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A lie is a statement that the sender ( liar ) knows or suspects to be untrue , and which is expressed with the intention that the recipient will believe it anyway, or in other words “the (also non-verbal) communication of a subjective one Falsehood with the aim of creating or maintaining a false impression in the opposite party [sic]. "

Lies serve to gain an advantage, for example to cover up a mistake or a prohibited act and thus to avoid criticism or punishment . Lies are also lied out of courtesy , shame , fear , fear , insecurity or need (“white lie”) in order to thwart the other person's plans or to protect oneself, other people or interests (e.g. privacy , intimate sphere , economic interests), compulsive / pathological or for fun.


One speaks of a lie only where a serious violation of morals is seen. If a personal understanding of a deliberate false statement is to be expressed, colloquial expressions such as Geschwindel (verb: to dizzy) or flunkerei (verb: to flunk) are used, e.g. B. in connection with a joke, with emotional overstrain , if a situation is only glossed over ( euphemism ) or if the expressed untruth was immediately withdrawn.

The colloquial word dizziness, on the other hand, denotes either a more serious act of deception in combination with a mean lie (e.g. fraud) or a joke with far-reaching consequences (e.g. April Fool's joke , fake ).

A lie differs from deception in that deception can be carried out without the aid of false testimony. For example, pretending to be asleep to eavesdrop on others is deceiving. If you are then asked and say you have slept, that is a lie. In advertising , the sales pitch and in the political propaganda often use lies and deceit.

The lie is dependent on language: Lies can be uttered in any form in which language is used to communicate , for example as text in a newspaper or in sign language .

A distinction is made in interpersonal communication:

  • social lie
  • White lie
  • Purpose lie
  • willful (dissocial) lie,
  • compulsive, pathological lie ( pseudology )
  • Excuse .

The social lie should serve the well-being of what has been lied to or the harmony of a group. This type of lie should mostly benefit peaceful coexistence and motivation to achieve.

The intentional lie or also common or criminal lie has its own advantage and approves of the disadvantage of fellow human beings. In intrigue (from the Latin intricare , to embarrass), the disadvantage of others is even the goal sought.

Compulsive lying has sometimes been referred to as pseudology in psychiatry . Nowadays, however, one no longer sees it as an independent clinical picture, but rather a possible symptom of the narcissistic personality disorder .

The author Brad Blanton suggests that behaviors such as withholding information, glossing over and exaggeration , but also social phenomena such as tact and diplomacy, should be viewed as forms of lies.


Criminal law

A defendant is always allowed to remain silent on the matter, but even when he speaks, he can lie, at least as far as he does not make himself a criminal offense (false suspicion). If a defendant lies in order to exonerate himself, one speaks of a protective claim . Criminal may be relevant as a lie libel or statement offense , such as false testimony or perjury in a witness who always tell the truth. As a special case of deception, a lie can also constitute a fraud offense if it comes to property damage. In principle, however, lying is not a criminal offense; this also applies to written lies (exception § 348 StGB - false certification in office ).

civil right

In job interviews, for example, you can lie about certain questions. The Federal Labor Court ruled on May 19, 1983 that lying about irrelevant questions, in the case of the previous salary, does not justify a challenge to the employment contract due to fraud . Pregnancy may also be concealed, provided that the workplace does not pose a health risk for pregnant women, e.g. B. because of infectiousness or radiation exposure . Also criminal record must be kept secret, they provided in the Federal Registry in accordance with § 53 Federal Central Register Act have been deleted. Fake certificates, however, are a reason for termination even after years. According to studies by the Control Risk Group, around 12% of applicants in Germany provide false information about their professional career. Specifically, 30% cheat on employment data, 18% on qualifications, 13% on salary data, 11% on CV data, 6% on data on the relationship to the former employer, 4% on position and 1% in the information on management responsibility .

Employers also disinformation in job interviews . According to Hesse / Schrader, it is considered a good sign in job interviews if a supposed flaw such as B. Union involvement is addressed because employers tend to avoid addressing actual reasons for leaving, especially if they are not justiciable . Examples of non-justiciable reasons for elimination are gender, denomination, party affiliation, trade union or works council involvement, etc.

