I’m listening to the audiobook version of Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers right now — and it’s disturbing. There is a lot more lying and general deception going on amongst us humans than we’d like to admit. And we’re not very good at telling when when people are lying to our faces.
Interestingly, though, Gladwell points out that there is no evolutionary advantage to lie detection. If we spent our energy and focus on detecting lies, communication would get overly complex — and fast, clear communication is critical to our survival.
I see this in nature, actually. Animals seem to take each other at face value.
A rattlesnake rattles to let other creatures know it is dangerous — and other creatures (humans included) trust that it’s telling the truth. We don’t mess with a rattlesnake unless we’ve got a death wish.
A killdeer fakes injury, dragging its wing on the ground and crying out to draw attention away from its nest. Would-be egg-thieves fall for it, moving away from the location of the nest to go after the “injured” bird, which then flies away.
As humans, I think a little bit of skepticism is healthy. Especially in circumstances that could have major life impact, we should be open to evidence that we can’t trust someone. But in day-to-day life, assumed honesty keeps the world turning.