Asked by: Sulaymaan Khan, London

Most people lie occasionally, although there are individual differences in how often lies are told. Lying is a part of normal child development, emerging early in life. Research published in 2016 by Prof Timothy Levine, a communications expert, investigated reasons for lying. Most lies were told for selfish reasons, such as covering up a personal transgression or gaining an economic advantage. Lies were also told to protect the feelings of others and to maintain social politeness. Overall, it seems that lies occur when the truth poses an obstacle that someone wants to overcome.

Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.


Alice is a Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths. She has contributed to several diverse research areas, including the longitudinal associations between sleep and psychopathology, behavioural genetics, sleep paralysis and exploding head syndrome. In addition to her scientific contributions she also excels in the public engagement of science. She has published two popular science book (Nodding Off, Bloomsbury, 2018 and Sleepy Pebble, Nobrow, 2019). She regularly contributes articles to the media and has had her work published in outlets including the Guardian, GQ UK, Sud Ouest, Slate Fr, Independent.