay-sayers here- at least recognize this; these viewpoints made you think, did they not?

Feb. 10 2013 03:22 PM
Juanita Rice,PhD from Nebraska

I have never been more appalled by pseudo-science. The whole program, and evidently other gullible "scientists'" research, is based on the ideas two white middle-class men had while getting drunk in a bar. The proposition that you are lying to yourself if you do not have rape fantasies (male or female, done to or doing) is preposterous. Perhaps these guys are confusing fantasies of ardent overpowering desire with rape. Wrong. Rape is a sadistic, cruel humiliation, motivated by hatred!

In today's world, in which we have recently seen an eruptions of violence against women, violence and misogyny that is considered entertaining, like the Steubenville drunk/drug rapes photographed and shared on cellphones,
such fantastic fake-science is not only appalling, but downright harmful. I would like to see an apology on the next radiolab for promoting those ideas as "scientifically valid."

Feb. 10 2013 09:55 AM

"Lying to yourself is not a gift." Exactly. Since when are "happiness" and "success" at any cost either happiness or success. (I guess it depends on your definition.)

...and in families with a history of incest isn't it exactly that, lies we tell ourself, exactly the problem...or in the Catholic Church?

Are you kidding? Isn't healing less hurt / fewer atrocities perpetrated on the world and a classroom of schoolchildren the goal?

Feb. 09 2013 04:06 PM
Pamela Butler from Pamela Butler

No, no, no, no, no. Lying to yourself is NOT a gift. It might have been at one time, but no more. How will anything change if we don't see the world as it really is? The delusions for success and happiness are the blindness leading us to the destruction of the planet and we really need to look at that reality.

Feb. 09 2013 01:08 PM
Kimi from Hartford, CT

The study based on the researchers *personal assumption* that *everyone* has thought about committing suicide, would like to commit or receive rape, has enjoyed his/her own poop, and something else I've forgotten -- that study is not science. It's based on a subjective assumption that the researchers are omniscient and therefore their personal beliefs about the inner workings of *all* human beings are in some way valid. That's JUNK science.

The reason that the people who said they hadn't thought in those ways performed better might just be that people who have a particular mental competence are mentally healthier -- more likely to use their minds well to succeed and less likely to think in the ways the researchers assume that all humans absolutely must. To assume that the study provided evidence that these people must be liars is not logical.

Feb. 09 2013 01:21 AM

Hmmm, I am just done listening to this episode, and unlike those on time & space (symmetry), I found this one falling short on the depth of its topic. Probably I was getting too infatuated with RadioLab lately and a dose of mediocrity on their part was needed for good measure and to keep things in perspective.

I still do need to thank Radio Lab nonetheless, for the topic of their show this time made me think of "On truth and lies in an extramoral sense", and I went and reread that piece before listening to the show...

Feb. 08 2013 04:04 PM

"We have art in order not to die of the truth". Radiolab is living proof that topics in continental philosophy can be rendered quite appealing to a broad American public. By doing this, Radiolab is rendering public service, and I for once, pledge to support it financially. I can hardly see better use of my or public money.

Feb. 08 2013 01:43 PM
Veronica from BROOKLYN

The ending seemed to be a bit of a cop out...
I was raised in an intellectual environment and sadness is a known consequence. Yet, I was always taught to use it as something that you can grow from and create from. Yes, it might be true that if you tell yourself you are the best and block all negative thoughts from your brain that you may reach your goals more quickly. There is a self-help section at your local bookstore, check it out. However, this completely undermines the creative brain that NEEDS to have an understanding of pain and a realistic view of the world. Without this we would lack our rich culture. I am wary of people that rely only on endorphins and self-centered meditation. What does a gold medal in the Olympics do for the world other than confirm the ratio of education/wealth to Olympic athletes from participating countries.

Oct. 03 2012 12:58 AM
Joe M. from Jersey City

Just want to add my own two cents here. I really don't like the message of this episode - ie people who lie to themselves are more successful. While this may be true - I don't believe it's a rule.

The solution is to have faith. Faith in yourself and in God (the omni present creative force that creates beautiful complexity from the chaos of entropy). And forgiveness - for yourself and for others. These two things will allow you to steal yourself in moments of trial and sooth yourself in moments of doubt.

Like the Greeks said: Know thy self. If everyone worked at these things rather then settled for petty lies - the world would be so much better off.

May. 13 2012 07:01 PM

Wow. This was really surprising to me. I am one of the people who would answer "yes" to all of the embarrassing questions, and I constantly struggle with self-doubt and depression about the ugly truths of life. And here I always thought it was good to be truthful to oneself...

Mar. 22 2012 02:01 PM
Don from Phoenix Stupidville

My dad was a very devout "Bible Thumper". He could quote the Bible quit well and could find some answer to every question in life in it. His favorit saying before he launched into "Sermon Mode" was; God hates a liar. If this program contains any truth seems quite the opposite may be true. Perhaps the grace of God is an increased ability to spin a tale or tell a lie. Amen!

Feb. 28 2012 08:17 PM

Actually, he sounds like Wallace Shawn (voice of Rex in Toy Story).

Jan. 04 2012 02:06 PM
Jeffrey Ho

Paul Scheer?

Jan. 04 2012 02:04 PM
Mohammed Kareem

Great episode.

on another note one of the researchers in the last segment (the younger sounding one who also has the last word about depression) has such a recognizable voice, it sounds exactly the same as an actor but i can't for the life of me come up with a name. It's driving me crazy!