Rules of Procedure of the German Bundestag

In the German Bundestag it is considered inadmissible to call a member of the lie. This is usually punished with a call to order or with a reprimand by the President of the Bundestag . On the other hand, it will not be punished if a representative is accused of telling the untruth because this implies the possibility that he was only wrong . Even the accusation that someone “knowingly said the untruth” does not generally result in a regulatory measure.


Psychological research

In psychological research, a distinction can be made between several approaches, each of which aims to determine characteristics with the help of which the distinction between a true and a false memory or statement is possible.

The focus can either be on the memory or on the person whose memory it is. Furthermore, a distinction must be made between the conscious and the unconscious lie, since the behavioral characteristics of the people and the content of the statements differ in both cases.

If you focus on the person, you can find out, for example, whether the person has lied more often in their past, which could be a clue. Further possibilities exist in the analysis of different behavioral characteristics or microexpressions in facial expressions. However, this can only be applied if it is a deliberate lie.

When focusing on memory, the content is examined for clues that distinguish false memories from true memories. Criteria for the investigation are the logical structure, the amount of details and others. One problem with the unconscious lie is that the memories can be very detailed and rich in information and thus difficult to distinguish from a true memory.

Psychiatric-psychotherapeutic distinctions

In psychotherapy, a distinction is made between unconscious and conscious lies. The credibility assessment deals with the problem of false memories . As Confabulation refers to a meaningless fantastic interpretation for memory gaps in the framework of an exogenous psychosis occur and typical of the Korsakoff's syndrome (= seconds memory Confabulation + + disorientation ) in alcohol abuse are.

According to Heinz Kohut , we distinguish unconscious lies that are the result of early childhood neglect ( pseudology ) and lies that are the result of inadequate internalization of parental norms during the oedipal phase . According to the general psychoanalytic understanding of life history, a conscience based on insight does not develop until the phallic-oedipal phase around the 4th to 6th year of life. According to Schorsch, the forerunner of a conscience based on insight is the so-called preoedipal conscience, which develops from a fear of punishment and a need for control.

Conscious, deliberate lies are often a major problem in psychotherapy. Léon Wurmser (1999) drew attention to the problem of the institutional anchoring of conscious lies. He cites hospitals, universities, politics and business as examples. He has many patients in whom lying is a habit that only becomes questionable in psychotherapy and then becomes a weighty conscience dilemma . He himself has hardly ever worked in an institution where lying has not become a main instrument of power, administration, and the refusal to participate in it has been treated as weakness or even as treason . Usually it is not considered that no trust is possible in a society in which deception and lies are tolerated, indeed extolled, and an abyss of suspicion, a paranoid style, opens up when the extent of the untruth exceeds a certain threshold.

Neurobiology of pathological liars

According to a study by the University of Southern California , pathological liars have altered brain structures . They have a greater proportion of the white matter responsible for transmitting information in the prefrontal cortex than healthy comparators and a smaller proportion of gray matter , which is responsible for information processing.

Conduct while lying

There are outwardly visible, but inconclusive, signs that someone is lying. They are based on unconscious behavioral changes that are caused by stress and sometimes differ from person to person. Therefore, even polygraphs and skilled people cannot reliably find out whether someone is lying.

The following ambiguous actions and characteristics can be signs of a lie:

  • Eye movement
    • Avoiding eye contact with the interlocutor
    • Rolling eyes
    • more frequent blinking
    • Eyes closed longer when blinking
    • less frequent eye movements (stare)
    • enlarged pupils
  • Body language, gestures and facial expressions
    • crossed arms
    • Arms and legs are moved less
    • Scratching of the face, often the nose
    • Redness of the face
    • Licking lips
    • Moving the upper body sideways (staggering) when starting to speak
    • Smile, even if it doesn't fit the situation
    • Turning the palms outwards
    • Exaggerated expression (mostly on the face, e.g. frowning)
  • Language and voice
    • The content of the text and facial expressions do not match (e.g. saying "no" and nodding)
    • Hesitation ("Well, well, uhhh, well ...")
    • Deviation from the usual language pattern
    • Complex sentences can be reproduced in the same way when asked again
    • high pitch of the voice

The above behaviors are signs of stress , which is not always the result of a lie. Anxious or nervous people show similar abnormalities. However, the more indicators that can be observed, the more likely it is that a correct lie detection becomes. The criteria are more meaningful when measured against known common behavior of the person under normal circumstances.


