TED talk on liespotting

The following TED talk video was picked by The Muse Editor in December 2011: How to spot a liar.

Truth 1: Lying is a cooperative act.

Here’s something interesting about lying:

If at some point you got lied to, it’s cause you agreed to get lied to.

(And then the toddler – who was eating cereal while sitting in my lap as I composed this – exclaimed “Yay!” and clapped his hands.)

A famous con man by the name of Henry once quoted:

Everyone is willing to give you something. They’re ready to give you something for whatever it is they’re hungry for.

The speaker responded to that quote, explaining “the crux of it: If you don’t want to be deceived, you have to know what it is you’re hungry for.”

Truth 2: We are against lying… and covertly for it.

According to the speaker, lying is part of our culture and history. By the time we grow up, we are part of a “post-truth society.” She says that “trained liespotters get to the truth 90% of the time.”

In speech, pattern 1 is Verbal Dodging. Those determined to lie will resort to formality, such as do not. Also, distancing language, such as that woman. Qualifying language, such as in all candor.

Pattern 2 is Body Language Slips. For example, excessive eye contact. There are “hot spots” between someone’s words and actions. Honest offers possibilities that can locate what is false, and will be “infuriated if they sense they are wrongly accused throughout the entire course of the interview, not just in flashes.” Somebody deceptive would be “withdrawn, look down, lower their voice, pause…” and would use too much detail when telling their story.

Smiling as a lie is successfully navigated is called Duping Delight. Leaking expressions is another giveaway, in that a flash of one emotion will show itself through another. An emotion that is hard to recover from is Moral Contempt, which is marked by an asymmetrical expression, such as a lip curl, and followed by dismissal.

The talk generally concludes that…

The issue is not when these red flags occur, but if they show up in combination. If the flags are consistently present within an encounter, then the person is more likely to be lying. Overagressive digging into the person who may be lying will not work to reveal the issue.

My thoughts

In my experience, these signs of lying do have their veracity. However, I have noted more positive identification of lying if the person I am speaking with looks away first, pauses in the wrong speaking rhythm than I am used to hearing, or maintains a closed body posture. It may not be that a liar gives too much detail, but gives too much detail in a vague manner. Their speaking slows. They become more daydreamy.

Finally, some of the most damning evidence I have been lied to is self-contradiction. I speak very linearly, so linear recollection (per the video) would not apply to me. However, if something that is mentioned to begin with does not feature in an appropriate place within the linear story I am given, then there is something missing, off, or deceptive about what I have heard.

The best liar is one who can accept what isn’t true as temporary truth, or weave it into the fabric of their life, in order to pass this “truth test”. Sometimes a person’s truth is built on false information, and they may be as truthful as they can be but may, quite not meaning to, inadvertently lie. Something to remember, though, is that some people may be lieing to themselves, not to you. These are instances when identifying a lie actually gets tricky.

Still trickier are the qualifiers. Making a habit of elevating yourself in a self-righteous manner is not the way to go when establishing your sincerity. That is how you create a superiority complex. Instead, get to the heart of the matter and just… communicate. Speak, but remember to listen. Respond accordingly, but appropriately.

I do my best not to knowingly lie in any manner. I prefer truth over self-preservation. I try to set an example as a truthful human being, because I prefer a world where truth is what’s spoken. Truths can be difficult; it isn’t fear of a lie that plagues my life, but whether those around me can handle hearing what I may have available to say. Sometimes, I don’t offer an answer, instead asking if the person wants the answer I have. But I’m not going to lie to anyone. I just don’t see the point.

Anyone else other than myself have a personal lie-ability policy?


About jlnp

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