The Truth About Lies: The Evolution of Honesty and the Evolution of Deceit 

By Aja Raden

St. Martin’s Press (2021)

Do you ever lie? Probably only occasionally when you want to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. More importantly, do you ever lie to yourself? I surely have. As I was growing up, I told myself, “When I’m grown, I will be able to do what I want. I will be in control. All of this doing what others want me to will be over. I will be my own person!” More recently, I find my self-talk reassuring as I hold on to the idea, that “Soon it will all be normal and then it will be fine.” And just today, I told myself “It’s ok to have that dessert, there aren’t that many calories in it.”

Those are minor examples of lying — not even mentioned in the fascinating book by Aja Raden.) But examples that are included in The Truth About Lies are the reason that you should want to read this carefully researched and scientifically based book. Daily, we find ourselves pondering accusations of “fake news” and wondering how others believe things that have been proven false over and over and OVER again.

This book will explain. It turns out that our memories can’t be trusted. In fact what we see can’t necessarily be believed. Furthermore, if the lie is emotionally grabbing or even just really interesting, we don’t want to abandon it for the truth. For example, the book begins with a true story of Europeans who bought into an island in the Atlantic that didn’t exist, attracted by tales of a land flowing with milk and honey. It was too good to be true, but oh so enticing. That’s why the Brooklyn Bridge has been sold over and over again and why snake oil made its salesmen rich.

As we were told in school, reading fiction or viewing movies or plays involves the willing “suspension of disbelief.” Aja Raden says that we all suspend our disbelief all the time! Our social contract is built on incredible assumptions relating to trust and honesty. The Truth About Lies will disabuse you of some of your “beliefs” and strengthen you in others. Get it, read it, and enjoy a somewhat new perspective on “reality.” The library should have copies!

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