Why We Lie: The Science Behind Our Deceptive Ways

Honesty may be the best policy, but scheming and dishonesty are part of what makes us human.

Polygraph photographed at National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

In the fall of 1989 Princeton University welcomed into its freshman class a young man named Alexi Santana, whose life story the admissions committee had found extraordinarily compelling.

He had barely received any formal schooling. He had spent his adolescence almost entirely on his own, living outdoors in Utah, where he’d herded cattle, raised sheep, and read philosophy. Running in the Mojave Desert, he had trained himself to be a distance runner.

Santana quickly became something of a star on campus. Academically too he did well, earning A’s in nearly every course. His reserved manner and unusual background suffused him with an enigmatic appeal. When a suite mate asked Santana how his bed always seemed to be perfectly made, he answered that he slept on the floor. It seemed perfectly logical that someone who had spent much of his life sleeping outdoors would have no fondness for a bed.

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