Psychology professionals learned in a recent survey that telling fewer lies may be beneficial to people physically and mentally. The results of the survey determined that honesty might actually help people’s health.
During this “honesty experiment,” the group studied 110 people between the ages of 18-71 during the course of a 10-week period. Each week the test group went into the lab to complete health and relationship measures and to take a polygraph test. The test assessed the number of major lies and white lies they had told that week.
Anita Kelly, a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame, said when the people increased the number of lies, health went down, but when the number of lies was decreased, health improved.
The Waxahachie Daily Light interviewed several young people concerning this issue. The individuals were asked certain questions pertaining to lying, and if they thought lying had physical effects.
Angel Cervantes said in his experience, lying creates more lies, which in turn, increases a person’s stress level.
“If you lie, you’re gonna have to lie again to cover up the first lie,” Cervantes said. “And it can be pretty stressful.”
He continued by giving a recent example of what lying did to him.
“At this point right now, I’m experiencing a lot of stress,” he said. “I wanted to go to this concert, and I had to make up about 10 lies just to get out of work. I had to keep that lie going for about five days. It was all worth it, but it was the most stressful time in my entire life.”
Cervantes continued by saying he feels there are situations that make it OK to lie about. For instance, he said their dog recently died, and he knew if his little brother found out, that he would be devastated. Instead of telling his brother the truth, Cervantes said he decided to tell his brother that the dog was at the veterinarian.
“I know I should have told him the truth, but that would have made him sad,” he said. “But I know he’s going to eventually ask me when the dog is coming home, and I’m going to have to tell another lie to cover up this one.”
Emily Laredo said she believes there are different degrees of lying, and that as long as it’s not a major lie, it’s OK.
“I think there is a difference between a white lie and a major lie,” Laredo said. “Just think about it, parents lie to their kids all the time, but it’s to keep them out of trouble.”
She added that when she lies it doesn’t really bother her unless it’s something major.
“If I tell a big lie, then it bothers me,” Loredo said. “But if it’s something simple like telling my mom I’m going to the store, but I go someplace else, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
Eddie Jurgens said he doesn’t believe that lying can have a physical effect on people. He said he lies a lot, and it has never caused him any physical problems.
“I’ve lied a lot,” Jurgens said. “Well not a lot, but I have lied to a certain degree, and I’ve never gotten sick or a headache from it.”
Jurgens continued by saying that he feels it’s perfectly fine to lie and “fib around” a little. He said that after he lies, he usually feels bad on the inside, but not physically.
As it pertains to the levels of lying, Jurgens said he does not believe there is a difference or that there’s such a thing as a “little white lie.”
“A lie is a lie regardless,” he said. “But if you tell a little lie, it’s going to get bigger.”
He added that he normally tells lies to protect people.
According to research, half of the participants in the “honesty experiment” were told to stop telling lies for 10 weeks. The instructions said, “refrain from telling any lies for any reason to anyone. You may omit truths, refuse to answer questions, and keep secrets, but you cannot say anything that you know to be false.” The other half of the group didn’t receive any instructions at all. Throughout the study period, the link between less lying and improved health was significantly stronger for those in the no lie group. For example, when participants in the no lie group told three fewer white lies than they did in other weeks, they experienced about four fewer mental health complaints and three fewer physical complaints.
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