Bible, Christianity and Judaism

In the Bible, the devil is referred to as the “father of lies” ( Jn 8:44  EU ) because he is said to have uttered the first lie in human history to Eve in the garden of Eden , which then led to the fall of man . In the 2nd book of Moses it is written: “You shall not testify wrongly against your neighbor” ( Ex 20,16  EU ), in the 5th book of Moses it is written: You shall not testify wrongly against your neighbor . So the prohibition of judicial false testimony, which is widely interpreted in Christianity and Judaism as a general prohibition of lies. Lying words designate Isaiah , a prophet of the Old Testament , as evil tools of the villain : "And the tools of villains are evil: he decides wicked devices to the poor with lying words to destroy, even when the needy speaketh right." ( Isa 32 :ELB ). Biblically, the God of Israel displeases lies and distinguishes between good and bad.

Isaiah warns: “Woe to those who bring injustice with the ropes of lies and sin with chariot ropes, saying: Let him hurry and let his work come soon, that we may see it; It is near and the counsel of the Holy Israel should come that we get to know him! "( Isa 5,18-19  LUT ) and" Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who make light out of darkness and darkness out of light, who make sour sweet and sweet sour! ”( Isa 5:20  NIV ).

King Solomon's Book of Proverbs of the Old Testament warns against false profit acquired through lies: "Whoever acquires treasure with a lying tongue, chases the wind, he gets caught in the snares of death." ( Prov 21: 6  EU ). As a quality of the righteous, the book of Proverbs names the strong aversion to lies: “The righteous is the enemy of lies; but the wicked acts shamefully and shamefully ”( Prov 13,5  LUT ).

However, it can also be stated that in some texts the lie is not rejected in principle. Particularly noticeable is the threefold traditional "endangerment of the ancestors" ( Gen 12,10-20  LUT ): here the lie of the ancestor Abraham or Isaac ensures the survival of God's people. In Gen 27 LUT, Jacob gets his father's blessing through a series of lies, without this being assessed negatively; similar to Gen 38 LUT , where Tamar , who works with false pretenses, is expressly presented as “just”. So the Bible assumes that in certain circumstances, lies are absolutely necessary.


In general, lying is not allowed in Islam and is considered reprehensible. There are exceptions to reconcile people with one another and to tell stories between husband and wife, and Shiites are permitted to deny their belief under certain conditions, see the article Taqiyya for more details .


In Buddhism , following the ideal of avoiding suffering, lying is assessed negatively as a verbal utterance, since it arbitrarily influences the causal course of things, but is ultimately not permanent. Lying is mentioned several times in the Pali Canon , a collection of discourses by the historical Buddha , including:

  • In the five Silas - rules of morality (pali sīla ). In the fourth place one should ( musāvādā veramani sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi ) refrain from lying in the sense of consciously speaking untruth.
  • In the third link of the Noble Eightfold Path , which connects to the fourth Noble Truth . As part of the right speech defined there, one should "avoid lying, avoid slander, avoid harsh words [...]".



Augustine was the first philosopher and theologian to deal systematically and in detail with the subject of lies. In his argument, Augustine starts from the thesis of the natural purpose of language, according to which language is intended to convey thoughts. In the lie this natural purpose of language is disturbed. Augustine therefore categorically rejects every lie and draws attention to the self-contradiction of lies: in order to be successful, lies must presuppose trust in the truth of human speech, which at the same time destroys it. Augustine views lying as a sin, identifying it as the death of the soul, and emphasizing the long-term damage that lies from lying. Even lies that try to prevent a more serious sin (such as murder) are not allowed: calculating with the possible sin of the other expands the fictitious area of ​​responsibility of the individual and is therefore inadmissible. In addition, for Augustine there is no higher good than the truth and that is why lying is always inadmissible, because the truth also has priority when it threatens a human life, for example. Augustine admits that there are heavier and easier lies. While lying in matters of faith and lies intended to harm others represent particularly serious sins, lies in the case of useful and joking lies are only lighter sins. However, the character of sin remains with every lie.

When interpreting the lies stories of the Old Testament (e.g. Gen 27.1-40  LUT ; Ex 1.19  LUT ; Gen 20.2-13  LUT ) Augustine's argument shows self-contradictions, because he considers some lies to be permissible .

Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas's thoughts on the lie show numerous similarities with Augustine's theory. Just like Augustine, Thomas too starts out from the natural purpose of language in his argument and comes to the conclusion that every lie has a sinful character. Lies decompose the unity of knowing and being and thus prevent happiness, which in itself is knowledge and exchange of truth. Thomas introduces the concept of truthfulness, which he regards as a virtue enhanced by other virtues such as B. Cleverness or love should be kept in balance. Clever silence and ambiguous speech are permissible as slight sins that do not prevent a person from the true goal. Just like Augustine, Thomas regards deliberate misleading in matters of faith, i.e. lies regarding the content of knowledge that relate to the knowledge of God, as completely inadmissible.


According to Kant , truthfulness is a legal obligation which, by its nature, cannot tolerate any exception (see also The Metaphysics of Morals ). “All legal and practical principles must contain strict truth.” ( Immanuel Kant: AA VIII, 430 ) From this it follows, however, that there can be no exception in any conceivable application: If there is a ban on lying, it always applies. However, man has a natural tendency to lie: "The lie [...] is the real lazy spot in human nature." ( Immanuel Kant: AA VIII, 422 ) The prohibition of lying applies because truthfulness is a condition of self-commitment and therefore part of it the legal source: "[The lie] harms another person at any time, if not another person, but humanity in general by rendering the legal source unusable." ( Immanuel Kant: AA VIII, 426 ) Even a lie that does not directly affect anyone harms or gives an advantage in the specific situation is therefore prohibited, as it always harms humanity in general.

In a nutshell, one finds Kant's sharp rejection of any kind of lie in the essay On a supposed right to lie out of human love .


Nietzsche's special position is: “He who cannot lie does not know what truth is” ( Nietzsche : Thus spoke Zarathustra ). In his essay On Truth and Lies in the Extra-Moral Sense of 1873 he examines the problem of truthfulness using a genealogy of language: Since every word itself represents an inaccuracy and thus an untruth, language cannot be the foundation of truth. Nietzsche points out that the conventional use of words does not contain truth. However, since humans are social beings and their language must therefore follow traditional patterns, truthfulness consists in the moral "obligation to lie according to a fixed convention". "The truths are illusions that have been forgotten that they are, metaphors that have worn out and become sensually powerless, coins that have lost their image and are now considered metal, no longer coins." Nietzsche : "About truth and lies in the extra-moral sense" ).


The Austrian migration sociologist Peter Stiegnitz propagates a new discipline for research into lying behavior, which he calls mentiology .

See also


  • Maria Bettetini : A little story of lies. From Odysseus to Pinocchio. Wagenbach, Berlin 2003
  • Günther Bien, R. Denker: Lie. In: Joachim Ritter (Ed.): Historical Dictionary of Philosophy , Volume 5 (1980), Sp. 533-545.
  • Klaus-Jürgen brother, Friedrich Vosskühler: lies and self-deception . (= Philosophy and psychology in dialogue 7). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-525-45200-4 .
  • Simone Dietz : The Art of Lying. A linguistic ability and its moral value. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-499-55652-9 .
  • Simone Dietz: The value of lies. About the relationship between language and morality. Habilitation. Mentis, Paderborn 2002, ISBN 3-89785-271-3 .
  • Steffen Dietzsch: Lie. Outline of a conceptual history. In: Kurt Röttgers , Monika Schmitz-Emans (Hrsg.): Poets lie . The Blue Owl, Essen 2001.
  • Steffen Dietzsch: Small cultural history of lies. Reclam, Leipzig 1998, ISBN 3-379-01580-6 .
  • Bettina Giese: Investigations into linguistic deception. (= German Linguistics Series, Volume 129). Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen 1992, ISBN 3-484-31129-0 .
  • Immanuel Kant: About a supposed right to lie out of human love. 1797.
  • Rochus Leonhardt, Martin Rösel: Are we allowed to lie? Approaching a current topic. Neukirchen-Vluyn, 2002.
  • Claudia Mayer: Praise the lie - why we cannot live without it . List / Ullstein, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-471-79552-1 .
  • Jochen Mecke: Lie. In: Gert Ueding (Hrsg.): Historical dictionary of rhetoric . WBG, Darmstadt 1992ff., Volume 10 (2011), Col. 589-605.
  • Jörn Müller , Hanns-Gregor Nissing (Hrsg.): The lie. An everyday phenomenon from a scientific point of view . WBG, Darmstadt 2007, ISBN 978-3-534-20123-5 .
  • Fritz Pasierbsky: lying speaker - adulterer - murderer. Why we shouldn't lie and still can't let it go . Frankfurt am Main 1996.
  • Jeannette Schmid : Lies in everyday life. Creation and evaluation of communicative deceptions. Munster 2000
  • Volker Sommer : Praise the lie. Deception and self-deception in animals and humans. Munich 1992, ISBN 3-423-30415-4 .
  • Peter Stiegnitz : The lie. The salt of life . Edition Va Bene, Vienna 1997, ISBN 3-85167-062-0 .
  • Roger Willemsen , Traudl Bünger : “I give you my word of honor.” The world history of lies. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-10-030140-6 .
  • Zeitzeichen (Evangelical Commentaries on Religion and Society): Special issue We Liars. Why People Don't Tell the Truth (with six contributions). Issue February 2018, pp. 24–41, ISSN 1616-4164.

