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In psychology, mythomania (also known as pseudologia fantastica or pathological lying) is a condition involving compulsive lying by a person with no obvious motivation. The affected person might believe their lies to be truth, and may have to create elaborate myths to reconcile them with other facts.

Among famous mythomaniacs in history was King Frederik VII of Denmark.

A pathological liar is someone who often embellishes his or her stories in a way that he or she believes will impress people. It may be that a pathological liar is different from a normal liar in that a pathological liar believes the lie he or she is telling to be true—at least in public—and is "playing" the role. He or she sometimes is seen to have a serious mental problem that needs to be rectified.

It is not clear, however, that this is the case. It could also be that pathological liars know precisely what they are doing. Confused hashes of history and wishes are called confabulation. "Pathological liar" is a synonym for symptoms. No one has proposed a drug treatment for politicians accused of having this symptom.

Even though pathological lying is not recognized as a clinical disorder, legal court cases often require that you prove that the defendant is aware that he or she is lying. This proof is most important in cases of slander and/or liability. Pathological liars often actually convince themselves that they are telling the truth, which in turn can alter polygraph tests and other questioning.

When caught in a lie, pathological liars tend to become hostile or try to disregard the fact they lied; often playing it off as a joke.

Neurological correlates

Yang and Raine et al (2005) reported that pathological liars have 22-26% more white matter in the prefrontal cortex than controls.[1]

See also


  1. Yang, Y , Raine, A , Lencz, Bihrle, S , Lacasse, L and Coletti, P (2005) Prefrontal white matter in pathological liars. British Journal of Psychiatry, 187, 320-325 [free text

Further reading


  • Ford, C.V. (1995) Lies! Lies! Lies! The Psychology of Deceit, pp. 133 –146. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
  • Vrij, A. (2001) Detecting Lies and Deceit: The Psychology of Lying and Implications for Professional Practice. Chichester: Wiley.


  • Byrne, R. W. (2003) Tracing the evolutionary path of cognition. In The Social Brain: Evolution and Pathology (eds M. Brune, H. Ribbert & W. Schiefenhovel), pp. 43 –60. Chichester: Wiley.
  • Dike,C. C. "Pathological Lying Revisited," Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 33, no. 3 (2005).
  • Filley, C. M. (2001) The Behavioural Neurology of White Matter. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • King, B. H., Ford, C.V. (1988) Pseudologia fantastica. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 77, 1 –6.[Medline]
  • Spence, S. A., Hunter, M. D., Farrow, F. D., et al (2004) A cognitive neurobiological account of deception: evidence from functional neuroimaging. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B, 359, 1755 –1762.
  • Spence, S.A.(2005). Prefrontal white matter – the tissue of lies? British Journal of Psychology,187: 326-327

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