Remembering Lies: Why False Denials Will Inevitably Trip You Up

The Anatomy Of A Lie
businessman with his fingers...
businessman with his fingers...

Lying. Everyone is guilty of it, even though we know we shouldn't do it. But are all lies alike? And why are some harder to remember than others?

A new study, published in the Journal of Applied Research and Memory Cognition, separates lies into two general categories, and teases apart why one category of lies is so much easier to remember than the other.

Researchers at Louisiana State University found that lies generally fall into the false description camp, or the false denial camp. With false descriptions, a person is actually fabricating details and events for the lie. Researchers say this makes the lie easier to remember because it takes more brainpower to create the false details.

"As the constructive process lays down records of our details and descriptions, it also lays down information about the process of construction," study researcher Sean Lane, an associate professor at the university, said in a statement.

False denials, on the other hand, involve saying something didn't happen when it in fact did. Because this kind of lie doesn't require any extra brainpower to fabricate details, it's harder to remember that you told the lie "because there's not much cognitively involved in the denial," Lane said in the statement.

For the study, researchers instructed study participants to look at pictures of objects and then lie about them, either by denying that they saw them, or by fabricating descriptions of objects they in fact didn't see. The study participants were better able to remember the false descriptions of the objects, versus their false denials that they'd seen an object.

But of course, in the end, maybe the best way to avoid struggling to remember a lie is to avoid telling one at all.

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