People who lie a lot

How to Cope with Someone’s Compulsive Lies

Pathological lying

Pathological lying, also known as mythomania and pseudologia fantastica, is the chronic behavior of compulsive or habitual lying.

Unlike telling the occasional white lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or getting in trouble, a pathological liar seems to lie for no apparent reason. This can make it frustrating or hard to know what to do if you believe you’ve met one.

Though pathological lying has been recognized for more than a century, there’s not yet a clear universal definition of the condition.

Some pathological lying may result from a mental condition, such as antisocial personality disorder (sometimes called sociopathy), while others appear to have no medical reason for the behavior.

A pathological liar is someone who lies compulsively. While there appears to be many possible causes for pathological lying, it’s not yet entirely understood why someone would lie this way.

Some lies seem to be told in order to make the pathological liar appear the hero, or to gain acceptance or sympathy, while there’s seemingly nothing to be gained from other lies.

Some evidence from 2007 suggests that issues affecting the central nervous system may predispose someone to pathological lying.

Compulsive lying is also a known trait of some personality disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder. Trauma or head injuries may also play a role in pathological lying, along with an abnormality in hormone-cortisol ratio.

A 2016 study of what happens in the brain when you lie found that the more untruths a person tells, the easier and more frequent lying becomes. The results also indicated that self-interest seems to fuel dishonesty.

Though the study didn’t specifically look at pathological lying, it may give some insight into why pathological liars lie as much and as easily as they do.

The following are some of the scientifically recognized traits and characteristics of pathological liars.

Their lies seem to have no clear benefit

While a person might lie to avoid an uncomfortable situation, such as embarrassment or getting in trouble, a pathological liar tells lies or stories that don’t have an objective benefit.

Friends and family can find this especially frustrating because the person lying doesn’t stand to gain anything from their lies.

The stories they tell are usually dramatic, complicated, and detailed

Pathological liars are great storytellers. Their lies tend to be very detailed and colorful.

Even though obviously over-the-top, the pathological liar may be very convincing.

They usually portray themselves as the hero or victim

Along with being made the hero or victim in their stories, pathological liars tend to tell lies that seem to be geared at gaining admiration, sympathy, or acceptance by others.

They sometimes seem to believe the lies they tell

A pathological liar tells lies and stories that fall somewhere between conscious lying and delusion. They sometimes believe their own lies.

It’s difficult to know how to deal with a pathological liar who may not always be conscious of their lying. Some do it so often that experts believe they may not know the difference between fact and fiction after some time.

Pathological liars also tend to be natural performers. They’re eloquent and know how to engage with others when speaking. They’re creative and original, and quick thinkers who don’t usually show common signs of lying, such as long pauses or avoidance of eye contact.

When asked questions, they may speak a lot without ever being specific or answering the question.

Most people lie at one time or another. Previous research has suggested that we tell an average of 1.65 lies every day. Most of these lies are what are considered “white lies.”

Pathological lies, on the other hand, are told consistently and habitually. They tend to appear pointless and often continuous.

White lies

White lies are occasional and considered:

  • small fibs
  • harmless
  • without malicious intent
  • told to spare another’s feelings or avoid getting in trouble

Some examples of white lies include:

  • saying you have a headache to get out of attending a meeting
  • saying you’ve paid the phone bill when you forgot to pay it
  • lying about why you were late for work

Pathological lies

Pathological lies are:

  • told frequently and compulsively
  • told for no apparent reason or gain
  • continuous
  • told to make the teller appear heroic or the victim
  • not deterred by guilt or risk of getting found out

Examples of pathological lying:

  • creating a false history, such as saying they’ve achieved or experienced something they haven’t
  • claiming to have a life-threatening illness that they don’t have
  • telling lies to impress others, such as saying they’re related to a famous person

Identifying a pathological liar isn’t always easy. While it may be human nature to be suspicious of anything that appears “too good to be true,” not all lies told by pathological liars are over-the-top.

They also tell “regular” lies that someone without a compulsion to lie might tell.

The following are some signs that may help you identify a pathological liar:

  • they often talk about experiences and accomplishments in which they appear heroic
  • they’re also the victim in many of their stories, often looking for sympathy
  • their stories tend to be elaborate and very detailed
  • they respond elaborately and quickly to questions, but the responses are usually vague and don’t provide an answer to the question
  • they may have different versions of the same story, which stems from forgetting previous details

Knowing a pathological liar can be deeply frustrating because the lying appears to be pointless.