Dec. 27 2011 01:03 PM
Jon Autry

You guys are about to make me cry. I listened to this podcast a couple of years ago. Since then a Professor at my University was accused of lying about his background. I have a complicated background also, so I did not believe it at first. Then his defenses made less and less sense. Later someone posted two hour long video lectures he gave years ago where he told stories about himself that had no basis in reality. He claimed to have grown up in Turkey and to have learned English as a teenager. In reality he had grown up in Ohio going to local public schools from Kindergarten to graduation.

Since then I have found it difficult to trust, because let's face it I was a bad judge of character. There has been an unexpected fallout. Despite the video lectures he has plenty of defenders. It is difficult to trust them as well.

Nov. 20 2011 05:24 PM

People who believe in themselves even against great odds are happier and more successful then others? Who would have thought?

Nov. 02 2011 05:50 AM
sean from Portland, Oregon

Why people lie to others and themselves correlates to another show that had to do with why people 'choose' things that go against their best interests which, in turn, also relates to selfish self-interest.

The sad irony in all this is that the human species feels the need to suspend short-term reality in a deep-seated feeling that it will help it survive yet at the cost of long-term, inevitable self-destruction. Our quick fixes will not save us from our selfish and greedy ways of 'adapting'.

So what drives this? As another one of your great shows pointed out: FEAR. Which now begs the question: what the hell are we so afraid of? Which now begs the next question: Would you please do a show just on FEAR, which is the driving force of pretty much everything we do.

Aug. 22 2011 06:56 PM
Ann from Kansas

Regarding the idea that children experience an increase in white matter between the age of 2-10:

I remember when I was very, very young - one of my earliest memories - probably around three years old. I came in from playing in the sand box and my mother asked me, "Did you remember to wipe off your feet outside?" And I said that I had and she, I guess, didn't believe me and asked "Are you sure you're not lying?" I replied "What is lying?" It just hadn't occurred to me in my life at that point that I could say something that wasn't true.

Aug. 09 2011 12:32 PM

The Hog-nosed snake has an even wilder deceit up its sleeve. Or rather, tail.

My dogs roused a HNS one spring here in Eastern Kentucky one day. Trying to save it, I witnessed the "play dead" behavior and totally bought into it. I took the dogs back to the house. Looking out the window a moment later I saw a ripple in the grass across the pond; I watched the snake enter the water.

When it began to swim, and there was something very weird about the silhouette. I got my binoculars, focused on the swimming snake and... it was swimming backwards, tail in the air, head under water. The tail was held high, with a slight kink in the end. It looked like a periscope. Anyone attacking the the head would get a mouthful of tail.

It was the oddest, most compelling thing I've ever seen, so odd that didn't really believe my eyes. But I looked around in the layman's snake lit online and found the behavior described exactly as I 'd witnessed it.

May. 14 2011 10:05 AM

The Hog-nosed snake has an even wilder deciet up its sleeve. Or rather, tail.

My dogs roused a HNS one spring here in Eastern Kentucky one day. Trying to save it, I witnessed the "play dead" behavior and totally bought into it. I took the dogs back to the house. Looking out the window a moment later I saw a ripple in the grass across the pond; I watched the snake enter the water.

When it began to swim, and there was something very weird about the silhouette. I got my binoculars, focused on the swimming snake and... it was swimming backwards, tail in the air, head under water. The tail was held high, with a slight kink in the end.

It was the oddest, most compelling thing I've ever seen, so odd that didn't really believe my eyes. But I looked around in the layman's snake lit online and found the behavior described exactly as I 'd witnessed it

May. 14 2011 10:00 AM
Darrell from canada

perhaps I should clarify from such a bold statement. I would weigh the prison population in the USA alone as one of many points explaining my case. I do not feel that it is fair to think of rape as a crime strictly against women.

Jan. 21 2011 03:48 PM
kiki lee from Beijing, China

I believe all men in Lavalife and Plentyoffish Internet Dating lie about their age, weight, complexion, status, height, bank account, number of children, wife and girlfriend they already have

Jan. 05 2011 03:26 PM
kiki lee from Beijing, China

I believe all men in Lavalife and Plentyoffish Internet Dating lie about their age, weight, complexion, status, height, bank account, number of children, wife and girlfriend they already have

Jan. 05 2011 03:25 PM
Michelle from Davis, CA

What a brilliant show! The final line was the source of some thought for me for quite a while:
"We're so vulnerable to being hurt that we're given the capacity to distort as a gift."

Thank you for the wonderful program.

Jan. 02 2011 10:18 PM

What a bummer ending!

Dec. 09 2010 11:58 PM
Michael Searer

I was profoundly affected by the last segment of this episode (regarding self-deception) as i suffer from depression. The thing that has always plagued me about my condition is i have always felt my outlook on life was very accurate, and that those that are not depressed (ans anxious as i am too), do not see the world the "right'' way. To me, the world is quite grim, and life appears to be both extremely dangerous, and very cruel. I guess (sadly) this is the case, and i am simply unable to delude myself into believing differently. On that note, Happy Holidays All!

Dec. 04 2010 05:14 PM
Simona from LA

I loved loved loved this episode! Helped me to better understand one of my ex-boyfriends. I found it really interesting that you guys were able to do an entire show on deception without bringing politicians into it, btw.

