How often do you lie to other people? (Lying to oneself being a fairly common condition.) I don’t mean a Lance Armstrong whopper, just the sort of mundane everyday deceit, those told more out of kindness or convenience than for selfish advance.
We learn at such an early age: psychologists have studied toddlers left alone in a room and forbidden from playing with a toy. They already show an ability to lie. “They’re not particularly good at two or three,” according to Professor Robert Feldman from the University of Massachusetts, who specialises in deception. “But they still use it as a social tactic. By the time they are five or six they actually become very good.”
For reporters, one of the most satisfying professional moments is knowing you’re onto a real rat, someone weaving falsehood after distortion, or paying suited nasties to do so for them – and finally cornering them, nowhere left to run. They tend to go quite quiet when presented with the undercover video evidence.
Some untruths, of course, are too big to confront – look at the warnings ignored ahead of the financial crash.
The denizens of Wasdale, near Scafell Pike, have turned this human trait on its head by celebrating what Oscar Wilde called “the old art of lying”. Every year they host the World’s Biggest Liar competition. Contestants have five minutes to tell the most elaborate and convincing porkie. Politicians and lawyers are banned from entering. Our match report of the 2013 final can be found here. Mercifully they avoided the unpleasantries of 2003, when the winner was accused of cheating.