Little white lies are more common than people like to admit. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll taken Oct. 8-10 showed that over half the respondents said lying was never justified, but nearly two-thirds also said it was OK to lie in certain situations, like protecting someone’s feelings. When asked about lying, De Anza College students expressed similarly mixed views.
“Sometimes it’s necessary in certain situations so that you can keep the peace. However, if you can live life without ever lying then you should. But certain situations it can be justified,” said Lance Petit.
This sentiment was shared by other De Anza students. Darren Kruger said he would lie if it was “best for the situation and would cause less harm than telling the truth.” Others shared this view, but under more limited circumstances.
For Steven Hall, lying was acceptable on the extreme ends of the situational spectrum.
“It depends on the situation, but only if it was really important such as to save a life or really frivolous, like we’re running really late and my girlfriend wants my opinion about her dress so she’s taking even longer.”
Peter Blas said he was more likely to tell the truth to someone he knew and lie to someone he didn’t know. Lying to strangers was “motivated by external or internal factors, such as lack of time or lack of patience or empathy.” That empathy made it more important to tell the truth to people he cares about.
De Anza student Joshua Boguiren took an approach that seemed to combine Hall’s and Blas’ views.
“I would be less likely to lie about farting in the car, and much more likely to lie if I was being questioned about something wrong that I did,” Boguiren said. “The probability of me actually lying in the latter situation would increase if I was confident that I couldn’t get caught. That same probability might decrease if the person I’m talking to is someone important to me, or if what I did wrong was a serious accident (like breaking something valuable).”
Over half of 1000 people who participated in the AP-Ipsos poll said lying, overall, was never justified. 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant would have agreed. He believed all lying was bad – every single lie, even one that could save someone’s life. Boguiren also took a philosophical approach.
“Lying is never justifiable, but it can be reasonable.”