Web links

Wiktionary: lie  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Lie  - Quotes
Commons : Lies  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ JE Mahon: The Definition of Lying and Deception . In: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2008.
  2. ^ Jeannette Schmid : Lies in everyday life. Creation and evaluation of communicative deceptions. Munster 2000.
  3. ^ Brad Blanton : Radical Honesty, The New Revised Edition: How to Transform Your Life by Telling the Truth . 2nd Edition. SparrowHawk Publications, 2007, ISBN 978-0-9706938-4-6 .
  4. BAG, judgment of May 19, 1983, Az. 2 AZR 171/81.
  5. BAG Az. 2 AZR 227/92
  7. ↑ on this LAG Cologne of June 16, 2000, Az. 11 Sa 1511/99 and LAG Nuremberg of August 24, 2005, Az. 9 Sa 400/05.
  8. Norman M. Spreng, Stefan Dietrich: Studies and career advice for lawyers. Springer Verlag, 2006, ISBN 3-540-23642-2 , p. 184.
  9. Jürgen Hesse , Hans Christian Schrader: The great Hesse Schrader application manual. Eichborn Verlag, 2010.
  10. ^ Armin Burkhardt: Between monologue and dialogue. On the theory, typology and history of the interjection in German parliamentarism. Walter DeGruyter, Berlin / New York 2004, p. 371.
  11. ^ Daniel M. Bernstein, Elizabeth F. Loftus: How to Tell If a Particular Memory Is True or False . In: Perspectives on Psychological Science . tape 4 , no. 4 , July 1, 2009, p. 370–374 , doi : 10.1111 / j.1745-6924.2009.01140.x .
  12. Notorious liars have a different brain structure ( memento from February 10, 2013 in the web archive ), in: 3sat, nano, September 30, 2005 [19. February 2006]
  13. Sam Muston: The science of lying: Why the truth really can hurt. In: The Independent . 5th July 2010.
  15. Further examples in: Martin Rösel : Between the 8th Commandment and Abraham's lie. In: Leonhardt / Rösel, pp. 1-20.
  16. Hadith from Sahih Muslim Book 32 No. 6303: - ( Memento of the original from December 17, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  17. Max Ladner: Reality and Redemption. Verlag Christiani, Konstanz 1952, ISBN 3-931095-12-6
  18. ^ Formal Requests, Taking five Precepts - Chanting Guide Dhammayut Orden
  19. Digha Nikaya 22, Mahāsatipatthāna Sutta
  20. Immanuel Kant, Collected Writings. Ed .: Vol. 1-22 Prussian Academy of Sciences, Vol. 23 German Academy of Sciences in Berlin, from Vol. 24 Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Berlin 1900ff., AA VIII, 430  / About a supposed right out of human love to lie .
  21. Immanuel Kant, Collected Writings. Ed .: Vol. 1-22 Prussian Academy of Sciences, Vol. 23 German Academy of Sciences in Berlin, from Vol. 24 Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Berlin 1900ff., AA VIII, 422  / Announcement of the imminent conclusion of a treatise on eternal Peace in philosophy .
  22. Immanuel Kant, Collected Writings. Ed .: Vol. 1-22 Prussian Academy of Sciences, Vol. 23 German Academy of Sciences in Berlin, from Vol. 24 Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Berlin 1900ff., AA VIII, 426  / About a supposed right out of human love to lie .
  23. Complete Works, Volume 7.1, Untimely Considerations. Stuttgart 1976, ISBN 3-520-07106-1 , p. 611.