It can test the trust in any relationship and make it hard to even have a simple conversation with the person.

Here are a few pointers to help you handle a conversation with a pathological liar:

Don’t lose your temper

As frustrating as it may be, it’s important not to let your anger get the better of you when confronting a pathological liar. Be supportive and kind, but firm.

Expect denial

Someone who pathologically lies may have the tendency to first respond with a lie. If you confront them about their lying, chances are that they’ll deny it.

They may become enraged and express shock at the accusation.

Remember that it’s not about you

It’s hard not to take being lied to personally, but pathological lying isn’t about you. The person may be driven by an underlying personality disorder, anxiety, or low self-esteem.

Be supportive

When talking to the person about their lies, remind them that they don’t need to try to impress you. Let them know that you value them for who they really are.

Don’t engage them

When you notice the person lying, don’t engage them. You can question what they’re saying, which may encourage them to stop the lie at that point.

You can also let them know that you don’t want to continue the conversation when they’re being dishonest.

Suggest medical help

Without judgment or shaming, suggest that they consider professional help and let them know your suggestion comes from genuine concern for their well-being.

Be prepared with information about pathological lying, such as a printout of an article or a pamphlet that they can read when they’re ready. Expressing that you’re concerned that their behavior may result from an underlying medical condition may also help.

A pathological liar is an excellent storyteller and performer. They know how to captivate their audience by telling elaborate and fantastic stories while being very animated.

Along with knowing how to weave and express a detailed story, people are also fascinated by what drives a person to lie.

It’s natural to want to know why they’re lying, especially when there doesn’t seem to be an apparent reason for their lies.

Diagnosing a pathological liar can be difficult because of the many possible causes of the behavior. Speaking with the person and conducting a medical history and interview isn’t usually enough to make a diagnosis because of the person’s tendency to lie.

An important part of diagnosing a pathological liar is determining if they recognize that they’re lying or believe the lies they tell.

Some professionals use a polygraph, also known as a lie detector test. The test isn’t to catch them in a lie, but to see how well or often they “beat” the polygraph as this suggests that they believe their lies or have become good at using other measures to convince others of their lies.

Some professionals also interview family members and friends when diagnosing a pathological liar.

Treatment will depend on whether or not the pathological lying is a symptom of an underlying psychiatric condition.

Treatment would include psychotherapy and may also include medication for other issues that might be fueling the behavior, such as drugs used to treat anxiety or depression.

How to empathize and cope with a pathological liar comes down to an understanding of what may be causing this person to lie while being supportive.

It’s likely that the lying is a symptom of another issue that can be treated. Encourage them to get the help they need.

Understanding People Who Lie | Everyday Health

Medically Reviewed

Often we do not like to associate with people who lie, but in fact, we all lie from time to time. Lies take on all shapes and forms, from omission of details to flat-out falsehoods. It's almost reasonable to say that lying is instinctive because even young children lie without realizing it. No matter how common it is to lie, it is still considered impolite and bad behavior. Being lied to can be frustrating and it often breaks the bond of trust between two people, causing problems in the relationship. Knowing the reasons why people lie, however, can shed some light on the problem and help us understand the people who lie. Let’s take a look at some of the common reasons why people lie.


Many people lie because they want to protect themselves from an unpleasant situation or conflict. Think of young children who lie; they lie to make sure that they don't get into trouble. Children lie to avoid unpleasant consequences or punishment. Adults do the same.Many people lie because they know they've done something that will anger the other person. A woman might lie about the cost of the shoes she purchased and a man might lie about which buddy he was going to hang out with. These lies are strictly to escape punishment or to avoid a fight. The person may not have done anything wrong, but would prefer not to have to justify, explain or face an irate spouse.To Spare Feelings

Some people who lie often do so with good intentions. We call these "white lies", or lies that occur when the person wants to avoid causing someone else pain.A husband may lie to spare his wife's feelings, or a father may lie to avoid his child's tears. One example of a common white lie is, "Yes, dear, that dress looks great on you."