Nov. 19 2010 06:07 PM
Cliff from SF, CA

The interlude at 47:00 is outrageously obnoxious and goes on for waaaay too long. Please never again!

Nov. 08 2010 04:05 PM

If there are more pathways in the brain of a pathological liar then surely this doesn't mean that they "can" come up with lies/stories easier, but it means that, at the crucial moment, they are actually presented with a choice of "truths" to tell; wouldn't that be the nature of the pathology. We can all come up with an excuse if we need to, but these guys can't really control it and the conclusion reached by Yaling Yang seems to lack any ring of truth to my mind.

Imagine someone asking you what you ate for lunch and, instead of the first thing popping into your mind being the truth, 7 different answers pop into your head (because of all those pathways) and you quickly have to choose one and act natural. You say "I didn't have time for lunch today" when you actually had a burger, and immediately think to yourself "why did I say that?" That seems far more likely to me.

Oct. 18 2010 10:16 AM

I used the topic of this podcast for an ESL lesson. My adult students took the lying test and discussed it. They loved it!
Would you ever consider releasing show transcripts? I want them to listen but you talk too fast for second language speakers. Just a thought!

Oct. 15 2010 02:26 AM
Luke David Alden from Bournemouth, England

Yet another interesting podcast. The end did strike me as a little polar though.
If you don't lie to yourself, you are depressed; if you do, then you are happy. Obviously I have paraphrased slightly here (in a way that helps my statement too possibly.)
I don't think its as cut throat as that. There is a difference between lying to yourself and the self-belief that gives you the confidence to do well. Being honest with others and yourself is only healthy.

Sep. 20 2010 06:28 PM
Sr. June Thomas, OSH

Hog-nose snakes also flatten their heads to look like pit vipers (like rattlesnakes).

Sep. 15 2010 05:10 PM

I think it would be interesting to give the "Embarassing Questions Test" as a written, anonymous (or pseudo-anonymous) questionnare, then as a face-to-face interview - perhaps a couple days later - and compare the results.

Great show!

Sep. 02 2010 08:13 PM

How classist of Yaling Yang to say that people who are in temp agencies are more likely to be pathological liars. Did the financial crisis not teach us that lying escapes no socio-economic class? That ivory tower must afford a quite comfortable view of those who are living paycheck to paycheck.

Aug. 08 2010 02:58 PM

I found myself identifying very much with the "depressed people who lie less".

It first started with the thoughts that I would probably answer yes to most of the embarrassing questions, although, being foreign I don't understand what "enjoying a bowel movement" means. I just generally think it's better to tell the truth.

As other comments say I usually think it's better to be honest and be conscious of the problems instead of ignoring them or masking them under lies.

The interesting part is that I actually of a depressed nature too. I also don't have that social lubricant that Jordan mentioned and I'm quite aware of it.

And yes, the fact that I am too realistic definitely prevents me from achieving anything. I stop myself before even starting because I know it's not going to be perfect, because I'm too aware of the competition. I can't bring myself to think "you're the best".

Should I just start lying more?

Jul. 30 2010 11:24 AM
Movie Results

I wonder if a sense of incapacity, of paralysis, doesn’t speak of a need for deeper understanding and the kind of honesty that would allow for self-acceptance. Perhaps the problem is not the honesty but the accompanying shame for us

Jun. 29 2010 05:29 PM

The tale of orangutan Foo reminded me of my sister's first Labrador retriever, Moody. Moody owned dozens of toys, knew all their names, and would retrieve a named toy upon request. For reasons I can't fathom, my sister forbade him to take Tennis Ball outside, yet the fuzzy fluorescent green orb repeatedly made its way into the back yard by means unknown. One day she called me, laughing out loud, to say she'd solved the mystery. Moody casually asked to go outside, as any good, housebroken dog will do, and as he brushed past her she noticed that one of his ample chops had a slight bulge. Bending down for a better look, she saw a bit of bright green peeking out from under the bulge. Moody didn't have the dexterity to pick locks, but he was every bit as sneaky, premeditated, and determined as Foo.

Jun. 18 2010 01:06 PM

I agree that self-delusion can make someone happier. I'll bet that climate change deniers have less worry than I do.

But, what about those who delude themselves, not into complacency, but into a furvor? I'm thinking of Birthers, Truthers, Anti-Vaxers and other angry people who won't let any fact change their minds.

And to speak to the self-delusional people win races. While that is true in itself(the worst MTB race I had was when I was at the starting line thinking I wasn't ready for the season; the best was when I KNEW that I was the baddest ass in my category), but the connection with not answering embarrassing questions is, to me, tenuous.

Jun. 16 2010 01:51 PM

Really fantastic show! But, a couple of quick thoughts:
1) Couldn't it be that the people who answer no to all the embarrasing questions succeed due to a fear of embarrasment (not wanting to be seen as the failures who can't swim fast enought, for instance), rather than because they self deceive?
2) As most happiness test are going to be self-assessed, how do we rule out the possibility that these people who we believe can deceive are not just lying or self-deceiving about their happiness?

Jun. 15 2010 01:31 PM

Hi Dan-
We put a new full hour episode up on the podcast every six weeks. And two shorts in between each full hour. (So one every two weeks ... Short, short, full. Short, short, full.)


