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Why Do Politicians Get Away With So Many Lies? A Psychologist Explains

The short answer: Because they can.

Politicians seem to have an aversion to the truth -- after all, we're able to write about the laundry list of lies presidential candidates tell every. single. week.

But as more and more outlandish not-truths make it into our headlines -- from altered childhood memories to widely-debunked Planned Parenthood videos -- we just had to ask: Why does this keep happening?

MTV News talked to Ronald E. Riggio, a psychologist and expert on leadership and organizational psychology, to figure that out. The short answer? They can get away with it.

We love the way they lie

Riggio says we're easy to fool because of what he calls the "Trusting Bias" and "Cognitive Laziness." The former means that people tend to be too trusting (which explains why politicians and con artists are good at playing us), and the latter that we often don't (and don't want to) do the work of fact checking politicians or trusted experts -- especially if we already support them.

What's more, as Riggio wrote in a blog post for Psychology Today, many times the bigger, exaggerated lies manage to work in a politician's favor.

"In politics (and to some extent in social life), the more outlandish or audacious the lie, the more likely people are to believe it if the source is considered at least minimally credible," Reggio said.

Those bigger claims are also easier for the public to excuse as a rhetorical strategy. "I also think that politicians will exaggerate to make a claim (sort of like the idea of telling 'tall tales'), and the public will often forgive -- 'He was just exaggerating a bit to make a point,'" Riggio said. "Or, the voters rationalize, 'Well, the facts say that Planned Parenthood doesn't spend much on abortions, but maybe those statistics lie!' Realize also, that many people who aren't scientifically trained or educated don't understand (and don't trust) statistics, or recognize which are credible sources and which aren't."

So how can we avoid falling for the lies?

Riggio said there's (unsurprisingly) not a lot of research about why people fall for the major political lies, but a lot of it has to do with people wanting to trust and believe in what they already think of as the #truth.

"It's likely that most people have a narrative about their lives, what they believe, their political belief system, and they filter in facts consistent with their narrative story and ignore or discount those that are counter the narrative," Riggio said.

His ultimate advice? "Become more informed. Check the facts. Don’t simply believe people who are in power just because of their position or air of authority."