Lying, fast and slow

Synthese 198 (1):757-775 (2019)
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Researchers have debated whether there is a relationship between a statement’s truth-value and whether it counts as a lie. One view is that a statement being objectively false is essential to whether it counts as a lie; the opposing view is that a statement’s objective truth-value is inessential to whether it counts as a lie. We report five behavioral experiments that use a novel range of behavioral measures to address this issue. In each case, we found evidence of a relationship. A statement’s truth-value affects how quickly people judge whether it is a lie. When people consider the matter carefully and are told that they might need to justify their answer, they are more likely to categorize a statement as a lie when it is false than when it is true. When given options that inhibit perspective-taking, people tend to not categorize deceptively motivated statements as lies when they are true, even though they still categorize them as lies when they are false. Categorizing a speaker as “lying” leads people to strongly infer that the speaker’s statement is false. People are more likely to spontaneously categorize a statement as a lie when it is false than when it is true. We discuss four different interpretations of relevant findings to date. At present, the best supported interpretation might be that the ordinary lying concept is a prototype concept, with falsity being a centrally important element of the prototypical lie.
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