That can indicate exactly that It's possible to be incorrect without lying. And don't forget the pros; con men are called that because people DO trust them, not because people don't. They are apparently adept at either overcoming deception cues, or choosing targets that can't see what they're up to.
Joe Navarro has some really useful things to say about this topic, too. He also mentioned the problem at the other end of the scale, I'd also note that often people know very well when they're being lied to, but they agree to let it go. When the company announces that Coworker A has "decided to move on to other opportunities", you know damned well they go fired, and you may even know why they got fired, but the policy is to gloss it over as quickly as possible and pretend it never happened.
Fly on the wall, you have made some very interesting points. Stress is not an indicator of lying, which is why lie detectors and their operators are less reliable than a coin flip to determine the truth. Of course people are stressed when they are lying because it causes them cognitive dissonance, which is uncomfortable. The brains of all sentient social animals are genetically hard-wired to minimize overall cognitive dissonance gene defects excepted.
But, this alone does not explain our reaction to a child who asks "What did Santa give you for Christmas? There is no empirically correct answer to the child's question therefore we have to suffer cognitive dissonance either way. Each person deals with it differently. Yes, con artists have learnt their art -- some are much better at it than others. I have indicated where they may have learnt their art in another comment.
Your final paragraph is about something Bella mentioned in her article: we are able to ascertain when someone is lying only when we are in possession of the truth. However, we must always keep in mind that a consensus of opinion is rarely the truth unless it is backed by robust evidence. The other point your final paragraph has amply demonstrated is that we have three options: tell the truth; tell a lie; or say nothing.
Those who state "Either tell the truth or tell a lie. What you mention is why I'm very glad that polygraph tests are no longer admissible in court. They're about as scientific as dowsing rods. They are very good at measuring stress, but the interpretation is up to the operator, and I have to assume they can be just as bad at their job as anyone else can be at their own.
It would be cool if people had a Pinocchio effect, so you could know when they're lying, but they don't. Incidentally, I don't consider the Santa Clause thing to be a lie at all, which brings up another point about lying. I consider Santa Clause to be a spirit of generosity that lives in each person, so it's not lying to a kid to talk about Santa. The portrayal of Santa as a guy that comes down the chimney is to make it fun and easy for children to understand, not to be literally true.
In that case, I could probably talk about that on a polygraph and NOT show the stress of lying, because as far as I'm concerned, I'm not lying.
Lie detection - Wikipedia
If people are good at redefining things, they may pass a polygraph just fine. If you believe your own lies, you'll be far more believable in your delivery. Good point about "say nothing"; some of the best lies are just hints and omissions and allowing the other person to make of it what they will. And again, some won't consider "omission" to be lying, so they won't be stressed by it. What a fun discussion! Interesting side note; we learn about ourselves all the time. I discovered that not only do I find lying distasteful, but I even dislike doing it in a video game when I'm lying to a computer program that won't care.
Some video game plots will let you lie, steal, and murder, and I just don't like doing it, not even to fake people. Thank you for your enthralling article, Bella.
During the last several years I've read and heard snippets of information about cues for detecting when others are lying: most of that widespread information was wrong, as you have very succinctly pointed out. Your article makes it abundantly clear that our lie detection ability is about as reliable as flipping a coin to determine the answer. What has always puzzled me is why some people are so intent on trying to detect lies yet, at the opposite end of the spectrum, others such as myself don't even bother to try because we know that attempting to detect lying is futile.
During my life I became aware that friends and acquaintances who were intent on trying to detect lies turned out to be the most convincing liars I've ever met. I'm curious to know if that was just random bad luck or if studies have looked at this issue. That's interesting that anyone would consider those things to be lying behavior.
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I would think people who lie are more emotionally invested in what they're saying, they have to be fully present for it because they need to convince the dupe. If you're not emotionally invested in what you're saying, I assume it's true because why would you put that little effort into making stuff up? So when I told that "white lie," I took some care in building my story. I like to assume that if I'm being lied to, the liar is at least working for it.
