The less surprising finding is that white lies are the glue that holds tight social networks together. You can’t overdo it or your social network turns into a love-festing mush. But at moderate levels, it keeps conversation social, friendly, and makes it easier to give bad news when you supplement it with niceties. There is some other research that the HR performance evaluation of the criticism sandwich (a good thing to warm them up, the real critical thing, and then another good thing to bandage the damage) is counterproductive. But in general societal relations, we have long known that saying nice things has an overall positive effect on society. The Talmud refers to this as the “Every Bride is Beautiful” approach.
But the second finding of this study is the one I want to highlight today. It deals with the effects of black lies. The ones that benefit the person telling the lie, but harm the person on the receiving end. These are clearly anti-social at the one-to-one level. But there is a society-level silver lining that you all should know about. When people use exploitative lies like these, they have to keep moving. This is the “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” effect. So what these black liars do is to create diverse bridges among a variety of subgroups that might never have been in contact. When they are not caught, they create simple links between clusters by bringing knowledge from one cluster over to the next one and so on and so on as they keep one step ahead of the posse.
When they are caught, the different clusters have a bonding opportunity in exerting joint punishment on the miscreant. This can create stronger connections than most bridging ties generally are able to.