Jun. 14 2010 11:26 PM
Dan Martin

Maybe this isn't the right place to ask this question, but I don't know where else to ask. I recently discovered Radiolab, and I absolutely love it. I've pretty much been mainlining them directly into my veins. I've listened to every back episode two or three times, and I was just wondering how often a new episode is released? Is there any sort of schedule so I know when to expect a new show? Thanks very much.

Jun. 13 2010 09:37 PM

I always answer yes when asked about "unacceptable" thoughts. I enjoy my bowel movements, have had all sorts of criminal ideas, et cetera. I am also less successful than more normal folk in my family and suffer from depression et cetera. Very interesting. Of course, there are levels of self-understanding. I wonder if a sense of incapacity, of paralysis, doesn't speak of a need for deeper understanding and the kind of honesty that would allow for self-acceptance. Perhaps the problem is not the honesty but the accompanying shame. Or maybe people willing to lie to themselves are better at being social. Also, the talk about white matter reminded me of the story about Albert Einstein's they found an abundance of white matter in some parts of his brain....and perhaps not coincidentally, he had a pretty involved private life juggling several women.....

Jun. 13 2010 07:46 PM

Deception is just one of the tools in the toolbox.

Jun. 13 2010 04:39 PM

Personally I find that once I relieve myself from the self deception of day-to-day little things (for example: Mondays suck because they are Mondays, not because I hate my job) I am free to slay my own personal dragons. Self deception makes some things much easier- like a social lubricant, but also have the potential to mask grander truths... and isn't that what we are all looking for?

I loved this show and all of your shows. I am very appreciative of all the hard work done by your team!

Jun. 13 2010 01:32 PM

in response to the following statements:
"People who are happiest are the one's who are lying to themselves more."

"Depressed people lie less."

I've been listening to a lot of talks about Buddhism, and I would question the idea that people who lie to themselves are happier than those who don't. Matthieu Ricard has been called "the happiest person in the world", and as an advanced practitioner of meditation, is much more honest and in touch with himself than even the depressed people in these studies. The self deception that pervades depression is the belief that one is without self worth. This is as much a lie as any self deception about one's superior worth. In depressed people, answering the taboo research questions truthfully may serve to reinforce their deluded negative self perceptions. In a happy honest person, answering truthfully would have no great consequence. Deception is not, as Ricard demonstrates, a critical ingredient to personal happiness.

Jun. 11 2010 04:51 PM

I was hoping we'd get an update on Hope. I guess she disappeared after Katrina. She still has addresses listed online in New Orleans. Any update?

Jun. 10 2010 11:47 AM

So now we know. The truth, is that everything is a lie. :-(

Jun. 10 2010 10:32 AM

I was really hoping the topic of lying would progress to manipulation and thus conclude the last segment of the show covering psychopaths and sociopaths. And interesting episode nonetheless but I would really enjoy seeing a RadioLab episode on psychopaths

Jun. 10 2010 04:33 AM

I love this episode so mush because it really gets into how lies are actually a part of our culture. Jad and Robert really show you how it affects your life, for better or for worse, and how we do it without even realizing it. One of my favorite episodes definitely.

Jun. 09 2010 09:23 PM

great episode. lived with a sociopath and compulsive liar for close to a year, terrifying experience! will never look at people the same way again.

Jun. 07 2010 01:29 PM

It may be true that self-deception helps us feel happy, but there are at least three other possible interpretations of the study that reached this conclusion.

1. The acknowledged assumption of the universality of the experiences asked about (enjoying a bowel movement, having rape fantasies) may, of course, be inaccurate. Maybe the propensity for enjoying bowel movements is itself an obstacle to happiness. Logically, it isn't difficult to see how the desire to rape might be such an obstacle.

2. Granting that the experiences are universal, it is not certain that those who deny the experiences are lying to themselves: they may be lying to their interviewers. And why shouldn't they? It may be the compulsion to be honest that is an obstacle to success and happiness. (The gentleman in the program who has determined to be as honest as possible in all situations demonstrated how this is an obstacle for him, socially.)

3. Here's the most interesting possibility. Granting that the experiences are universal and that everyone is equally honest when interviewed, it is still not certain that those who denied ever enjoying bowel movements were lying to themselves. They might honestly have forgotten those experiences. There may be those of us who dwell long enough on experiences for them to enter our long-term memories and those of us who don't. It doesn't strike me as farfetched that dwelling on what goes on within us is an obstacle to happiness.

Jun. 07 2010 12:22 PM

I thought I had heard all the Radiolab episodes and didn't recall hearing this one. While I was listening I kept thinking that it wasn't a rerun. Then I thought, "Oh yeah, deception, rebroadcast, I get it." But I guess I was wrong and it is indeed a rebroadcast.

Jun. 05 2010 05:31 PM

I love this episode so much. I lived with a compulsive liar for a few months (he told me he was being made homeless), and I cannot listen to the bit about Hope and Jude without crying. The aftershocks thing is so true. Love you guys!

Jun. 05 2010 05:49 AM

@Catie I think the expression game they were playing is Paul Ekman's "The Micro Expression Tool (METT)", but I'm not sure if the official version is available for free.

There's a similar test at based on the METT that's essentially a sample of the same game:

Jun. 03 2010 10:50 PM

Is there a way we could see or access the expression "game" from the first section? I would love to see some of the pictures of facial features.

