Historical Reprints Health Related Pathological Lying, Accusation, and Swindling

Pathological Lying, Accusation, and Swindling

Pathological Lying, Accusation, and Swindling
Catalog # SKU1323
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name William Healy & Mary Tenney Healy


Pathological Lying,
Accusation, and Swindling

A Study In
Forensic Psychology

William Healy
Mary Tenney Healy

Careful studies of offenders make group-types stand out with distinctness. Very little advancement in the treatment of delinquents or criminals can be expected if typical characteristics and their bearings are not understood. The group that our present work concerns itself with is comparatively little known, although cases belonging to it, when met, attract much attention. It is to all who should be acquainted with these striking mental and moral vagaries, particularly in their forensic and psychological significances, that our essay is addressed. In some cases vital for the administration of justice, an understanding of the types of personality and of behavior here under discussion is a prime necessity.


Through comparison of the literature on pathological lying with our own extensive material we are led to perceive the insistent necessity for closer definition of the subject than has been heretofore offered. Reasons for excluding types earlier described as pathological liars will be found throughout our work. Better definition goes hand in hand with better understanding, and it is only natural that formal, detailed contemplation of the subject should lead to seeing new lines of demarcation.

Definition: Pathological lying is falsification entirely disproportionate to any discernible end in view, engaged in by a person who, at the time of observation, cannot definitely be declared insane, feebleminded, or epileptic. Such lying rarely, if ever, centers about a single event; although exhibited in very occasional cases for a short time, it manifests itself most frequently by far over a period of years, or even a life time. It represents a trait rather than an episode. Extensive, very complicated fabrications may be evolved. This has led to the synonyms:--mythomania; pseudologia phantastica.

It is true that in the previous literature, under the head of pathological liars, cases of epilepsy, insanity, and mental defect have been cited, but that is misleading. A clear terminology should be adopted. The pathological liar forms a species by himself and as such does not necessarily belong to any of these larger classes. It is, of course, scientifically permissible, as well as practically valuable, to speak of the epileptic or the otherwise abnormal person through his disease engaging in pathological lying, but the main classification of an individual should be decided by the main abnormal condition.

A good definition of pathological accusation follows the above lines. It is false accusation indulged in apart from any obvious purpose. Like the swindling of pathological liars, it appears objectively more pernicious than the lying, but it is an expression of the same tendency. The most striking form of this type of conduct is, of course, self-accusation. Mendacious self- impeachment seems especially convincing of abnormality. Such falsification not infrequently is episodic.

The inclusion of swindling in our discussion is due to the natural evolution of this type of conduct from pathological lying. Swindling itself could hardly be called a pathological phenomenon, since it is readily explicable by the fact that it is entered into for reasons of tangible gain, but when it is the product of the traits shown by a pathological liar it, just as the lying itself, is a part of the pathological picture. It is the most concrete expression of the individual's tendencies. This has been agreed to by several writers, for all have found it easy to trace the development of one form of behavior into the other. As Wulffen says, "Die Gabe zu Schwindeln ist eine `Lust am Fabulieren.' " Over and over again we have observed the phenomenon as the pathological liar gradually developed the tendency to swindle.

Notwithstanding the grave and sensational social issues which arise out of pathological lying, accusation, and swindling, there is very little acquaintance with the characteristics of cases showing this type of behavior, even by the people most likely to meet the problems presented. Lawyers, or other professional specialists have slight knowledge of the subject. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the pathological lying does not follow the usual lines of abnormal human behavior, unless it be among the insane where other symptoms proclaim the true nature of the case. Another reason for the slight acquaintance with the subject is the fact that almost nothing has been written on it in English.

The important part which behavior of this type sometimes plays in court work is witnessed to by the records of our own cases as well as those cited in the previous literature. The legal issues presented by pathological lying may be exceedingly costly. These facts make it important that the well-equipped lawyer, as well as the student of abnormal psychology, be familiar with the specific, related facts. For such students the cardinal point of recognition of this class of conduct may at once be stated to be its apparent baselessness.

The only method by which good understanding may be obtained of the types of personality and mentality involved in pathological lying, accusation, and swindling, as well as of the genetics of these tendencies, is by the detailed reading of typical case histories. In this fact is found the reason for the presentation of this monograph. Appreciation of the nature of the phenomena can only be obtained through acquaintance with an entire career. Any of us may be confronted by fabrications so consistent as to leave at one or several interviews the impression of truth.

Our selection of literature to summarize needs no explanation. We have simply taken all that we could find which specifically bears on the problem. Lying, in general, especially as a form of delinquency, has received attention at the hands of some authors, notably Ferriani and Duprat. The falsifications and phantasies of children and adolescents have been dealt with by Stanley Hall. None of these goes into the important, narrower field with which we are here concerned. The foreign literature is vitally important in its opening up of the subject, but from the standpoint of modern psychopathology it does not adequately cover the ground.

The fabrications, often quite clever, of the clearly insane, which in earlier literature are confounded with pathological lying, we have discriminated against as not being profitable for us to discuss here, while not denying, however, the possibility in some instances of lies coexisting with actual delusions. We well remember a patient, a brilliant conversationalist and letter writer, but an absolutely frank case of paranoia, whom we had not seen for a period during which she had concocted a new set of notions involving even her own claim to royal blood, confronting us with a merry, significant smile and the remark, "You don't believe my new stories, do you?"

280+ pages - 8 x 5 inches SoftCover


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