Infographic: The Map Of Truth And Deception

You’re all liars. We’re all liars. Here’s a beautifully designed map to get us both through it. (Actually, it won’t help at all–you’re about to feel worse.)

You’re lied to 10 to 200 times a day, and a stranger will lie to you three times in the first 10 minutes of a conversation. That’s unsettling news, but according to a TED Talk by Pamela Meyer, we only pretend to be against lying. Because obviously, we’re all, to some extent, covertly supporting lies by propagating them.


In a sense, we’ve built our whole world around lies, and that’s an idea that’s quite literally mapped out by this visualization of Meyer’s talk, created by Ben Gibson, co-founder and art director of Pop Chart Lab, in collaboration with the team at TED.

Click to enlarge.

“I took inspiration from topographic maps, the valleys and peaks being a metaphor for the different depths of deceptions,” Gibson explains. “The most truthful part of the map is the point furthest north, sort of a smooth Antarctic area.”

The truth is a moral high ground–an almost heavenly sanctuary where the occasional white lie may flutter–while the true, Watergate-level deceptions become a shadowy, primordial ooze below the Earth’s crust. Everything else falls somewhere in between.

The most fascinating parts of the visual, however, are where lies that are considered worse (and are thereby delegated to a darker strata) find themselves at equal depth with more reasonable lies (found on lighter strata). Look at “false flattery” and “nothing to worry about.” How often do we tell friends they have “nothing to worry about,” when in reality, maybe they should be handling their job, personal relationships, or choices in exotic pets (tigers, really??) differently. Meanwhile, false flattery, like telling a child they did a great job on their practice presentation, might give them the confidence to really knock that book report out of the park in front of their teacher. You are just being a good parent. Confusing!

Stare at the map long enough, and you’ll eventually get over the fact that you’re a horrible liar, along with the fact that everyone else around you is too. At that point, this guilt-ridden graphic becomes a whole lot of fun.

Unfortunately, it’s one of Pop Chart Lab’s only designs that isn’t for sale. Then again, do you really want a chart about lying hanging in your home or office? Honestly now?


See the graphic here and the talk here.


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.