Tag Archives: lies

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.

Unconscious Plagiarism

Cryptomnesia, according to Wikipedia, is “a memory bias whereby a person falsely recalls generating a thought, an idea, a song, or a joke, when the thought was actually generated by someone else”.

Newsweek has an article discussing this phenomenon; including what appear to be genuine cases of cryptomnesia and the novel tests being conducted by psychologists to uncover them.

When people engage in creative activity, they are so involved in generating or coming up with something new or novel that they fail to protect against what they previously experienced. […]

It’s easier to remember information than it is to remember its source. Under the right conditions, this quirk can even evoke false memories. […]

But misattributing memories from one source to another, whether from imagination to reality or from a friend to oneself, is only one of the psychological quirks behind unconscious plagiarism. Another is implicit memory, which Dan Schacter, a psychologist at Harvard, called, “the fact that we can sometimes remember information without knowing that we’re remembering it.”

All of the famous cases of cryptomnesia are mentioned (George Harrison, Nietzsche), but one: Richard Nixon’s wartime experiences that were later traced to Hollywood movies.

via Mind Hacks

Moral Psychology and Innate Lying/Honesty

We have based our society on the assumption that deciding to lie or to tell the truth is within our conscious control. But […] this assumption may be flawed and […] honesty may instead be the result of controlling a desire to lie (a conscious process) or of not feeling the temptation to lie in the first place (an automatic process).

An intriguing idea and one with far-reaching consequences, especially given that this is on what our entire judiciary system is based. Can someone fairly be punished for a genetic trait (innate lying)?

So is the desire to lie (or, conversely, the desire to be honest) innate, and if so, what does this mean?

What they found is that honesty is an automatic process-but only for some people. Comparing scans from tests with and without the opportunity to cheat, the scientists found that for honest subjects, deciding to be honest took no extra brain activity. But for others, the dishonest group, both deciding to lie and deciding to tell the truth required extra activity in the areas of the brain associated with critical thinking and self-control.

One surprising finding from this study reveals the complexity [we] face in trying to dissect moral behavior: The decision to lie for personal gain turns out to be a strikingly unemotional choice. Some moral dilemmas Greene studies, like the trolley problem, trigger emotional processing centers in our brains. In his coin toss experiment, there was no sign at all that emotions factored into a subject’s decision to lie or to tell the truth. “Moral judgment is not a single thing,” Greene concludes, suggesting that although we often lump them together under the heading of “morality,” deciding what’s right or wrong and deciding to tell the truth or to tell a lie may, in some situations, be entirely disconnected processes.

On a related note: the classic Good Samaritan study.

Economic Experts: Insightful, Biased

Be wary of advice and forecasts from economic ‘experts’, says economist Zachary Karabell—not because they are trying to sell their services or because they are lying, but because they truly believe their (unintentionally) skewed opinions.

Being wrong in the past is not much of a liability as long as one is right in the present. […]

There may be “experts” who knowingly skew their analysis to serve their own bottom line. But I believe they are rare. The issue is less the integrity of those selling their wares than the market forces that choose them. When times are good and people feel confident, experts who support that view find more traction—and more demand—than those who don’t. When times turn troubled, as they most certainly are now, those whose perspective rhymes with the prevailing gloom appear wiser than those who do not.

Prominent experts, therefore, are often simply those whose voices are in harmony with today’s mood and who have an easier time selling their stories. That doesn’t mean that the analysis is inherently flawed—only that it is inherently market-driven.

Obvious, but it’s good to have this reiterated every now and again.

Alibi Club

Alibi clubs are loose collections of people willing to help each other out with alibis for every occasion: skipping work for the day, travelling to another country with your mistress, or getting out of a blind date. Your imagination—and morality—is your only barrier.

There is nothing new about making excuses or telling fibs. But the lure of alibi networks, their members say, lies partly with the anonymity of the Internet, which lets people find collaborators who disappear as quickly as they appeared. Engaging a freelance deceiver is also less risky than dragging a friend into a ruse. Cellphone-based alibi clubs, which have sprung up in the United States, Europe and Asia, allow people to send out mass text messages to thousands of potential collaborators asking for help. When a willing helper responds, the sender and the helper devise a lie, and the helper then calls the victim with the excuse — not unlike having a friend forge a doctor’s note for a teacher in the pre-digital age.

via Schneier