Jun. 03 2010 01:24 PM

Got a different perspective this time than when i first heard it. I am left at the end with this though - if self deception makes for happier people - what about the people to whom self deception is a handicap. People who are in denial of things like their alcoholism, addiction, or any other self destructive behavior? Anyway just a thought - as always a wonderful well thought out episode, and thanks guys keep up the great work.

Jun. 03 2010 12:51 PM

Great episode! Makes you really wonder about how far can we go as to have complete trust with one-another. No wonder some people go live in complete solitude after being victims of betrayal. I wonder if lying is possible with some form of telepathic or non-verbal communication.

Jun. 02 2010 06:43 PM

So, has Yaling (the psychologist from USC) seen any new deceptive developments in young Zoe? Since the original broadcast Zoe would have entered that phase Yaling mentions in the show, from 2 - 10 years old, during which there's a big increase in brain white matter (and lying behavior!).

I wonder if Yaling Yang has any new perspectives on this given the time since the original broadcast; it's got to be something Jad will be thinking about soon as well!

Jun. 02 2010 03:56 AM

One of my favorite Radiolab shows! Deception is integral to the success of humanity, from each individual to civilization itself, despite the problems it can cause. Certainly a topic well worth learning about!

Jun. 01 2010 11:16 PM
angelina jolie

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Sep. 10 2009 08:56 AM
Me...yup, it's Me.

The thing is, with telling the truth, people don't like HEARING the truth. Even when people say something, such as, "Come on; just tell me the truth!" they DON'T WANT THE TRUTH!!!! I swear, it's mainly because we, actually, WON'T deal with it. We can't deal with it. The truth is so difficult for us, sometimes, because some of us are too stupid-scratch that-take things too personally, rather, that WE WON'T HANDLE IT. (Please pardon the caps. I'm not sure whether italicizing works on the blogs and I'm...not going to try and, possibly, fail with <'s and /'s everywhere. Anyway...)

People care about acceptance and are self-conscious (99.9999% of people are, roughly), and because of this people, usually, react badly towards any negative truth pertaining to them.

Mostly, the world would be filled with more self-conscious/self-accepting, crybaby/happy, argumentative/timid and wary, morons than there are now. But that's okay, because at least that one girl/guy can kill themself because they start to hate themself as much as others tell them they hate them (or dislike. Yeah, sure.), because they're too touchy to deal with it in an unpersonal level. Kill the stupids. Whatever.

If it makes you feel happy, I don't care, lie, just, depending on what this 'truth' is, understand the difference an opinion and the overall, universal, tested, checked, tested again, and checked again, scientifically-proven truth.

...Um. Okay.

May. 27 2008 12:52 AM
"Dr." F.N.A. Wright

So that's why depression is on a rampant rise in our society. We're either slowly, finally admitting the truth to ourselves or simply running out of the energy required for keeping up the pretence that our Emperor, although obviously a nudist, is a democratically elected representative subject to the laws and limitations on his power as in a constitutional democracy. I actually feel slightly less depressed after that realization. Truth does set one free - even when you find the truth is the liars who believe or can make others believe the lies expected of them by societal norms are those who do better in a truth-challenged culture of denial such as least until global warming catches up and extincts 90% of the species currently alive, likely including us if we remain de-facto in denial we have to radically change. Keep up the good work - and thank-you!
Public uncovering of such seemingly unlikely verities is indeed cathartic, almost to the point of hope, for the rest of us miserable truth-mongers.

Apr. 24 2008 11:20 PM
D. S.

Did I miss something? What in the world is that horrible sound at around the time: 11:10 ?

Mar. 26 2008 08:23 AM
Dan D

I am a very successful business speaker--I've spoken before a few people, rooms holding thousands, and live broadcasts with tens of thousands. I've been asked to make speeches without preparation or warning. I've been asked very difficult questions during live broadcasts.
And I've always been very, very successful. What I've said has changed thousands of people's lives, positively and dramatically. Those who I've impacted, or have experienced my presentations, cannot imagine that this ability is learned rather than innate. But I did learn, early in my career, one skill upon which this is built: I can genuinely believe a lie I make to myself, EXACTLY as the athletes in the broadcast were described. It is this: I believe with every iota of my being that every single member of my audience loves me with all their heart, as a babe loves its mother, or two lovers love each other. While I am before my audience I have absolutely no doubt that this is true, no doubt whatsoever.

Mar. 22 2008 11:16 AM

I thought this show was extremely interesting. I have been diagnosed with multiple personalities which each have their own truths. These truths may seem to be lies to the other alters but yet they all come from the same brain. I also suffer from depression, like many people with DID (formerly called Multiple Personality Disorder). I wonder if I would be considered more truthful or a liar by the USC's standards of grey vs. white matter in the prefrontal cortex.

Mar. 18 2008 03:59 PM
Ellen Horne

In response to Michael (comment 34), I, too, was surprised by how I responded to Hope, after meeting DOZENS of people who told heartbreaking tales of how she'd betrayed them. (My favorites were the off the record stories...oh my, oh my...the trail of wreckage this woman left in her wake is enormous!)

I suppose that when it came down it I was less interested in demonizing her, stopping her, catching her and more interested in UNDERSTANDING her.

The only other insight I can give is that she's a very anxious person and I felt sorry for her. I suspect that her nervous and worried manner has drawn sympathy from many, many of the people who she may have taken advantage of, or even stolen from.

