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Lies, Lies, and Lies: Explaining Interpersonal Deception Theory

Updated on January 7, 2017

Interpersonal deception theory reminds me of a popular French story by Guy de Maupassant about a necklace.

Mathilde Loisel is a woman from low social status who always dreamed of herself being in a high class society. When her husband received an invitation to a fancy ball, she can’t keep calm about it. She wanted to attend so bad that her husband went into trouble of buying a long, expensive dress for her to wear at the party. But Mathilde is not satisfied. What is the essence of having a long dress when you don’t have any sparkling jewels at all? So her husband told her to see Madame Forestier, a rich woman who can lend her some jewelry. Mathilde went to see Madame Forestier, and she borrowed a very elegant diamond necklace. She went to the party wearing the necklace, looking so fancy and gorgeous; making the other people who attended the party thinks that she is actually rich and wealthy. But after the party, the necklace was missing, so she went looking for it anywhere but couldn’t find it, so she finds a way to quick way to replace it. She went to a necklace shop and found a necklace that is very similar to the one lost – but it was so expensive, so she borrowed some money until the long path of her financial struggles begins as she falls into debt. She bought the necklace and gave it to Madame Foresteir – who doesn't notice the substitution.

Did Mathilde succeeded in deceiving Madame Foresteir with her necklace substitute technique? Yes, because Madame Foresteir didn’t notice it at all. She thought that it was the same necklace that Mathilde borrowed. After all, there is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. It is also the same when people deceive others when communicating. Through sweet words and immediate pleasure that we feel, we wouldn’t know when the person talking to us has something fishy in his mind tricking us.

What does the theory say about deception?

Interpersonal deception theory explains that people find themselves in situations where they make statements that are less than completely honest. Using deception strategies, we tend to create a lie to deceive a person.

1. Falsification

If somebody gives you a complement about the dress you are wearing in a grand party, of course you won’t tell them that it is just a cheap dress that you bought during the clearance sale in a mall near you. You might tell them that the dress is specially made from Europe. This simple story is actually called falsification. There are times when we don’t want to tell the people about the truth, so we create fiction to give reasons.

2. Equivocation

But the most obvious type of deception is when a person suddenly dodges the issue and talk to another topic. It makes me think that the person is very guilty that’s why he or she cannot stand talking about it. This is called equivocation. I always find this equivocation whenever my friends talk about their crushes and love interest, and also in certain issues where the person did something wrong in the past that they don’t want to bring up in the present. For me, equivocation is the most obvious deception strategy because it would be very weird if somebody talks to you with a certain topic, and then all of a sudden he or she will change it. Unless the communicator is really good at dodging issues, it will be so suspicious to think that once a person tries to escape a certain topic, it means that there is something going on.

In my daily life, I’ve realized the interpersonal deception theory is really important in analyzing the behavior of people who are very good at deceiving others. Some people are very good at manipulating words. Just like those lawyers who are smart enough to manipulate a certain case. Every time the lawyer defends the guilty client, it sounds like everything is true even if we know that it is so wrong. Just like those robbers who are good in hypnotizing their victims, you wouldn’t feel their way of scamming you unless somebody tries to wake you up in that particular situation. Somehow, everything feels like a dream when they are deceiving people.

In the end, lie is a lie and deception is deception. Even if we make a lie for the sake of something good, lies can only be covered by another lie, and another lie. But lies are just like smoke. Even if you hide it in a sealed jar, time will come that it will escape the lid until everyone noticed it. Moreover, it is not very wise for us to make an attempt to win by deception. In Guy de Maupassant’s story, Mathilde met Madame Foresteir after ten years, only to find out that the necklace she tried to replace with 36,000 francs is just a dummy. If only Mathilde told Madame Foresteir about the truth, she may have escaped through the trouble of being in debt and will have to pay only 500 francs, which is the value of that dummy necklace. And above anything else, it would be so upsetting if someone we know for so long will deceive us until we’ll realize that we cannot trust that person anymore.

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