Detecting Lies

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People lie everyday. Lying has become part of our daily lives, whether we lie to make up an excuse for why we are late to class, or if we are omitting the truth in order to keep a secret. Even the most honest people lie, or choose not to tell the truth, in order to protect others feelings. Obviously, there are more serious lies as well such as claiming innocence to a crime that one actually did commit. We begin to lie at a very young age (4 to 5 years old), and continue to do so throughout our entire lives. As some of use learn how to become better at the fine art of lying, we can also become better at detecting lies from others. Oftentimes we state that we can "just tell" when someone is lying, but aren't able to exactly pinpoint the reason why we think that way. Our detection of lies usually results from evaluating the liar's behavior. This behavior includes the words that they are saying, what kind of words they are using (descriptive, generic, etc.), and their body language and other nonverbal cues that they use when delivering a lie.

There are many website and articles that offer "the key" to identifying lying behaviors and they claim that focusing on body language and eye movements can help us detect lies. These keys to lie detection often do not account for the whole situation and are often very unreliable. Nonetheless, some individuals, including law enforcement and judges, are slightly better than average at detecting these lying cues and catching liars. This could be due to the fact these professionals encounter people who frequently lie in their daily work. The television shows "Lie to Me" and "The Mentalist" feature special detectives that use their extraordinary sense of lie detection to bust the criminals. This extraordinary sense of lie detection is not quite realistic. Scientific research has shown that even professionals such as detectives have very high error rates in detecting lies (Ekman & O'Sullivan 1991).

It seems that if detectives and law enforcement officers have difficulty detecting lies, then others will too. The linked Psychology Today article explains a case where a young man lied on his application and scholarship reports all the way to Harvard. It shows that many people can be fooled by lies. Although becoming an expert at lie detection may help you solve crimes and cases of fraud, would we always want to know when someone is lying to us? Would we want others to know when we are lying to them?

Psychology Today Article

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This page contains a single entry by menig001 published on November 6, 2011 11:14 PM.

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