Personal truths and social lies

Drawing the Line

Compile a list of words and phrases, all of which relate to the act of lying. Research the dictionary definitions of the words. For example, find out the official definition of the term 'disinformation'. Now think about how you interpret the words. Consider how a 'white lie' differs from 'deceit', and formally define if and how telling a 'whopper' is more acceptable than 'lying through your teeth'. List as many terms and definitions as you can. Test if it is possible to organise your 'dictionary of lying terms' on a linear scale from the least to the most harmful kind of lying. Can you create a common consensus about when lying is acceptable and when it is not? Is the line between the two clearly drawn?

The Great Divide

The truth might hurt but do you really want to be lied to? Create a set of statements or quotes that relate to lying, such as: "Honesty is always the best policy", "Lying is acceptable if it is intended to protect someone's feelings", "It is OK to falsify information to win the war … to sway opinion". Draw a line down the middle of the room and designate one side of the line as 'agree' the other as 'disagree'. As the statements are read out one by one, take your position on the floor in relation to the dividing line: the further away from the line you are, the stronger you agree or disagree. Take turns to argue your positions, and see if you can get anyone to 'move' from their initial position towards your own.

What did the game reveal about your relationship with the truth? Is it more complex and conditional than first expected? Is lying a social skill, even a game? If, then how do we learn the rules and what happen if we break them?

Lying on Record

How often do you lie? Once a day, whenever necessary or never? In 1996, a study at the University of Virginia found that college students lied in approximately one out of every three social situations. How does your personal lying record compare with this statistic? Keep a diary of all your social interactions over one week. Note down every time you lie, recording how you've lied, to whom and the reason why. At the end of the week count the numbers of lies. Compare them with the rest of the class and consider the kind of lies that occur most frequently? If you could go back in time and live the week again, would you repeat all the lies, or are there some that you honestly regret?

Alternatively, you can test the social value and benefit of not telling the truth by committing yourself to living a whole day without lying. How does your world change when you tell only the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?