I think the part about not being emotionally committed isn't just detachment or lack of concern, it's more like the difference you seen in the news between a mother whose child has been abducted, and a mother who killed her kid and is pretending it was abducted. The distraught mother behaves in certain ways that the deceiver doesn't.
The deceiver is more invested in PR, presentation, reception, getting a particular result, etc. The truly distraught mother just frantically wants her kid back. Remember that disgusting couple whose daughter went missing in Portugal? They launched a PR campaign and went jetting off to see the Pope instead of looking for their kid. Certainly under laboratory conditions people are very poor at detecting when other people are lying. So, why is it so difficult to tell when people are lying? They looked at all kinds of different cues to lying like fidgeting, postural shifts, head movements, gaze aversion and speech rate.
What they found is that overall people do pay attention to many of the correct cues to lying. These include things like:. Although people are generally good, they do overestimate the power of some cues, for example looking away is not a good cue to deception and neither is fidgeting with an object.
Telling Truth From Lies: Experts Explain How To Detect Deceit
What the research suggests is that although people generally use the right cues, the cues themselves are very ambiguous. While body language cues can sometimes hint at deception, research suggests that many of the most expected behaviors are not strongly associated with lying. Researcher Howard Ehrlichman, a psychologist who has been studying eye movements since the s, has found that eye movements do not signify lying at all. In fact, he suggests that shifting eyes mean that a person is thinking, or more precisely, that he or she is accessing their long-term memory.
Other studies have shown that while individual signals and behaviors are useful indicators of deception, some of the ones most often linked to lying such as eye movements are among the worst predictors. So while body language can be a useful tool in the detection of lies, the key is to understand which signals to pay attention to. One meta-analysis found that while people do often rely on valid cues for detecting lies, the problem might lie with the weakness of these cues as deception indicators in the first place.
The lesson here is that while body language may be helpful, it is important to pay attention to the right signals. Experts suggest that relying too heavily on such signals may impair the ability to detect lies. Lie detection is often seen as a passive process. Research suggests that asking people to report their stories in reverse order rather than chronological order can increase the accuracy of lie detection. Lying is more mentally taxing than telling the truth.
If you add even more cognitive complexity, behavioral cues may become more apparent. Not only is telling a lie more cognitively demanding, but liars typically exert much more mental energy toward monitoring their behaviors and evaluating the responses of others. They are concerned with their credibility and ensuring that other people believe their stories. All this takes a considerable amount of effort, so if you throw in a difficult task like relating their story in reverse order , cracks in the story and behavioral 'tells' might become easier to spot. In one study, 80 mock suspects either told the truth or lied about a staged event.
Some of the individuals were asked to report their stories in reverse order while others simply told their stories in chronological order.
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The researchers found that the reverse order interviews revealed more behavioral clues to deception. In a second experiment, 55 police officers watched taped interviews from the first experiment and were asked to determine who was lying and who was not.
Historical Techniques of Lie Detection
The investigation revealed that law enforcement officers were better at detecting lies in the reverse order interviews than they were in the chronological interviews. According to the results one study, your immediate gut reactions might be more accurate than any conscious lie detection you might attempt.
In the study, researchers had 72 participants watch videos of interviews with mock crime suspects. But the researchers also utilized implicit behavioral reaction time tests to assess the participants' more automatic and unconscious responses to the suspects. What they discovered was that the subjects were more likely to unconsciously associate words like "dishonest" and "deceitful" with the suspects that were actually lying.
They were also more likely to implicitly associate words like "valid" and "honest" with the truth-tellers. The results suggest that people may have an unconscious , intuitive idea about whether someone is lying. So if our gut reactions might be more accurate, why are people not better at identifying dishonesty? Conscious responses might interfere with our automatic associations.
Instead of relying on our instincts, people focus on the stereotypical behaviors that they often associate with lying such as fidgeting and lack of eye contact. Overemphasizing behaviors that unreliably predict deceptions makes it more difficult to distinguish between truth and lies. The reality is that there is no universal, sure-fire sign that someone is lying.