The Truth About Lying

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Even so, Fienberg and other experts believe researchers should emphasize new technologies' limitations, because people tend to trust machines, sometimes more than their own judgement. The risk of false incrimination or false security must be taken seriously. Another key problem with most lie-detection research is a failure to acknowledge the difference between taking part in a laboratory experiment and trying to get away with murder.

Paul Ekman, a behavioural psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, says the stakes involved make an enormous difference to a person's behaviour when lying. But the stakes are low in most experiments.

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Nearly everyone agrees that more work is needed: the question is by whom. As the National Academy of Sciences report concluded, government agencies seeking to deploy lie detectors are not likely to be thorough or unbiased, nor are companies out to make a profit. Ekman is one of the few doing basic research into deception. Supported by the National Institutes of Health, he has spent 30 years looking for behavioural cues that give away deception.

He has found that a subtle pause in speaking or a shift in posture may indicate lying. Ekman's latest project asks whether even stronger motivation can mask deception. With funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, he is testing his approach on extremists involved in animal rights or stopping abortion. Like terrorists, such people may feel justified in breaking the law and lying about their activities, thus making their lies harder to detect. While most studies measure deception indirectly, some scientists are starting to look for signs of deceit in the brain.

One group, led by Daniel Langleben, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania, is using functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI to look for brain regions activated by lying. With their heads inside an fMRI scanner, they were told they could keep the money if they managed to deceive a computer about what card they had.

Each time they lied about having the five of clubs, two brain regions lit up, but not when they said truthfully that another card was not theirs 8. The work is extremely preliminary, Langleben cautions. Further experiments are under way to rule out alternative explanations. At this stage, fMRI is a research tool, not a way to spot liars. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security is consulting researchers on several approaches. Such tools may ultimately aid airport security and border control agents, he says.

Madeleine McCann The Truth of the Lie

Technology may be at the forefront of the push for new ways to detect deception, but a machine has yet to be developed that makes the human interviewer redundant. Ekman and his colleagues have developed a week-long training course in analytical interviewing which has seen a surge in interest among governmental counterintelligence groups. He has also begun to train embassy officials in the Foreign Service. New methods will certainly come into use, both in the courts and in the ports. Whether justice and security will gain depends on whether there is sufficient evidence for their reliability.

Without proper research, the question remains: who's fooling whom? Farwell, L. Psychophysiology 28 , — Forensic Sci. Miyake, Y. Polygraph 22 , — Rosenfeld, J. Psychophysiology 41 , — Pavlidis, I. Nature , 35 Ekman, P. Social Res. Langleben, D. NeuroImage 15 , — Download references. Reprints and Permissions. Nature International Journal of Computer Vision By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate. Advanced search. Skip to main content.


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Article metrics Citations Altmetric 0. Such tools may ultimately aid airport security and border control agents, he says. Technology may be at the forefront of the push for new ways to detect deception, but a machine has yet to be developed that makes the human interviewer redundant. Ekman and his colleagues have developed a week-long training course in analytical interviewing which has seen a surge in interest among governmental counterintelligence groups. He has also begun to train embassy officials in the Foreign Service. New methods will certainly come into use, both in the courts and in the ports.

Whether justice and security will gain depends on whether there is sufficient evidence for their reliability. Without proper research, the question remains: who's fooling whom? Farwell, L. Psychophysiology 28 , — Forensic Sci. Miyake, Y. Polygraph 22 , — Rosenfeld, J. Psychophysiology 41 , — Pavlidis, I. Nature , 35 Ekman, P.


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  • Social Res. Langleben, D. NeuroImage 15 , — Download references. Reprints and Permissions. Nature International Journal of Computer Vision By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines.

    The Truth About Lying - Real Simple

    If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate. Advanced search. Skip to main content. Article metrics Citations Altmetric 0. More details Article metrics. Download PDF. Lies, damned lies, and technology: the accuracy of the polygraph lie detector has been attacked. Lawrence Farwell above, right thinks measuring the burst of brain activity that occurs when a person recognizes something left could provide a reliable alternative.

