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date: 01 December 2020

(p. ix) Preface

(p. ix) Preface

This handbook is the first handbook to provide a collection of in-depth research surveys on lying and deception. Lying is a phenomenon that was already being researched in ancient Greece. Yet, despite the huge public interest in all matters concerning lying and deception, attempts at forming an integrated, comprehensive approach to lying have been lacking. While this handbook is truly multi- and interdisciplinary in nature, three disciplines stand out as core disciplines. The first discipline is linguistics, the study of languages and the use people make of them in communication. Lying is a verbal act, and therefore it is bound to the structure of languages. Lying is dependent on the intention of speakers who try to deceive their addressees. Therefore, lying can be located at the semantics–pragmatics interface. The second discipline is the philosophy of language and ethics. Since ancient times, philosophers have attempted to define lying in a proper way, focusing on more or less clear cases of lying. This tradition has lasted until today. Moreover, philosophers have dealt with the important ethical question of whether lying is bad. The third discipline is psychology, together with related disciplines such as language acquisition research, psycho- and neurolinguistics, and the neurosciences. All of these disciplines are represented in this handbook but there are far more that contribute to a deeper understanding of the theory and practice of lying.

The overall structure of the handbook is as follows. It is organized into five parts, each part comprising several chapters. It starts with a comprehensive introductory article by the editor that gives a general survey on lying and deception. The first part, “traditions,” comprises a set of chapters which give an overview of the classic philosophical approaches by Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates and a number of contemporary approaches, linguistic approaches, and also psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic approaches. These seem to be the traditions that will most forcefully inform a future general theory of the language of lying. The second part, “concepts,” is devoted to an in-depth conceptual analysis, leading to an adequate definition of lying. The focus is on notions that directly or indirectly go into that definition, i.e., the notions of deception, truth and truthfulness, assertion, belief and knowledge, sincerity and quality, certainty, misleading, implicating and presupposing, omission, self-deception, testimony, including the notion of epistemic vigilance that has recently attracted some attention. The important notion of intention has a role in all of these chapters. Throughout the chapters, theoretical approaches from the most advanced researchers of lying are discussed in detail, while the more classical analyses of lying are closely observed. The third part, “types of lies and deception,” assembles up-to-date chapters on a range of deceptive actions, thus fostering future discussions on the proper definition of these types. In addition to the classical (p. x) cases of lying, other types of lying-related acts have been studied, e.g., knowledge lies and group lies, selfless assertions, bald-faced lies, bullshitting, bluffing, as well as prosocial lies and white lies. The fourth part, “distinctions,” discusses broader aspects related to a proper definition of lying. It contains chapters analyzing the relation between lying and fiction, deception in quotation, the relation between lying and humor, irony, vagueness and imprecision, metaphor and hyperbole, and politeness. The fifth and final part, “domains,” portrays lying with the perspectives of different domains and disciplines. From a cognitive point of view, lying is quite a sophisticated enterprise that demands high cognitive activity and control. Therefore, it is worth pointing out that lying skills have to be acquired. Further chapters deal with lying in the perspective of psychology and social psychology, where much work on lying and deception has been done. Lie detection, for instance with the help of the polygraph, is important in a practical (“applied”) as well as a theoretical perspective. Computational models about lying and deception are also relevant here. Another chapter concentrates on findings about the location and processing of lying in the brain, as measured, for instance, on the basis of fMRI-data or evoked brain potentials. From the point of view of ethics and moral philosophy, lying has mostly been treated as a dishonest behavior. However, there are also approaches that view lying as a cognitive ability that is neutral with respect to dishonest versus honest behavior. In most Western societies, the law prohibits lying by the defendant, yet allows it under specific circumstances. One chapter explores these conditions, including perjury. Since lying has to be acquired (yet is not always tolerated in society), it is also a topic in education (from kindergarten to university level). Not much is known about lying as part of a wider discourse; hence, another chapter focuses on lying within different types of discourse and the methods for documenting them. We are well aware of lying in politics and in history. Moreover, lying and liars are topics in the arts (e.g., from Shakespeare to Mad Men). Finally, it is explored whether there are different ways to lie or to evaluate lying with respect to different cultures, pointing out cross- and intercultural aspects of lying.

While the handbook collects a number of excellent surveys, it is by no means exhaustive. In some cases, suitable authors could not be found, or promised chapters were not delivered. I hope that there will be occasions to fill these loopholes in the future. Responsibility for the material lies with the authors of the individual, peer-reviewed chapters, who were given guidelines as to the type of chapter requested, but were also allowed substantial freedom to structure their chapters according to their respective topics and academic backgrounds. The resultant diversity in style makes for an accessible and engaging collection. The chapters should be appealing to a wide audience. The handbook aims at scholars, researchers, graduate and advanced undergraduate students with an interest in lying and deception and invites transgression of disciplinary boundaries.

This handbook has been long in the making. I thank all the contributors and reviewers, the excellent staff at Oxford University Press, and Marta Dynel, Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer, Neri Marsili, Alexander Sommerburg, Björn Technau, and Alex Wiegmann for cooperation, advice, and help in the editing of the manuscript. (p. xi) A grant by the Volkswagen Foundation made the Mainz conference on lying and deception (Johannes Gutenberg University, 2014) possible, an inspiring event during which some of the contributors to this handbook gathered and exchanged their ideas. I hope that there will be more such fruitful exchange in the future, and that this handbook will be useful in fostering that.

Jörg Meibauer


January 2018 (p. xii)