To some, a white lie is nothing more than a reason or excuse rather than an untruth. The ethical philosophy behind telling a white lie is debated the world over by theologians and philosophers. Each individual must decide if telling a white lie is justified. If keeping someone from being hurt unduly means omitting the truth and no damage comes from the fib, then most people not only feel it is justified, but necessary.To Protect Feelings

While some people who lie want to protect the feelings of others and spare someone else pain or hurt, many people lie to protect their own feelings, self-esteem, self-confidence, or other personal emotion. A woman who says, "I didn't want that job anyway," when she really did, is lying to protect herself. A child who yells out, "I hate you!" may be trying to protect himself from feeling hurt or to reject others before he is rejected.

To Keep a Secret

When thinking of lies that are concocted to keep a secret, one must only think of birthdays and Christmas.Plenty of people lie about where they went or what they bought, with the good intention of maintaining an aspect of surprise. Most of the time, the lies are obvious. A teenager may know that her mother went out, but something about her mother’s excuse fosters suspicion. When the truth comes out and the teen receives a nice gift for a special occasion, the lie is forgiven and forgotten.

To Present a Good Image

Many people want to present a good image, often for work-related reasons. Think of a job interview where a person might dress well and attempt to impress the interviewer in order to land the job. People who lie for image reasons often do so because they want to gloss over a blemish in their work history or avoid providing the real reason for termination of employment from a previous job.

To Be Liked

Everyone wants to be liked and being part of the group is important, as well as part of human nature. Many people lie simply to be accepted by others. A person may feign interest in something or agree with a statement he or she does not believe. One problem that might occur with this type of lie is a lack of individuality, as well as not being able to be oneself.To Manipulate Others

We learn very quickly that we can manipulate other people. Whether we choose to do so might be a subject of debate.The fact remains that many people lie to get other people do what they want them to do. People who lie to manipulate a situation or other people are often only interested in personal gain and fail to consider other people's feelings. By lying or omitting details, the person can achieve a personal goal.

However, it is important to note that a lie manipulates a situation and a person's thoughts; even a lie that is told with innocent intentions. What we say and do has an effect on others and even well-intended lies are a form of manipulation.A Matter of Trust

Lying creates an uncomfortable situation because we expect others to treat us honorably and tell the truth. We expect not to be lied to and when the situation occurs, we lose faith and trust in the other person. There are some people (typically those with certain personality disorders) who lie frequently and do not care about the effects of their lies. This type of person also typically does not care about the treatment he receives from other people. Most people, however, care how others treat them and knowing they were lied to can be a breach of trust, depending on the gravity of the lie.Our perception can affect our acceptance of lying and the consequences of the lie itself. For example, many people believe politicians lie. Since it is expected, the lies are often accepted. The same applies to used-car salespersons.Few people are affected by the breach of trust that might occur when these people lie and life goes on, with little upset.

Compulsive and Pathological Lying
A more serious problem with lies occurs when lying becomes compulsive or pathological. The differences in the two may be subtle, but it’s important to understand each. A compulsive liar uses lies as a way of life.Lying for any situation or no reason takes the place of honesty. A compulsive liar lies because it serves the person in some odd way and he takes comfort in lies. Telling the truth just doesn’t feel right to a compulsive liar who will bend the truth to fit her own needs and desires. Compulsive lying is often accompanied by other personality disorders like narcissism. While the person delving into compulsive lies feels secure, the lies often hurt and damage relationships, family and friends. Compulsive lying is an addiction and becomes difficult to stop once it has become a way of life.

A pathological liar lies constantly to get what he wants, caring little for who gets hurt along the way. Considered a coping mechanism, pathological liars often exhibit other personality disorders. Words that describe a pathological liar are  deceptive, manipulative and selfish. Pathological liars actually believe their own lies, but may change the story from telling to telling. Others realize the lie, but the liar often does not and has no remorse.  She will often make up things as she goes and seldom plans out a lie.Once told, she will defend the lie and rarely admit that she told a lie. The lies of a pathological liar can be absurd such as saying she was in the park people-watching and saw a crime take place, when in reality she was shopping with a friend.Dealing with a compulsive or pathological liar is enough to try the patience of loved ones. The compulsive lying is a habit and pathological lying is an identity disorder.

