A Conversation for Why People Lie

Lying and game theory

Post 1


If you take the playing of games as a cue as to how and why people behave the way that they do, it is possible to see lying as a startegy that can be endorsed and sanctioned in certain fields.

If I bluff or misrepresent my position in a game of cards, strictly speaking I am lying. For a lie to be sanctioned it needs to form part of the accepted notion of play.

What can nearly always be said about lies is that the price of the lie, ie being found out, is deemed by the liar to be risk worth taking. A good liar could therefore just be someone who correctly assesses both the plausability of the lie and the consequences of being found out.

Conversly lying outside of the game being played will determine how much the liar will be punished. Lying in court is seen s undermining the judicial fabric and will usually resort in a prison sentence.

Lying on your C.V. could get you sacked, but the rewards of getting away with it could justify the risk that is being run. Ultimately your status in the gameplay will dtermine the consequences of the lie, the lower the status of the player the less consequential their lie.

Being lied to by your doctor might be more upsetting than being lied to by your milkman. Being lied to by your spouse would upset people more than being lied to by your neighbour etc.

Lying perversly both underpins and undermines the social fabric. The harmless social lies of 'that's a nice dress' and 'you look great' permit us to live in close proximity to each other.

However, some lies are a threat to the institutions that we need to run our societies, hence the penalties for lying in court or to a police officer.

Lying, in the words of Joseph Conrad, has the taint of death about it. However, without the use of economy with the truth we would quickly become unable to maintain any form of social discourse.

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Lying and game theory

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