Classifying Prosocial Lies

An Empirical Approach

in International Review of Pragmatics
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The term prosocial lies refers to lies speakers produce with benevolent intentions. Such lies can be further divided into categories depending upon the context of utterance and the person who benefits from the lie (Levine and Schweitzer, 2014). This paper defines prosocial lies as a distinct pragmatic category of a lie. In order to examine this category, university students were provided with 10 vignettes containing prosocial lies and were asked (using a Likert Scale) whether they considered each target utterance to be a lie, a polite utterance, and an act benefiting the speaker and/or the hearer. The results show that prosocial lies are judged as lies proper. Furthermore, the study gives support for several categories of prosocial lies.

Classifying Prosocial Lies

An Empirical Approach

in International Review of Pragmatics




Meibauer (2014b) bases his definition on the definition of Falkenberg (1982). He distinguishes an active and an inactive kind of belief. The speaker has an inactive belief that p when she does not have an immediate access to it i.e. she forgot this belief. Instead actively believing that p can be described as being aware of one’s own belief.


Bryant (2008) uses the term real lies nevertheless referring to the same kind of lie discussed here.


See for example Borsellino (2013) Chen Hu and He (2013) DePaulo (1996) Erat and Gneezy (2012) Fraser (1993) Levine and Schweitzer (2014).


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