By BOB LARKIN
Of all the people in the world that we lie to—and most of us tell fibs almost 20 times an hour, according to science—nobody gets lied to more often than strangers. When we say something untrue to a friend or a family member or even a coworker, it’s hard not to feel guilty. But somebody we’ve never met before and might not ever see again, well, that’s a different story.
At first, glance that may make us look like monsters, but that’s hardly the case. In fact, research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that people who told white lies were more compassionate than those who always tell the truth. Why? Because they’re more concerned with not hurting other people’s feelings. Not that it’s entirely about benevolence, though.
“White lies are a social convention,” says Susan Winter, a relationship expert and bestselling author of books like Allowing Magnificence. “It’s partly based on wanting to be polite and partly based on self-preservation. White lies allow us to share a ‘preferable truth’ rather than the ‘real truth’.”
With that in mind, here we’ve gathered the 20 white lies—or what science calls “prosocial deceptions”—that are so ubiquitous that we’ve practically all made them to strangers on several occasions. So read on, and see if you can actually see your nose grow while you say them.
1 “Of course I remember you!”
It can be embarrassing when we realize the person we’re talking to, who seems like a complete stranger, is someone we’ve supposedly met at least once in the past. But don’t beat yourself up over this lie. After all, it may not be a total lie—our memories often rely on context when it comes to placing a face.
Or at least that’s the finding of a study published in Nature Communications, which demonstrated “how error prone this process [of remembering peoples’ faces outside of context] can be,” said psychologist Manos Tsakiris in an interview. So if you see a business contact whom you’d met twice in a conference room in a tiki bar and your brain is totally flummoxed, don’t sweat it too much!
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