For those who have asked what became of her, I've learned that she is now back in good standing with the state of Louisiana, I believe she's still on probation, although no longer living in that state. I do think she has a right to try to make an honest living, so I'm not inclined to say much more than that about her whereabouts. I suspect we'd all be wise to take precaution when choosing roommates, taking personal checks, and generally trusting strangers whatever name a stranger may offer.

Mar. 18 2008 03:29 PM
Michael Winslow

Why was Ellen so nice to HOPE the woman who lied and stole from everyone?

for the life of me I can't imagine why she treated her so nicely.


Mar. 18 2008 02:38 PM

This just in from the web team... The truncated file problem last week may have been a symptom of WNYC's audio server being under load -- we are getting another audio server to supplement it. There's also a chance that it was due to a brief server outage we had last week, if you were downloading right before the server died, that would have caused the problem. We'll keep ya posted if we found out anything else. Thanks for letting us know!

Mar. 17 2008 09:18 AM

Folks with the truncated file problemo-
You can download an mp3 of the whole episode directly from our website. Just click "Download MP3" here:
In the meantime, we'll look into what's happening with iTunes.

Mar. 17 2008 09:00 AM

You'll find our new episode on War of the Worlds to be quite different from the old one. Same theme, but new voices, new stories, and oh yeah, it's our first-ever LIVE episode. We hope you enjoy!

Mar. 17 2008 08:44 AM

i was engaged to a pathological liar. it was so brutal when it all came crashing down. said he had cancer and didn't. it took me over a year to fully process most of the feelings. i still feel jumpy. i still have dreams that i'm beating the crap out of him from time to time. i've never really had anyone to talk about it with. my friends just kind of nod when ever i bring it up. listening to ellen's friend's story was pretty amazing for me.

Mar. 16 2008 11:58 PM

Are they repeating old Radiolab shows? There's one on War of the Worlds from 3 years ago in the archives to stream.

Mar. 14 2008 08:13 PM
Irene Garcia

Great story, I couldn't get out of my car. Why? I know someone very very close to me that I love dearly and still continue to hope that she will turn herself around and stop lying to the ones she says she loves and love her back. thanks

Mar. 14 2008 05:44 PM

I had the same issue with a truncated file. Mine was about 31 minutes in length and cut out in the latter part of the "Hope" story.

I have had this issue with other podcasts of late, like This American Life, where the downloaded file is only a fraction of the entire episode.

I wonder if this is an issue with iTunes, not just with Radiolab's podcast. I would love to know if there is any resolution.

Mar. 14 2008 11:39 AM

I only received 10 minutes of this episode on my itunes, and when i came to the site, i saw it was supposed to be like an hour! hey! come on! don't ... roll. like that! i wanna get the whole thing and more on the podcast, automatically, without having to come to the site to find out there's much more to the show :-( you're disrupting my podcast-listening equilibrium! i deleted the 10 minute piece to try to get the 59 minute and change piece and somehow itunes doesn't want to.

well i finally gave up and listened to it on my computer. great episode, but slightly sad in how i had to move some fingers around to make it work. that's a lot of work and my fingers are tired now.

Mar. 14 2008 08:17 AM

PMS and self-deception:

This sounds exactly like whats going on in my brain for one week every month- All of a sudden, things that were just as true yesterday but didn't bother me, now fill my thoughts and become the center of the universe making me feel pesimistic and depressed.

I'd be curious to see studies on self deception and how women's brain function changes throughout their cycle.

The idea that my gonads have more control over my consiousness than I do really irks me. But on the postiive side, I look at PMS as a periodical reality check.

artfull, thought provoking, funny, smart, and wholly enjoyable -bravo

Mar. 13 2008 10:15 PM

A reply to cindy:

I think the point was not to promote self deception as some sort of virtue, but just to recognize it as a tool or method by which we humans can choose to adopt or create a new reality. It allows us to ignore discouraging thoughts that may be perfectly valid, but may unnessarily derail us from accomplishing something really good.

Mar. 13 2008 09:51 PM

What happened to Hope?

Mar. 13 2008 09:33 PM

The best season yet! You guys have really hit your stride. I'm stunned by the amount of work that must go into each episode - it really shows. Congratulations on the incredible evolution of this ground-breaking show.

Mar. 13 2008 06:03 PM

so, I have to wonder, what does that make actors? How would our brains look? just a curiousity.

Mar. 13 2008 01:40 AM
Cindy Henley

ok... I am not saying I didn't like the show. I LOVE it. I just wanted to make the point that HONESTY is the virtue not DECEPTION which is pretty much how the piece ended. Implying that somehow the self-deceivers are superior. I just don't buy that. I would rather walk through life with my eyes open. Seeing life as it really is and embracing all of it. I've been that way since I was a kid. It made for a pretty sad childhood, but if you REALLY have your eyes open to the truth? the good becomes more and more apparent. There is a perspective that enters into the conversation. I can choose to see and concentrate on the good things in life. It's not that I don't see the bad, I just choose to look for the good and focus on it. Some would call that self-deception. I choose to call it optimism.

Mar. 12 2008 02:58 PM

BTW - kudos to RadioLab. This was a really beautifully done piece. I have always liked the show, but this one in particular I found very poignant, very profound and very compelling.

Congratulations on a job well done.

Mar. 12 2008 11:42 AM

It's interesting that nobody in the show or in the comments has mentioned the word "denial". This is EXACTLY what we're talking about and I thought it was a pretty well-understood phenomena. Just ask any 12-stepper. :)

Denial is crucial for humans to function properly - if we reflected on all the realities of life, we'd probably all give up.

