According to this study, white lies are beneficial (or, at least, not detrimental) to social networks. On the other hand, selfish lies can destroy social networks. Seems straightforward enough, but the way they conducted the experiment is the interesting part.
via The Conversation:
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“Lying is a bad thing – this is what mentors, parents and teachers tell us. But there is no society without lies.”
So says theoretical physicist Rafael Barrio, and when he and his colleague Kimmo Kaski from the Aalto University School of Science in Finland thought about this blatant discrepancy, the two computational scientists set out to simulate the effects of lying in a virtual human population. Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that lying is essential for the growth of a cohesive social network.
The key to understanding the discrepancy is realising that all lies are not equal. “White lies” or fibs, are generally accepted.