    Others fear the technique works better in the lab than in the field. Trial by fire? Stress-induced changes in facial bloodflow might betray the guilty.

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    Mind reading: functional MRI scans reveal brain regions that light up only during a lie. Credit: D. Google Scholar 5 Rosenfeld, J. Article Google Scholar 6 Pavlidis, I. Google Scholar 8 Langleben, D. Rights and permissions Reprints and Permissions.

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    Tsiamyrtzis , J. Dowdall , D. Shastri , I. Pavlidis , M. Ekman International Journal of Computer Vision Lure of lie detectors spooks ethicists Nature Brain imaging ready to detect terrorists, say neuroscientists Jennifer Wild Nature Comments By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines.

    Nature menu. Nature Research menu. While women had become slightly better at detecting their friend's lies over time, men didn't show any improvement—evidence, perhaps, that women are particularly good at learning to read their friends more accurately as a relationship deepens. Saxe believes that anyone under enough pressure, or given enough incentive, will lie. Kashy, Ph. Still, DePaulo warns that liars "don't always fit the stereotype of caring only about themselves. Further research reveals that extroverted , sociable people are slightly more likely to lie, and that some personality and physical traits—notably self-confidence and physical attractiveness —have been linked to an individual's skill at lying when under pressure.

    On the other hand, the people least likely to lie are those who score high on psychological scales of responsibility and those with meaningful same-sex friendships. In his book Lies! He suggests that individuals in the throes of depression seldom deceive others—or are deceived themselves—because they seem to perceive and describe reality with greater accuracy than others.

    Several studies show that depressed people delude themselves far less than their nondepressed peers about the amount of control they have over situations, and also about the effect they have on other people. Many playwrights, including Arthur Miller and Eugene O'Neill, seem to share the same view about truth-telling. In Death of a Salesman and The Iceman Cometh , for example, lies are life sustaining: The heroes become tragic figures when their lies are stripped away. Anyone who has played cards with a poker-faced opponent can appreciate how difficult it is to detect a liar.

    Surprisingly, technology doesn't help very much. Few experts display much confidence in the deception-detecting abilities of the polygraph, or lie detector.

    The Truth About Lying

    Geoffrey C. Bunn, Ph. Created around during one of the first collaborations between scientists and police, the device was quickly popularized by enthusiastic newspaper headlines and by the element of drama it bestowed in movies and novels. But mass appeal doesn't confer legitimacy. The problem with the polygraph, say experts like Bunn, is that it detects fear , not lying; the physiological responses that it measures—most often heart rate, skin conductivity, and rate of respiration—don't necessarily accompany dishonesty.

    Similarly, a true statement by an innocent individual could be misinterpreted if the person is sufficiently afraid of the examination circumstances. According to Saxe, the best-controlled research suggests that lie detectors err at a rate anywhere from 25 to 75 percent. Perhaps this is why most state and federal courts won't allow polygraph "evidence.

    Some studies suggest that lies can be detected by means other than a polygraph—by tracking speech hesitations or changes in vocal pitch, for example, or by identifying various nervous adaptive habits like scratching, blinking, or fidgeting. But most psychologists agree that lie detection is destined to be imperfect. Still, researchers continue to investigate new ways of picking up lies.

    While studying how language patterns are associated with improvements in physical health, James W. Pennebaker, Ph. For example, liars tend to use fewer first person words like I or my in both speech and writing. They are also less apt to use emotional words, such as hurt or angry, cognitive words, like understand or realize, and so-called exclusive words, such as but or without, that distinguish between what is and isn't in a category.

    While the picture of lying that has emerged in recent years is far more favorable than that suggested by its biblical "thou shalt not" status, most liars remain at least somewhat conflicted about their behavior. In DePaulo's studies, participants described conversations in which they lied as less intimate and pleasant than truthful encounters, suggesting that people are not entirely at ease with their deceptions.