How to Tell if Someone Is Lying

Someone telling a lie often gives clues that what’s being said is not true. The clues may be body language, facial expressions or what the person actually says.  Someone telling a fib often perspires or seems nervous and jittery. Lack of eye contact or wandering eyes while telling a tale tops the list of how to tell if someone is lying. Liars will talk with a rise in the pitch of the voice.Body language tells a story of deception. Liars will often place an object such as a book, magazine, or notebook in front of them.  By doing this, the liar places a  barrier between herself and the other person. The liar may move away from you by turning or taking a step back.Gestures that become pronounced during the telling of a lie begin with rubbing the forehead, licking the lips, swallowing often and hard, and wringing hands.Rather than smiling in a natural way, a liar will force a smile that shows the mouth in a smile, but not in the eyes.In the midst of a lie if a person is asked a question such as, “Did you take the money from my purse?”  A liar will often respond with “I did not take the money from your purse.” She will repeat the question back to you without using the contraction “didn’t.”

Other verbal clues that a lie has been told include giving too much detail and speaking in a monotonous tone. The longer the liar talks the greater the chances the lie will come out, so go ahead and give the person enough rope to hang himself.

Actually knowing for certain that someone is telling a lie is often impossible and the best way to get the truth is from a confession. The next time you suspect someone is telling you a lie, watch for facial expressions and body language to see if any of the tell-tale signs of a liar are visible. You may never know for certain, but it’s worth a try.While this list is not exhaustive, it does give an interesting look into the reasons why people lie and may help to ease a difficult situation. If you can determine that your spouse lies about his whereabouts not because he is cheating on you, but simply because he doesn't want to get in trouble for working late again, this should give you peace of mind.If you decide that your teen is lying because she feels restricted by your rules, you could possibly discuss allowing her more freedom and you will likely receive more respect in return. It is important to keep in mind that people who lie don't always do so to hurt your feelings.

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6 reasons why people lie, even if they don't have to


Know Yourself A Man Among People

Most people try to always tell the truth. Some lie more than others. But there are those who lie all the time. Pathological lying is not a clinical diagnosis, although it can be one of the symptoms of psychopathy and manic episodes.

But the vast majority of liars are mentally healthy people who think differently or lie under the influence of circumstances, explains David Lay, psychiatrist, doctor of clinical psychology. Why do they do it?

1. Lies make sense to them

Others do not understand why they lie even in small things. In fact, these little things are important for those who lie. They have a different perception of the world and a different system of values. What matters to them is what is not important to most.

2. When they tell the truth, they feel like they are losing control of the situation.

Sometimes such people lie to influence others. They are sure that their deceit sounds more convincing than the truth, and allows them to control the situation.

3. They do not want to upset us

They lie because they are afraid of the disapproval of others. Liars want to be appreciated and loved, to be admired. They fear that the truth does not look very attractive and, having learned it, friends may turn away from them, relatives will begin to be ashamed, and the boss will not entrust an important project.

4. Once they start lying, they cannot stop

A lie is like a snowball: one catches the other. The more they lie, the harder it is for them to start telling the truth. Life becomes like a house of cards - if you remove even one card, it will collapse. At some point, they begin to lie to reinforce past lies.

Pathological liars are sure that if they confess in one episode, it turns out that they have told a lie before. Fearing exposure, they continue to deceive even where it is not necessary.

5. Sometimes they do not even realize that they are lying

In a stressful situation, people do not think about the little things, because first of all it is important to save yourself. And they turn on a survival mode in which they are not fully aware of what they say or do. And they sincerely believe in their own words.

People believe in what was not, if it suits them. And after the danger has passed, they do not remember what they said under the influence of stress.

6. They want their lies to be true

Sometimes liars wishful thinking. It seems to them that dreams can become reality with a little pretending. They will become richer if they start to splurge and talk about their mythical wealth or a millionaire grandfather who left them a will.

How to communicate with a liar?

Whatever the reason for lying, the deceiver always feels uncomfortable. And here the reaction of others is important. If the interlocutor in response to a lie says: “Stop inventing!”, “Again you are deceiving me!” or “I will bring you to clean water!”, the liar turns on a defensive reaction.

Most of all, such people are afraid to look like deceivers in the eyes of others and are able to go to any lie to prove that they can be trusted.

