Early Mental Experiences. As will have been observed by the reader in going over the case histories, the early mental experiences of many of our group of mentally normal pathological liars have been shockingly bad. Full appreciation of this can only be gained through perusal of the text, but here we may call attention to the fact that no less than 8 of the 19 have had very early untoward sex experiences, that 5 were markedly under the influence of bad companions, including even the influence in one or two cases of vicious grown people. The sex experiences we have just enumerated were received through others--we are not here speaking of masturbation, which is discussed above.
Psychic Contagion. Direct contagion of the tendency to lie seems more than likely to take place, at least during the more plastic periods of life. It may be that this only develops when there is some sort of predisposition to instability; our related findings on defective heredity would seem to indicate the fact. It should be noted that in 5 instances out of our 19 mentally normal (Cases 2, 4, 6, 8, 20) some other member of the household, we learned from reliable sources, was known as a chronic prevaricator.
Mental Conflicts. The fact that several of our cases started lying from the time when there occurred some experience accompanied by a deep emotional context, and that this experience and the emotion was repressed, seems to point clearly to the part which repressed mental life may play in the genesis. That as children they kept to themselves secrets of grave import and dwelled long on them, shows in a large number of our cases. Anything deeply upsetting, such as the discovery of the facts of sex life or questions about family relationships, are the incidents which cause the trouble. For students of modern psychology nothing more need be said on this point--the concrete issues are perceivable in the case histories.
Adolescence. Quite apart from the age of onset, we may consider the physical and psychical instabilities of adolescence as effective causes of pathological lying. Of course it is equally true that many other tendencies to peculiarity are accentuated at this period. It has been suggested that cases which have their origin largely in the unstable reactions of adolescence have much the better prognosis, but it seems that not enough evidence has been accumulated as yet to justify us in this conclusion, which, we acknowledge, may prove to be true.
Irritative Conditions. In the same way the various types of irritative conditions, physical and mental, may be considered as exciting moments. Individuals with a tendency to pathological lying will no doubt show aggravation of the phenomenon at periods of particular stress. We have heard it suggested in several cases by relatives that the menstrual period, for instance, brings about an access of tendency to prevarication. We would grant the point without conceding this exciting factor to be a fundamental cause. (Case 21, we may say again, illustrates a special fact.) The periodicity which Stemmermann makes much of may merely mean succumbing during a period of physiologic stress. Social stress also may be met by pathological lying, in the same way that the individual who finds himself in a tight place may attempt to get out of it by running away. We have already spoken of the likeness of social and physical stress as showing when the weak individual is brought to bay. That pathological lying does not run an even course, but shows remarkable fluctuations with powerful exacerbations, is undoubtedly to be explained by changes of inner and outer stress.
Habit Formation. The influence of habit in causing chronicity must always be definitely reckoned with. It is hardly necessary to say more than a word on this subject. Even the individual, as in Cases 8, 9, and 10, comes to strongly realize it. Particularly is this point to be estimated in considering the possibilities of a rapid cure.
Special Mental Abilities. Once more, for the sake of completeness in giving a category of causes, we should call attention to the fact acknowledged by all thorough students of this subject, namely, that, other things being equal, it is particularly the individual who has linguistic abilities, who is especially good at verbal composition, that seems to have most incentive to dally with the truth. But beyond this we would insist that a combination of verbal ability with proportionate mental defects in other fields gives a make-up which finds the paths of least resistance directly along the lines of prevarication.
The role played in society by the pathological liar is very striking. The characteristic behavior in its unreasonableness is quite beyond the ken of the ordinary observer. The fact that here is a type of conduct regularly indulged in without seeming pleasurable results, and frequently militating obviously against the direct interests of the individual, makes a situation inexplicable by the usual canons of inference. To a certain extent the tendencies of each separate case must be viewed in their environmental context to be well understood. For example, the lying and swindling which center about the assumption of a noble name and a corresponding station or affecting the life of a cloister brother, such as we find in the cases cited by Longard, show great differences from any material obtainable in our country. In interpretation of this, one has to consider the glamour thrown about the socially exalted or the life of the recluse--a glamour which obtains readily among the simple-minded people of rural Europe. Then, too, this very simple-mindedness, with the great differences which exist between peasant and noble, leads in itself to much opportunity for cheating.