The Hows and Whys of Lies by Bella DePaulo

A renowned scholar offers an engaging and sophisticated overview of some of the most fundamental issues in the psychology of lying and detecting lies.

The hows and whys of lies

Award-winning social scientist and Harvard Ph.D. Bella DePaulo has been studying the psychology of deceiving and detecting deceit for decades. “The Hows and Whys of Lies” provides brief and accessible answers to some of the most fundamental questions about lying. For example:

  1. How often do people lie?
  2. What do people lie about?
  3. When is it okay to lie – or is it ever okay?
  4. How do liars justify their lies?
  5. How do liars tip off their lies?
  6. When liars care the most about getting away with their lies, is that when they are most likely to screw up?
  7. How good are people at knowing when someone is lying to them?
  8. Do people have intuitions about deceptiveness that they don’t know how to tap into?

There are two sections to the book: “The many faces of lies,” and “Discerning lies from truths: Behavioral cues to deception and the indirect pathway of intuition.”


Secondary Genre: SELF-HELP / General

Language: English


Word Count: 21,836

Sales info:

The Hows and Whys of Lies was published in 2010 and has been selling in both the print version and the ebook version ever since. Professor Bella DePaulo is one of the most recognized names in the scholarly study of deception and detecting deception, so that adds to the interest in her books.

Sample text:

Is It OK to Lie?

               The question of whether it is acceptable to lie is a difficult one for someone such as myself who has worked for several decades as a social scientist. I like to answer questions with data, and this question demands something more.  I will get to that something more, but first, I want to see whether I can squeeze some hints out of the data my colleagues and I have collected. Because the studies I have described so far are not experiments, hints are all they can provide. 

               One way to approach the acceptability issue is to ask whether lying seems to be linked to good or bad outcomes. The diary studies offer some tentative answers to this question. The participants in those studies recorded all of their social interactions, regardless of whether or not they had lied during those interactions. They also rated the pleasantness and meaningfulness of each of their interactions. Participants generally described their interactions as pleasant, and as slightly more meaningful than superficial. However, these positive qualities were less in evidence in social interactions in which the participant had lied than in those in which the participant had told only the truth. In this way, then, the little lies of everyday life did seem to leave a bit of a smudge.

               The participants in the diary studies also noted that they felt a bit more uncomfortable while they were telling their lies than they had just beforehand. Again, levels of discomfort were slight, even when participants were lying. But the faint stain left by the lies was still discernible.

Book translation status:

The book is available for translation into any language except those listed below:

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