If you want to know the truth, try to refrain from attacks and accusations. First, try to determine the reason why your interlocutor is lying. Ask him, "Why is this situation so important to you?" or “Why do you want me to believe this?” “Why do you want me to look at the situation from this point of view?”

This will reduce tension and make communication more sincere. Empathy is the best way to show a person that the truth is not such a terrible thing and the world will not collapse if it turns out that he is deceiving others.

Text: Alexandra Galimova Photo credit: Getty Images

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Pathological liars: what makes them lie?

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Man among menKnow thyselfPractices how to


Will you swear that you will always tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Hardly, like 99.99% of the people in the world. Anyone who claims that he has never lied is clearly disingenuous. However, most can honestly say that they are at least trying not to cheat.

But there is a special category of people for whom lying is a way of life. It is easier for pathological and compulsive liars to make up three boxes than to tell the truth. Why do they do it and how to crack them?

Pseudology fantasy

Pathological lie, mythomania or Pseudologia Fantastica, causes a lot of controversy among psychologists and psychiatrists. Some believe that this is only a symptom of a more complex disorder (for example, borderline personality disorder, sociopathy or narcissism), others are convinced that this is a deviation in itself.

It has been suggested that this is a special form of addiction: a person cheats under the influence of a psychological impulse, like an alcoholic, a smoker or a gambler, in response to specific triggers. However, the fact remains that some people lie all the time.

Their deceit can be called chronic, since it is observed throughout life, or habitual in the sense that it becomes second nature

People of this type always act under the influence of internal motivation, and not external factors. In other words, they lie not so much to avoid the unpleasant consequences of the truth, but for the sake of "sport interest".

Pathological liars are not so easy to recognize, especially on a superficial acquaintance or at the beginning of a relationship. They may seem interesting, intelligent, sociable, charming. Their true face is revealed only with time, and then communication becomes strained. Lying endlessly can destroy friendships, loves, work relationships, and even families.

Pathological and compulsive lying: what's the difference?

Two types of lies have their own characteristics. How do you know who you are dealing with?

Pathological liars:

  • Lie with a specific purpose,

  • invent fantastic stories that can endlessly complement with new details,

  • Believe everything that was covered,

  • Non in deceit,

  • lie to strengthen their authority,

  • do not blush or feel embarrassed.

Compulsive liars:

  • seriously believe that they are obliged to lie: either because they do not know how to do otherwise, or if it is inconvenient to tell the truth,

  • often lie for no clear reason and without any benefit, 9003

  • make up fables on the go without really thinking about credibility,

  • prefer "holy" lies, which they think others would like to hear,

  • tend to feel someone else's distrust,

  • when they are caught, they admit that they are lying, but continue to fool others.

These differences are very conditional, because deceivers easily change masks.


What caused this behavior?

There is no clear scientific explanation for the tendency to communicate deliberately false information. This behavior is due to many genetic and environmental factors, but this set is unique for everyone. Here are the most common reasons.

1. Personality disorders

As mentioned above, lying at every turn can be a symptom of a mental disorder.

2. Features of the brain

A number of studies point to structural abnormalities in the brains of pathological liars. One such study revealed increased white matter volume in three regions of the prefrontal cortex.

Other authors believe that a persistent tendency to lie is formed as the restraining emotional reaction of the amygdala weakens. Earlier studies found that 40% of pathological liars had damage to the central nervous system caused by epilepsy, head trauma, or dangerous infections.

3. The costs of education

In childhood, we all learn what is good and what is bad. At an early age, a person may lie out of fear of punishment or for profit, and later this becomes an unconditional attitude.

4. Chemical addiction

Drug addicts and alcoholics often use cunning to hide their problem and at the same time swindle money: addictions “turn off” conscience.

5. Other psychological problems

A person who lies frequently may suffer from depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Such behavior may be associated with fear, guilt or shame, unwillingness to admit their condition. It is important to understand that not every person with such a diagnosis is a pathological deceiver!


Signs of pathological and compulsive lying

If you suspect that you are regularly fooled, pay attention to the characteristic signs of lying.

1. The stories of the liars are absolutely unbelievable

If you find yourself shaking your head often, refusing to believe the fables, it seems that you have come across just such a person. Someone tells how they dined with Tom Cruise or set a world record for eating sausages? You are not mistaken.

