Excerpt: 'The Liar In Your Life'

Is someone in your life a liar? Take the 10 minute test.

ByABC News via logo
July 30, 2009, 1:37 PM

Aug. 3, 2009— -- Psychology professor Robert Feldman, one of the world's leading experts on deception, offers new insights into why and how we lie, and our culture's increasing tolerance for deceit in his new book, "In The Liar in Your Life: The Way to Truthful Relationships."

He covers the various lies people tell throughout their lives: little white lies, resume lies and marital lies. Feldman explains the consequences that stem from such lying, and how people can handle betrayal, mistrust and infidelity in their family and friends.

Read an excerpt of the book below, and head to the "GMA" Library for more good reads.

The National Archives, housed in an austere building in downtown Washington, D.C., contains original copies of the founding documents of the United States of America: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. These documents, with their talk of unalienable rights and the equality of all, established the country not just in a legal sense but in a moral sense, too. The United States would be, and still aspires to be, a nation where justice and truth prevail.

Yet I did not visit the archives several decades ago to learn more about the brighter moments in our nation's past. Instead, I went in order to listen to scratchy tape recordings made secretly in Richard Nixon's Oval Office, recordings of fraud and deceit that ultimately led to Nixon's resignation from the presidency in the dénouement of the Watergate scandal. I believed, with the great conviction and zeal of a young assistant professor determined to understand the nature of lying, that I might be able to learn more about deceit by listening to the words of one of its most infamous practitioners.

However, when I listened to the Nixon tapes, I was frustrated that I could not determine from tone or intonation the moments when Nixon or his cronies were lying. Instead, to my ears, Nixon's conversations and soliloquies were remarkable most of all for how unremarkable they were. There was talk of political appointments and strategies; there were flashes of insight and of paranoia. Overall, though, from what I could tell, the conversation was not much different from what I might have heard from recordings of any office, oval or not.

After subsequent decades of research and dozens of studies into the topic of deception, I now see that my frustration was misplaced. My failure to distinguish a Nixonian office from any other had less to do with my own inability to recognize lies and more with the fact that there is simply not much distinction to notice. The scale and impact of Nixon's lies set him apart from probably every other president and surely most people generally. But what my research and the research of many others has shown is that lies occur regularly in every office. They occur regularly in every living room, in every bedroom; they occur regularly in conversations between strangers and conversations between friends.