But Denial is also dangerous. Just as athletes may deny "reality" to deceive themselves into winning (and thus change "reality"), addicts deny "reality" to deceive themselves into believing they aren't slowly killing themselves.

And I find the idea that people who deceive themselves are "happier" is something that can easily be misconstrued. What does it mean to be "happy"?

I can tell you that I'm on of the melancholy people who don't deceive themselves as much. I dwell too much about the true reality things. (And that can really lead to some existential crises ;).

But I don't know if I'd say I'm "unhappy". I just find it hard to descend into the fiction that everything's just peachy and I should just live my little life and go to work and excersize and get a raise and promotion and just run in the hamster wheel.

Frankly, I find that boring. :)

Mar. 12 2008 11:40 AM
Cindy Henley

WAIT A MINUTE!!! There is no advantage to having the capacity to tell the truth?! Yes, I might not be the best athlete or the best at business. I may have been sadder at times than those who walk around in some kind of haze, but when I have joy it is real joy. It is not a deception of joy. I think understanding oneself makes life more real, more clear. Along with the pain comes empathy and the capacity to be a true friend... To see others as they are and accept them... To see and not turn away from the ugliness in myself or others helps me be a better friend, a more empathetic person, a genuine companion. Rigorous honesty is, after all, a huge part of healing from emotional pain. The ability to look honestly at ones own faults and accept oneself as she is has been an achievement that has taken a great deal of effort to get to. In that acceptance of the fact, for example, that I sometimes enjoy my bowel movements gives me a freedom to be who I am and show you. You can know the real me and in turn I can know you and we don't have to hide.

Let's hear the episode about the virtue of honesty... how about that?

Mar. 12 2008 03:34 AM

I thought the sound in this particular episode was great. I mean, the sound in the series in general is always very good, but in particular I loved the sound of zooming into the prefrontal cortex. That electronic chirping, mechanical clattering, the liquidy low whoosh, and that busy little tune playing in the background actually made me chuckle. Awesome theater of the mind material.

Also, the part in the first segment where the sound of rage "leaks" into the sound of a smile actually made me jump. I thought it worked really well in terms of translating the concept into sound.

Mar. 12 2008 02:28 AM

The deception ep is 29 minutes long, and cuts out during Hope's story.

Mar. 12 2008 01:33 AM

Olivia, maybe "Ignorance is bliss" has a more profound meaning now.
As a therapist self deception and less depression is fascinating. People who see and speak more openly, according to the podcast, tend to be more depressed and win less swimming races. Are there some web references on this I would love to explore it some more.

Mar. 12 2008 12:58 AM

Toward the end, this episode mentions that people who are willing to deceive themselves are more likely to be happy. But because the people in this episode lied to align themselves with perceived social norms, is it fitting that they'd also lie about being happy?

Mar. 11 2008 07:26 PM

I downloaded off iTunes... or rather, iTunes did, automatically, and its working just fine. They must of fixed it, becaused mine goes to 59:36

Mar. 11 2008 02:13 PM

It seems to me that the week's news about Elliot Spitzer is a perfect example of the effect that Joanna Starek uncovered in her research. Politics is at least as competitive as swimming. The same ability of self-deception that made Spitzer a success in politics also allowed him to believe that what he was (allegedly) doing was not wrong, or at least that he would not be caught.

Mar. 11 2008 01:57 PM

Great episode... but I missed the war of the worlds episode last week and it still isn't posted. very sad.

Mar. 11 2008 12:44 PM

By the definition of a lie that this episode touches on, couldn't it be construed that hope itself is also a form of lying?

Mar. 11 2008 11:13 AM
eerie quarkdoll

Getting a 'The network connection was refused' through the iTunes fetch. :- /

Mar. 11 2008 06:10 AM

Same problem... stopped at around 53 minutes. I had the same problem last week, too. Is there a way to prevent this from happening in the future?

Mar. 11 2008 03:50 AM

Yea... I need to hear the rest of the episode!! Mine played to 50:37... help... (downloaded in iTunes).

Mar. 11 2008 02:36 AM

Help I need a Radiolab Fix and it won't play


Mar. 11 2008 12:19 AM

Yep, still broken at midnight. Won't download at all for me on iTunes.

Mar. 10 2008 11:02 PM
Jenna Fox

This episode downloaded to my iTunes, but the downloaded episode is only 17 minutes and 59 seconds long, and cuts out right in the beginning of the second act/chapter type thing. Right as they start talking about 'the friend jude'

Mar. 10 2008 10:58 PM

yeah, i would appreciate it if you all could get it up. i listen to radio lab while travelling and am about to get on a plane for 13 hours. cheers.

Mar. 10 2008 10:51 PM

this podcast is broken. i am unable to download this via iTues or my browser and cannot listen to it as streaming audio either.

Mar. 10 2008 10:34 PM

Rob Palmer, above, said:

"Being honest with yourself is a necessary prerequisite to being honest with others."

Just thought I'd mention that we play with the idea of self-deception in the Deception show, which by the way goes on air this Friday in New York and has already run on some other stations. In fact, the whole show concludes with a piece about lying to ourselves. I don't want to give too much away if you haven't heard it yet, but let's just say that lying to yourself might not be all bad.

