About This Month's Cover Story:

 

In the fall of 1989, Princeton University welcomed into its freshman class a young man named Alexi Santana, whose life story the admissions committee had found extraordinarily compelling.

He had barely received any formal schooling. He had grown up virtually alone, living outdoors in Utah, where he’d herded cattle, raised sheep, and read philosophy.

 

Santana quickly became something of a star on campus. He did well academically, and his unusual background gave him an enigmatic appeal.

 

But Santana’s story was a lie. A woman eventually recognized him as someone she’d known as Jay Huntsman at a California high school, six years earlier. Princeton officials later learned that he was actually James Hogue, a 31-year-old who had been in prison in Utah for possessing stolen tools and bike parts. He was taken away from Princeton in handcuffs.

 

The history of humankind is strewn with crafty and seasoned liars like Hogue. Many are criminals who spin lies to gain unjust rewards—as financier Bernie Madoff did, duping investors out of billions of dollars until his Ponzi scheme collapsed. Some are politicians who lie to come to power or cling to it, as Richard Nixon did when he denied any role in the Watergate scandal.

 

Others lie to inflate their image—a motivation that might best explain President Donald Trump’s demonstrably false assertion that his Inauguration crowd was bigger than President Barack Obama’s first one. People lie to cover up bad behavior, to falsely promote accomplishments, to ease others’ pain, and for myriad other reasons.

 

Lies, big and small, have characterized human behavior for eons. In our June cover story, we explore why we lie, and show why researchers say that being deceitful is woven into our very fabric­­––and is a part of being human.

National Geographic Magazine Jun'17: Why We Lie

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