Who hasn't told a lie at some point in their lives? And who hasn't tried to justify that lie - at least in their own minds?
"If people were always totally honest, bluntly honest, many of our social interactions with one another would be very unpleasant," said Robert Feldman, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts.
|Our Full Coverage|
of this Ongoing Story
Professor Feldman has studied why people lie for 20 years. He says little white lies can actually grease social interaction and are usually harmless. It's the big lies that cause trouble.
"Bigger lies tend to be committed in the service of your personal goals and needs. You lie when you're under pressure. You lie to get out of a difficult situation. You lie to make yourself look better," Feldman said. "Those are the bigger lies which very often have a greater effect on society."
CBS News Correspondent John Roberts reports that while most Americans admit they lie from time to time, polls show they're not comfortable doing it. Fully 69 percent of people polled in a recent CBS News survey say it is never justified to lie. Only 24 percent say it is.
"I never had sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," President Clinton said.
The issue of lying and truth-telling becomes critical on Monday when Mr. Clinton will be asked about his relationship with a White House intern.
CBS News put together a roundtable of ordinary Americans to discuss their opinions of Mr. Clinton's predicament.
Should politicians be held to a higher standard?
"Definitely, they're elected officials," said Janice Mahoney, who works as an administrative assistant.
"I disagree totally with that," said Larry Collis, an actor. "We know politicians lie all the time. What's wrong with that? It's up to us to decide and if we don't like it vote for someone else."
By almost two-to-one, people in our poll agree that politicians should not be held to a higher standard of truth-telling than we hold ourselves.
Should the president of the United States be a moral leader?
"I didn't elected him to be my moral leader. I elected him to be my political leader," said Allyson Aleman, a law student.
On the subject of how they would feel if the president admits he lied about having an affair, the panel was divided:
"I would feel very disappointed but I certainly wouldn't lose support for him," said Collis.
"I would like to think that the truth is finally coming out and I would want him to talk to the American people because this has been going on for so long," Mahoney said.
" would feel very sorry if our nation reached the point where it's all right to ask the president questions about his personal life like this and make him confess to the nation what types of sexual acts he's involved in. It isn't any of our business," said Aleman.
Polls show that a majority of Americans, 59 percent, think its important to know if Mr. Clinton lied about having a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, regardless of the potential consequences.
"I think we are becoming a less trusting society. We look at our leaders with a more skeptical eye," said Professor Feldman. "We don't accept people at face value. At the same time, it almost makes it easier for people to lie because if you think everybody is lying, it's certainly easier for you to justify the lies that you yourself commit."
©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved