Episode #148 — The Truth About Lies with Author Aja Raden

Nobody likes to be lied to. And we all like to think that no one can pull one over on us. But the truth is, people are called on constantly to think critically about what is real. Just look to pop culture to show how prevalent lying is. Two Truths and a Lie is an ice-breaker game that calls upon participants to deliberately lie in order to help people get to know them better. So we guess you know someone best if you know what they lie about? It actually makes sense, in a messed up kind of way. Likewise, we don’t want to spoil any movies or TV shows for you, but many are full of drama, deceit, and dangerous consequences. At least the good ones are. Music is full of liars and people worried about looking like fools. (Except for the Eurythmics — they would never say something that wasn’t true.)

And it’s not just pop culture. Have you ever been asked to contribute to a Go Fund Me and wondering if it was legitimate? Or listened to political rhetoric and wondered how anyone could believe such balderdash? (If only we could think of some specific examples from the past seven or eight months…) Have you listened to this podcast and thought, “there’s no way Heidi owns that many Crocs” or “Luke claims to know a lot about Rush, but I heard his favorite band is actually Nickelback; why won’t he address that situation?”

Oh, God, now we’re really stressed. Take a moment with us, inhale, exhale, and listen to this week’s episode with author Aja Raden. She’s written a book called “The Truth About Lies: The Illusion of Honesty and the Evolution of Deceit,” and while we had a great time talking about scams, lies, and how the brain processes being fooled, she also left us strangely reassured about falling for the occasional lie.

Aja uses the lens of history to explore both the big picture and minute details about lies. And in this blogger’s opinion, we should use the lens of history with every guest. Naked skydiving? Let’s ask if the Montgolfier brothers dove in the buff out of the first hot air balloon. A KISS expert? Let’s talk about lead-based cosmetics. A sex expert… sorry, a sexpert? We’ll need a side bar about mercury treatments for syphilis. Luckily, you don’t have to wait for another episode to get some juicy historical details. Aja talked with us about some of the most well-known scams and lies through history, and let’s just say that if we had access to what the early 20th century drugstores in America were laying down, we’d either get a lot more done or absolutely nothing at all. (“Things Go Better with Coke” has taken on an entirely new meaning for us.)

This was just one fraction of the intriguing things Aja talked with us about. She broke down how different types of scams take advantage of different ways the brain processes information. She explained what types of lies are more believable to people and why. We discussed whether it can be difficult to backtrack out of a lie when you’re firmly entrenched. (This also goes for people who have been lied to and then acted on those lies.) And ultimately, Aja shared why we shouldn’t be embarrassed to occasionally fall for something. We’re only human. Unless you believe Luke’s origin story about his superpower: extreme cynicism.

In her quest to write about lies, Aja was extremely careful to back up all her information with facts. We’re talking true fact-checking — the kind everyone should be doing. “The Truth About Lies” is a fascinating read, thanks to Aja’s writing style and organization, and our reassurance that she isn’t selling snake oil. This is microfiche-based research, people, and we have major respect for it.

After listening to the episode, you’re going to want to learn more about all the examples Aja referenced, and delve even deeper. We have your back and are giving away a copy of “The Truth About Lies.” Just visit our website (though we’re assuming you already do that several times a day), sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll be picking one lucky name. If you don’t end up winning, be sure to visit your local bookstore and pick up a copy. Don’t you want to know what makes a thing real?

You can find Aja on Twitter and Instagram, and you can also follow her publisher — St. Martin’s Press — on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. We’re off to spend some time at our respective private islands. What’s the use in having a lagoon if you never get to swim in it? And stay tuned for more information about Heidi’s royal collaboration with Crocs. There’s a reason her initials are HRH and why would she make something like that up?

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