There are a few types of lies that most people tell. Stephen Kosslyn a psychologist at Harvard distinguishes the types of lies in order to farther study deception. He determines two types of lies; spontaneous and rehearsed.

According to Kosslyn a spontaneous lie is one that is performed on the fly (1). Spontaneous lying is harder for the liar because they have to keep the truth in mind while coming up with a false one. It also requires that the real truth not be given away or revealed by mistake. A rehearsed lie on the other hand requires that the liar retrieve the memory of the lie they created, since it was thought of before hand (1).

In the study that Kosslyn performed with an fMRI, he found that there are similar areas of the brain that are activated in the two types of lies (1). Both types involved memory processing, but the method of memory processing is different between the two. When there was a spontaneous lie, part of the frontal lobe lit up in the area involving working memory. For a rehearsed lie, a different part in the right anterior frontal cortex lit up, which is the area involved in retrieving episodic memory.

Some could compare these two types of lies to improvisation and composition. A spontaneous lie is similar to improvisation because it is not a preconceived performance. It is a performance on the spot taking into account the context surrounding it and using “licks” or phrases that have worked before. A rehearsed lie is similar to composition because it is an idea that has been worked out before the performance. There may be some minor changes that occur from the time of the original “composition” to the actual performance of the idea.

Robin Marantz Henig discusses other types of lies in her article “Looking for the Lie” in the New York Times magazine. She talks about lies of omission which are lies that might not seem like lies. The are lies that don't include the whole truth. Important facts are left out or misconceptions are not corrected (2). In her paper Marantz Henig gives the example of going out to dinner with a sister and her boyfriend whom you find to be obnoxious. When asked about him later by your sister you discuss the restaurant instead. The other type of lie Marantz Henig discusses is lies of commission which allow us to get along with each other. It is what others would call a polite lie (2). These lies consist of using excuses or false reactions as to not hurt another's feelings. The most typical Marantz Henig points out is responding to someone's inclination as to how you are and automatically saying “good” or “fine” even when we aren't.

For more types of lies see


  1. Marantz Henig, R. (2006, February 5). Looking for the Lie. New York Times, 155(5348), 46-83. Retrieved April 29, 2013
  2. Lie (n.d.). In Wikipedia . Retrieved May 9, 2013, from