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The other day, I was listening to NPR (yes, National Pretentious Radio), which I do on occassion.

Now, mind you, I was barely paying attention to the radio at the time, so I have no idea what show was on or any vital details to pass along that might help you find out more about this story. Sorry.

Anyway, I was listening, and they were talking to a man who was one of two men that conducted surveys a while back that, theoretically, tested how honest people were with themselves.

What they did was assemble a bunch of statements that were highly embarassing, incredibly intrusive, possibly offensive, and potentially criminal. All were true and false statements. I can only remember to of them - one embarassing ("I really enjoy my bowel movements.", and one offensive ("I've fantasized about raping someone and/or being raped").

The men who did the survey worked from the assumption (and, it is a big one) that if a person answered "false" to any of the questions - *any* - they were lying to themselves.

Like I said, BIG assumption.

Now, why did I bring that up? Well, the radio program continued, and talked about, if I remember correctly, a swim coach from a few years back that issued the survey to her swim team at the beginning of a season. At the end of the season, she compared the responses on the survey to the swimmers' performance throughout the season.

Down the line, with no exceptions, the best performers turned out to be the ones that the survey insisted were least "honest" with themselves.

In interviews with the students on the swim team, they talked about how, when they were at a swim meet, they believed they were the best there, that the could not be beat. Or, as the survey would have us believe, they were lying to themselves.

And, because of that, they performed better. According to the original composer of the survey, this had been proven true regardless of the field a person was in - medicine, business, sports, etc.

Further, it was also noticed that the people who were supposedly less honest with themselves also turned out to be happier people.

That's right - more successful AND happier.

The program ended talking about how the more honest a person was with themselves, the more they see the limitations and dark truth in the world, which accounts for the diminished happiness.

First off, I don't buy the whole thing. I think starting with assumptions of what would be "universal" truisms in the survey is what makes the study bunk. But, that isn't my biggest gripe.

Back in high school, I had a history teacher that talked about P.M.A. - Positive Mental Attitude. He really believed that if you went into taking a test with a positive mental attitude, you would do better than if you believed you would fail.

I think that the correlation between the survey and the swimmers has more to do with having a positive mental attitude, rather than insisting the participants are lying to themselves.

In my mind, there is a subtle difference.

Because, see, those that performed well, the ones that "lied" to themselves? Yeah... hate to use circular reasoning, but they actually did NOT lie to themselves... because, when all was said and done, they actually met their own expectations. They believed they were the best, and guess what?

They were.

Do we lie to ourselves? Sure. I just find that this faulty survey and the correlating results are a massive stretch. I don't find that being positive is equal to lying to myself.

I just don't buy it.

Having a positive mental attitude helps us to rise to the occassion. I would argue that a negative attitude actually hinders us from what we can do by convincing us that we can't handle something.

Now, that, to me, sounds like a person lying to themself.

Type at you later.

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Comment by UnchartedSpirit on March 7, 2008 at 7:09pm
Hear Hear....I keep forgetting how to have a positive least for what I want to do...I'm also one to say so what if "I'm a Liar" is a paradox...can't be something be true and false at the same time continuously? I know that's like seeing to the end of the east and the west at the same time...Sadly I do know people would would honestly say true to "I fantasize about being raped" and they really creep me out that noting creeps them out...

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