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If, as the cliché has it, the 1980s was the decade of greed, then the quintessential sin of the 1990s might just have been lying.

After all, think of the accusations of deceit leveled at politicians like Bob Packwood, Marion Barry, Dan Rostenkowski, Newt Gingrich, and Bill Clinton.

Several studies show that depressed people delude themselves far less than their nondepressed peers about the amount of control they have over situations, and also about the effect they have on other people.

Researchers such as UCLA psychologist Shelley Taylor, Ph.

Freud wrote next to nothing about deception; even the 1500-page , published in 1984, mentions lies only in a brief entry on detecting them.

But as psychologists delve deeper into the details of deception, they're finding that lying is a surprisingly common and complex phenomenon. D., a psychologist at the University of Virginia, confirms Nietzche's assertion that the lie is a condition of life.

De Paulo recently began looking at the less frequent "big" lies that involve deep betrayals of trust, and she's finding that the vast majority of them occur between people in intimate relationships.

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Fortunately, marriage seems to offer some protection against deception: Spouses lie to each other in "only" about 10 percent of their major conversations. That 10 percent just refers to the typically minor lies of everyday life.

In contrast, nearly 90 percent of Americans of European or African descent felt that the terminally ill should be confronted with the truth.

Not surprisingly, research also confirms that the closer we are to someone, the more likely it is that the lies we tell them will be altruistic ones.

Both men and women lie in approximately a fifth of their social exchanges lasting 10 or more minutes; over the course of a week they deceive about 30 percent of those with whom they interact one-on-one.

Furthermore, some types of relationships, such as those between parents and teens, are virtual magnets for deception: "College students lie to their mothers in one out of two conversations," reports De Paulo.

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