Tag Archives: richard-wiseman

Reliable Lie Detection Cues

We mistakenly attribute fidgeting, stuttering and avoidance of eye contact as outward signals of mendacity, suggests recent research into lie detection, showing that these are some of the least accurate ways to predict whether or not someone is lying.

Instead, the most reliable way to tell if someone is lying is by listening carefully:

Professor Richard Wiseman […] says that common sense is the lie-buster’s best weapon, and affirms that it is aural rather than visual clues that are key.

Wiseman’s 1994 experiment […] had 30,000 participants watching or listening to two interviews he conducted with Robin Day. In one, Day told the truth; in the other he lied. Viewers could not spot the lie: there was a near-50/50 vote. Radio listeners, however, achieved over 70 per cent accuracy.

“Lying taxes the mind,” Wiseman explains. “It involves thinking about what is plausible. People tend to repeat phrases, give shorter answers, and hesitate more. They will try to distance themselves from the lie, so use far more impersonal language. Liars often reduce the number of times that they say words like ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘mine’. To detect deception, look for aural signs associated with having to think hard.”

According to the Canadian Journal of Police and Security Services, another side-effect of lying that forensic interrogators will look for is the avoidance of verbal contractions – using “I am” instead of “I’m” and so on.

Evidence-Based Methods to Become Lucky

In an attempt to discover whether there were genuine personality traits that separate the lucky from the unlucky, Richard Wiseman studied 400 people over a number of years and discovered that there are indeed behavioural differences between the lucky and luckless—and that we can ‘learn’ these traits to improve our luck.

Wiseman states that the lucky “generate good fortune via four basic principles”:

  • Creating and noticing chance opportunities.
  • Making lucky decisions by listening to their intuition.
  • Creating self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations.
  • Adopting a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.

And by realising this and following three simple techniques, you can improve your luck:

  1. Follow your intuition and respect hunches in decision making.
  2. Introduce variety into your life.
  3. See the positive side of misfortune: imagine how things could be worse.

Of the people that followed this advice, 80% identified improvements to their luck and overall happiness.

Goal Setting and Affluence

You’ve heard of the Yale Goal-Setting Study, right? The one that goes like this:

In 1953 a team of researchers interviewed Yale’s graduating seniors, asking them whether they had written down the specific goals that they wanted to achieve in life. Twenty years later the researchers tracked down the same cohort and found that the 3% of people who had specific goals all those years before had accumulated more personal wealth than the other 97% of their classmates combined. The study is used to illustrate the power of focus.

Prof. Richard Wiseman, University of Hertfordshire psychologist and self-help myth-buster extraordinaire, says it best:

There is just one small problem… the experiment never actually took place.

A 2007 article in Fast Company corroborates the stance, in a slightly more eloquent (or should that be verbose?) manner:

According to [Silas] Spengler [secretary of the Class of 1953 since graduation] — who listed his future occupation in the Yale yearbook as “personnel administration following a course of business administration at Harvard,” and who instead went into the navy and then to law school — he never wrote down any personal goals, nor did he and his classmates ever participate in a research study on personal goals.

As further evidence, Spengler provided excerpts from the 1953 yearbook. No one stated personal goals, but most of the graduates predicted their future lines of work: Roberto Goizueta, Coke’s CEO, predicted his future would be with Cuba’s Compani Industrial del Tropico S.A.; William Donaldson and Dan Lufkin, founders of Wall Street’s Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, forecast futures in law. Forrest Mars, Jr., now chairman and CEO of Mars, Inc., listed “no” for employment possibilities.

Superstition and Irrationality

I’d like to class myself as a fairly rational being, but we all have our transgressions, right? So are we all maybe a bit superstitious?

To answer this, Richard Wiseman offers this common thought experiment from Bruce Hood’s new book, Supersense:

Imagine that you only have two objects in your house:
1) A £10 watch that was given to you by your partner and therefore has sentimental value.
2) Another watch that’s worth £1000 but has no sentimental value.

Your house catches fire, and you only have time to save one watch. […] Which watch you would save?

If you think that the £10 is somehow imbued with the essence of your partner then you are being superstitious. Of course, you might argue that it simply reminds you of the good times the two of you have had together. Fair enough, but how would you feel if I replaced it with a watch that was absolutely identical (same scratches, markings, etc)? This replacement watch would have exactly the same memory-inducing properties, but most people reject the idea, saying they want THEIR watch. Again, this is irrational.

Of course, this assumes that sentimentality (while irrational) == superstition.

It does however remind me of a more interesting thought experiment about our irrationality when it comes to saving money when purchasing items of different prices (e.g. we’ll travel a significant distance to save £20 on a £40 coat, but not to save £20 on a £12,000 car).

The former via @sandygautam