AND, the new blog that Ellen just posted about placebos includes this quote from science writer Jonah Lerher:

"People have been trained by Eli Lilly’s ads to believe that a little blue pill will make them less depressed, and so they end up significantly less depressed. A little self-delusion might not be such a bad thing after all."

It's an idea that just keeps cropping up around here ... maybe deception gets a bad rap, sometimes it seems to do some good.

Thanks for all the comments everyone.

Feb. 28 2008 05:59 PM
Rob Palmer

Funny to post THAT anonymously!

It was an error. I take full responsibilty. ;)

Feb. 28 2008 02:19 PM

Subjecting people to your stream of consciousness is NOT the definition of being truthful. Indeed, this often boils down to an externalization of responsibility.

Sometimes I can see the world as brutish and cruel. Sometimes I can see the world as hopeful and loving. Same world. The difference is obviously me.

The world is both cruel and loving. Choosing to see only one aspect of it is not the truth, so subjecting someone to my failure in perspective is not being truthful.

Any attempt to be honest should begin with an internal reconciliation. Being honest with yourself is a necessary prerequisite to being honest with others.

Also, there is a difference between candor and honesty. You are not required to vocalize every random thought. In fact, you can't possibly. Therein, Blanton uses his 'honesty' to be just as manipulative as any lie. He doesn't subject people to the random non-sequiturs that pop into the stream of consciousness so he does exercise selection in what he chooses to utter. Yet he never reconciles his utterances to the truth, just to the triviality that the thought did, in fact, flitter though his capricious brain.

Feb. 28 2008 02:10 PM

What this question doesn't address is the malleability of truth - rarely is something absolutely %100 true. Even if it's by omission, it's impossible to tell the whole truth, with the exception of, perhaps, math. 1 + 1 = 2, unequivocally, but everything else in life is not that clear.

I don't think it's possible not to lie - the question is, to what degree are we comfortable with the bias in our lives, and at what point is too much spin too much?

Feb. 28 2008 09:03 AM

Main thing I enjoy about the show is the production of it. It creates an audibly pleasing lecture, as opposed to boring droning. Even the most engaging speakers can eventually lose an audience. Especially when much of what is described is about neurobiology, the use of sound is brilliant in how it can successfully evoke what's being discussed much of the time. Like how often in the laughter episode I caught myself laughing at laughs rather than jokes, and questioning why I laughed...

I think Blanton's main point is that most lies we use to avoid conflict really just delay conflict, and let it get worse. ie not saying you think someone's poems are terrible, encouraging them to try to get them published, get eventual disappointment, and at some point you have to either keep lying more and more creatively, or tell them that they suck.

There's being diplomatic, but there's also just masking something difficult or contentious.

Feb. 28 2008 03:32 AM

I would have to respectfully disagree with Dan. I believe that Radio Lab is produced in manner that attracts attention of listeners who are not familiar of scientific research and theory. I also believe that the subject matter of many of the episodes of the show are very complex. (I have am familiar with the topics discussed.) Radio Lab discuss these topics well. In addition, they offer listeners places to go to learn more about their topics.

I would argue that lying is an adaptive behavior. Most people don't lie to necessarily be insidious or mean, they do it because they instinctively believe that it will help them avoid conflict. On the other hand, there also are people who lie to insidious or sneaky. I guess what I am saying I hard to just drop an instinctive behavior all together as Mr. Blanton (in the article) suggests.

Feb. 28 2008 12:33 AM

This is more about the show in general: it's *way* overproduced, so much so that it distracts from the subjects you cover. I'm all for experimentation, but this is mere preening. It's more about you than about what you're covering, or, to be sure, your listeners. It reminds me of Web pages created in all-Flash -- it's done more to show off than to actually serve the needs of your audience. The subjects are usually fascinating, and the reporting is good, but you ruin it all in the presentation.

Feb. 27 2008 11:43 PM

Great article, I laughed a lot. =)

I can actually relate to the exhilaration of telling the truth, though I usually only tell scary truths that are compliments. Like, "you keep showing up in my dreams."

Telling meaner truths is something I am not sure I could really do. But it is sometimes surprising how much truth relationships can handle!!

Feb. 27 2008 10:16 PM

I tend to tell the truth as much as possible, at least to people I know well. As a martial arts instructor though, it's annoyingly difficult to tell the truth to a lot of people. Most of my teenage or older students, I'm brutally honest with, but parents of students, especially the ones who I know are bad parents, I'm soooo tempted to be honest with. But that'll usually mean we lose a student.

That and you really don't want to hear your daughter's sensei say pretty much anything sexual...

Feb. 27 2008 07:44 PM
Ben Woodthorpe

To be honest (ha!) i really don't think i could get through a week - definitely not the same way - without lying to someone. Maybe it's just that i shield a part of my character from other people. But i think other people do the same thing: hiding parts of themselves they don't want others to see, and often not consciously. Little lies can keep things going smoothly, and i don't know of anything of that kind that would harm somebody.

I think lying comes down to being an issue of controlling one another - if you control what someone knows, you can direct them in ways otherwise impossible. Sometimes it can benefit them or both of you if it's a certain situation - Some might hesitate in reply to 'Where do babies come from?' or 'Do you think i'm fat?' but if the inquirer gets along when told the truth, there's probably something you're doing that you shouldn't.

Feb. 27 2008 07:03 PM

I would be killed if I didn't lie as often, and as well, as I do.

Feb. 27 2008 04:24 PM

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