Just as there are several kinds of liar -- pathological and little-white, for example -- there are many reasons why people lie, and most of them relate to enhancing reputation, avoiding trouble or punishment and preserving others' feelings. People lie to cover up their mistakes and bad behavior. They may lie to avoid hurting someone or starting a fight with them. People may seek to increase their status in the eyes of others by exaggerating or lying about skills, accomplishments, belongings or background. Some people lie to hurt others' reputations, particularly when it garners something for themselves (like love or money) in return.
As interesting as the reasons why people lie (in the great frequency that is occurs) is why it starts in the first place. Presumably, infants, if they could talk, would be nothing but truth-tellers. It's when language takes hold -- somewhere in the age 4 to 5 range -- that children begin to realize how their words can impact their desires. They start lying around this age, at first, doctors say, to test what can be changed about their world [source: Saltz].
As we have discussed, there are different kinds of liar. Some of those little tykes testing their young words will grow up to be pathological liars. The definition of such a liar is hard to pin down precisely, save to realize such people lie all the time, about things big and little, whether or not they will get into trouble for it. And the kicker is they may not necessarily even know they're lying -- it's not always deliberate. Pathological lying is also considered characteristic of conduct disorder and antisocial personality disorder and might be caused by difficult home lives or a lack of serotonin [source: Orsic University].
And what of the little-white liar? If little white lies were a crime, perhaps we'd all be in jail at one time or another.
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