When Timothy Levine got down to write a ebook about deception in 2016, he wished to incorporate a chapter on one in all its most excessive kinds: pathological mendacity.
“I simply couldn’t discover any good analysis base on this,” stated Levine, chair of the Division of Communication Research on the College of Alabama at Birmingham.
Now, it appears it’s the one factor anybody desires to speak to him about.
“Santos has introduced extra reporters to me within the final couple of weeks than in all probability within the final 12 months,” Levine stated.
Santos, in fact, is US Rep. George Santos, a Republican from Lengthy Island who was not too long ago elected to signify New York’s third congressional district.
Within the months since his election, key claims from Santos’ biography – together with the place he earned his faculty diploma, his employment at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, an animal rescue group he says he based and his Jewish spiritual affiliation – have withered below the scrutiny of reporters and fact-checkers. Now, he says, he doesn’t have a university diploma; he wasn’t employed by Citigroup or Goldman Sachs; and the IRS has no document of his animal rescue group. He additionally says he by no means claimed to be Jewish, however reasonably he was “Jew-ish.”
Santos defended himself in media interviews in December, saying that the discrepancies had been the results of résumé padding and poor phrase decisions however that he was not a prison or a fraud.
It’s not clear what’s driving Santos’ statements.
However the story has given professionals who research mendacity in its most excessive kinds a uncommon second to boost consciousness about mendacity as a psychological dysfunction – one they are saying has been largely uncared for by medical doctors and therapists.
“It’s uncommon to discover a public determine who lies so often in such verifiable methods,” says Christian Hart, a psychologist who directs the Human Deception Laboratory at Texas Lady’s College.
Psychiatrists have acknowledged pathological mendacity as a psychological affliction since the late 1800s, but consultants say it has by no means been given critical consideration, funding or actual research. It doesn’t have its personal prognosis within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, the bible of psychiatry. As a substitute, it’s acknowledged as a characteristic of different diagnoses, like character problems.
In consequence, there’s no evidence-based approach to deal with it, although many pathological liars say they need assist to cease.
The usual method to treating mendacity depends on methods borrowed from cognitive behavioral remedy, which emphasizes understanding and altering pondering patterns. However nobody is certain that that is the simplest manner to assist.
We don’t know essentially what’s the simplest remedy,” stated Drew Curtis, an affiliate professor of psychology at Angelo State College in Texas who research pathological mendacity.
Curtis had somebody supply to drive throughout the nation to see him for remedy, which he says he wasn’t in a position to supply.
“In order that’s the heartbreaking facet of it for me, as a clinician: individuals which can be wanting to assist and may’t have the assistance,” Curtis stated.
Longtime collaborators Curtis and Hart not too long ago printed a study laying out proof to assist the inclusion of pathological mendacity as a standalone prognosis within the DSM.
Over time, Hart stated, nearly 20 individuals have proposed definitions of pathological mendacity, however there’s little or no overlap between them: “The one really widespread characteristic is that these individuals lie so much.”
The very first thing to learn about pathological or compulsive mendacity is that it’s uncommon, Levine says. His research present that most individuals inform the reality more often than not.
“These actually prolific liars are fairly uncommon,” stated Levine, whose ebook about deception, “Duped,” was printed in 2019.
Which isn’t to say that mendacity isn’t widespread. Most individuals lie generally, even each day. In his studies, individuals lied as much as twice a day, on common.
Levine himself commonly lies on the grocery retailer when staff ask whether or not he discovered every part he was searching for. Because the Covid-19 pandemic started, that reply is nearly at all times no, however he says sure anyway.
One among his college students labored in a retail clothes retailer and commonly lied to individuals who had been making an attempt on garments. One other – a receptionist – lied to cowl for a physician who was at all times operating late.
That’s all fairly regular, Levine stated. He believes that honesty is our default mode of communication just because individuals must be sincere with one another to work successfully in large teams, one thing people do uniquely nicely within the animal kingdom.
However sticking to the information isn’t straightforward for everybody.
Of their research, Hart and Curtis have discovered that most individuals inform a mean of about one lie a day. That’s fairly regular. Then there are individuals who lie so much: about 10 lies a day, on common.
Hart and Curtis name prolific or particularly consequential liars – somebody like Bernie Madoff, who dupes and defrauds traders, for instance – “Massive Liars,” which can also be the title of their current ebook.
Massive mendacity is fairly uncommon. Pathological mendacity is much more uncommon than that.
Hart thinks he’s solely ever interacted with two folks that met the classical case research description of pathological mendacity.
“It was dizzying,” Hart says.
When individuals begin to lie a lot that they will’t cease or that it begins to harm them or individuals round them, that’s when it turns into irregular and may have remedy.
“It’s extra the scientific class of people that inform extreme quantities of lies that impairs their functioning, causes misery, and poses some threat to themselves or others,” Curtis stated, sharing the working definition of pathological mendacity that he and Hart hope will finally be included within the DSM.
“What we discovered, inspecting all of the instances, is that the mendacity seems to be considerably compulsive,” Hart stated. “That’s, they’re mendacity in conditions when an inexpensive individual in all probability wouldn’t lie, and it looks like even to their very own detriment in lots of instances.
“It tends to trigger dysfunction of their lives,” Hart stated, together with social, relationship and employment issues.
On some stage, pathological liars know they’re mendacity. When confronted with their lies, they’ll sometimes admit to their dishonesty.
Mendacity will also be a characteristic of different problems, however Hart says that once they assessed individuals who met the factors for pathological mendacity, they discovered one thing fascinating.
“It turned out that almost all of them don’t have one other psychological dysfunction. And so it looks like mendacity is their principal downside,” he stated, lending weight to the concept it deserves to be its personal prognosis.
The American Psychiatric Affiliation, or APA, publishes the DSM and commonly critiques proposals for brand new diagnoses. Curtis says he has been gathering proof and is within the strategy of filling out the paperwork the APA requires to think about whether or not pathological mendacity must be a brand new prognosis.
As for whether or not sure professions appear to draw individuals who lie greater than common, Hart says that’s an advanced query.
It’s not that individuals who lie so much are inclined to gravitate to sure jobs. Relatively, sure jobs – like gross sales, for instance – in all probability reward the power to lie easily, and so these professions could also be extra more likely to have a better focus of people that lie greater than common.
“The proof now we have means that politicians aren’t by their nature any extra dishonest than the standard individual,” Hart stated. “Nonetheless, when individuals go into politics, there’s fairly good proof that essentially the most profitable politicians are those which can be extra prepared to bend the reality” and they also stands out as the ones extra more likely to be re-elected.
Solely time will inform, how the state of affairs might play out for Santos.
To date, he has resisted calls to step down, saying he intends to serve his time period in Congress. This week, although, Santos introduced he would step down from any committee assignments whereas the investigations are ongoing.