The Truth About Lies
The Illusion of Honesty and the Evolution of Deceit
Why do you believe what you believe?
You’ve been lied to. Probably a lot. We’re always stunned when we realize we’ve been deceived. We can’t believe we were fooled: What was I thinking? How could I have believed that?
We always wonder why we believed the lie. But have you ever wondered why you believe the truth? People tell you the truth all the time, and you believe them; and if, at some later point, you’re confronted with evidence that the story you believed was indeed true, you never wonder why you believed it in the first place. In this incisive and insightful taxonomy of lies and liars, New York Times bestselling author Aja Raden makes the surprising claim that maybe you should.
Buttressed by history, psychology, and science, The Truth About Lies is both an eye-opening primer on con-artistry—from pyramid schemes to shell games, forgery to hoaxes—and also a telescopic view of society through the mechanics of belief: why we lie, why we believe, and how, if at all, the acts differ. Through wild tales of cons and marks, Raden examines not only how lies actually work, but also why they work, from the evolutionary function of deception to what it reveals about our own.
In her previous book, Stoned, Raden asked, “What makes a thing valuable?” In The Truth About Lies, she asks “What makes a thing real?” With cutting wit and a deft touch, Raden untangles the relationship of truth to lie, belief to faith, and deception to propaganda.
The Truth About Lies will change everything you thought you knew about what you know, and whether you ever really know it.
"Why do people believe what they believe," asks historian Raden (Stoned) in this entertaining survey of "famous swindles." Each chapter is dedicated to an infamous trick among them Orson Welles's 1938 The War of the Worlds broadcast that led listeners to believe aliens had invaded Earth, and the way Rasputin convinced the Russian czar that he had magical healing powers and illustrates why people fall for lies. In a shell game, for instance, a hustler makes someone see things that aren't there by manipulating lags in perception, Raden writes, and pyramid schemes, like religion, make use of humans' proclivity to blindly trust authority. Odd facts about deception are peppered throughout, as in the case of morpho butterflies, whose mirrorlike wings create an optical illusion that make them appear blue. Truth is more fluid than humans like to believe, Raden argues: there is no "one true objective reality that we all experience and recall identically." In enjoyably witty, conversational prose, she makes a case that humans rely on senses, reason, and logic to collectively decide upon "an unknown, mostly unknowable, reality." Chock-full of quirky anecdotes, this is a fun romp through the tricky world of deception.