2. There is a desire to get attention

If someone lies to gain interest, and goes out of his way to prove his own worth, you are a pathological liar. They practice two ways to attract attention: Instead of admitting their mistake or honestly saying that they are in trouble, such people are talking nonsense, just to look sinless.

  • Make yourself a victim. To enlist the sympathy and support of others, they complain about imaginary misfortunes. Illnesses, death of loved ones, someone's cruelty and other catastrophes in which they allegedly suffered.

  • 3. Liars have low self-esteem

    By itself, it does not indicate a pathological or compulsive lie, but in combination with other signs, it completes the portrait of a shameless deceiver. Usually low self-esteem is found in compulsive liars: it hides anxiety and insecurity.

    4. They should have the last word

    Arguing with a pathological liar is like banging your head against a wall. He will give the most ridiculous arguments until you get tired of arguing, just to get out of the fight as a winner. Compulsive liars are easier: they are embarrassed when they are exposed and do not insist on their own.

    5. They are extremely resourceful

    They manage to invent plausible versions for all occasions with lightning speed, create suitable lies literally out of thin air and present them in a convincing form.

    6. They know how to turn everything upside down

    If liars feel that they are close to failure, they immediately back up and change the meaning of what was said. But it is useless to catch them at their word: they will object and say that you misheard or misunderstood.

    7. Their life is chaotic and full of tragedies

    They get out as best they can, trying to seem honest, but sooner or later people realize that something is wrong here. Relationships crumble, another job is lost, friends turn away, but the pathological liar is still rushing about in search of simpletons who can be hung noodles on their ears.

    8. They do not know how to keep secrets and love to gossip

    They are not familiar with the concept of decency: they enthusiastically discuss the details of someone else's life, including intimate ones. Nothing is sacred to them.


    How to behave with them

    It would seem that there is nowhere clearer - to stop communicating and delete from life. But it's not always easy, and it's not always necessary. Not all deceivers are notorious crooks.

    If you are convinced that you have encountered a narcissist or a sociopath, then there is no question: stay away from him, and do not let your conscience torment you. But if someone close to you has serious psychological problems or addiction, you probably shouldn’t say goodbye to them. What to do?

    1. To believe… if necessary

    To look for a lie in every word is more expensive for yourself. Yes, a person often lies, but still able to be honest. He may be exaggerating, but he's basically telling the truth. At the very least, try to figure out when to trust him and when not.

    Do you remember slippery topics, during the discussion of which you often caught your interlocutor in a lie? Or periods of exacerbation, when the propensity to lie became too obvious?

    A healthy skepticism doesn't hurt, but if you're not completely sure that everything you've said is a complete lie, why not assume that you're being told the truth? Of course, this does not apply to important issues: here you need to check everything.

    A modicum of trust is needed: when a person knows that he will be accused of deceit anyway, why should he be honest? Those who are trusted are more likely to reveal the truth, especially if the lie is associated with guilt or shame.

    2. Understand why they lie

    We feel bitter when we are deceived, and this is a natural emotional reaction. Critical thinking can help you deal with it. Think: why does a person lie? What drives them? What is the reason?

    If you can figure out the motives, a little bit of sympathy will surely appear. Your emotions may not subside immediately, but sooner or later you will calm down and be able to take a sober look at the situation.

    3. Accept it as a fact: lies will be repeated more than once

    Pathological or compulsive liars do not always control their speech. Therefore, it is wiser to admit that they are like that and you have to live with it somehow. This does not mean forcing yourself to believe tall tales or accepting their behavior as the norm. The main thing is to realize that not every lie is said with malicious intent.

    They can't help but lie. At least not now, given certain circumstances. Of course, no one forbids fighting this, but you yourself will not change anything. Try to look at it philosophically and not take it to heart.

    4. Convince them to ask for help

    If the interlocutor has developed a tendency to lie relatively recently, you can guess what the matter is (depression, addiction in the initial stage, childhood psychotrauma) and the person is dear to you, try to persuade him to see a psychotherapist.

    People who constantly lie are not easy. And yet, do not rush to write them down as scoundrels or malicious manipulators. There are many causes for pathological or compulsive lying, and although this habit harms both those who are lied to and those who lie, it is treatable.

    Daniel Levitin "Guide to Lies"

    This book will help you recognize lies and process any information critically.

    Learn more