Why do we believe compulsive liars? What makes them tick?
One of the fascinating aspects concerning the saga of convicted entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes and recently indicted New York Congressman George Santos is how long they got away with lying to investors, patients, voters and the public.
Holmes lied about the blood-testing capacity of her health tech startup, Theranos, for years before being found guilty of fraud charges and being sent to a Texas prison May 30.
Santos lied on his resume about his educational and professional achievements, falsely claimed to be Jewish and now faces 13 federal charges relating to fraud, money laundering and lying to the House of Representatives—while still serving in the House.
Given the sheer number of prevarications, shouldn’t observers, even casual ones, have caught on to them sooner?
Lying is a skill set
It turns out it’s harder than you think to discern when a compulsive liar is making things up, says Laura Dudley, an associate clinical professor in Northeastern’s Department of Applied Psychology.
For the most part, people tend to trust other people. It’s part of the bond that holds society together.
And compulsive liars are good at what they do, Dudley says.