Saturday, November 11, 2006

A moose once bit my sister....

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Now if a friend told me this, I'd be inclined to disbelieve him or her. After all, Australia isn't really known for rampaging herds of moose.

Such obvious untruths aside, apparently most of us aren't very skilled at detecting when people are lying to us. Many times, we want to trust people, particularly when the stakes are low or they're telling us what we want to hear.

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When I ask about my new hair cut, do I really want you to tell me my expensively coiffed bob makes me resemble Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber?

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No realli! She was Karving her initials on the moose
with the sharpened end of an interspace toothbrush

Truth is (!) that we all lie. We do it to get what we want, to please others, to get out of trouble. I've trotted out the 'my alarm didn't go off' story rather than admit I just couldn't get out of bed. I've been 'economical with the truth' in order to spare someone's feelings. So called 'white lies' but lies nonetheless.

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"...given her by Svenge - her brother-in-law - an Oslo dentist ..."

Harmless enough? Maybe. But there are times when we really need to know whether we're getting the truth from someone. Important decisions may rest upon it. Remember the recent Naked Tomato incident and the ensuing outfall?

Face to face, it may seem easier to detect a lie but there are no guarantees.

"Lying is not a distinct psychological process with its own unique behavioral indicators. It does matter how liars feel and how they think. Indeed, many of the tell-tale signs common to liars, like fidgeting and sweating, can also be signs of ordinary anxiety. It’s tough to tell the difference between a liar and an honest person who happens to be under a lot of stress."
Professor Bella DePaulo, University of California

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"..and star of many Norwegian movies: "The Hot Hands of an OsloDentist","Fillings of Passion", "The Huge Molars of Horst Nordfink"..."

There are several cues that may suggest when someone is being less than truthful with you, although these should be viewed with Professor DePaulo's words in mind. Such signs may simply reflect someone's general nervousness or anxiety.

A failure to maintain eye contact.
A change in tone, stammering, throat clearing.
Fidgeting, touching the face or nose (the Pinocchio sign), turning away.
Nervous or uncomfortable behaviour in general.
Blushing (or becoming pale) and increased blinking.
Something sounds fishy. "A moose once bit my sister...." .....right up there.
Inconsistent statements. Keeping track of lies can be hard work.
Defensiveness. Refusals to answer specific questions, accustions of lying.
Willingness to change the subject, sometimes using humour or sarcasm.

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Mynd you, moose bites Kan be pretti nasti...

Now, isn't that the truth?
Amendment
Thank you to Dreaming Again who made the important point that some of the body signs listed above could simply represent the manifestation of a medical condition.
Resources

9 comments:

Dr. A said...

Ok, you had me right up until "humor or sarcasm." I know each person is different, but for me, I know I use humor or sarcasm when I'm really nervous and/or in an awkward situation. Does it mean I'm lying, well, maybe. I dunno.

Around here, you could substitute moose for deer. "A deer once bit my sister..." Even though it's a deer, that still sounds fishy :)

Dreaming again said...

I hate the body language as a way to tell if a person is lying.

As a person with a neuromuscular disease ...

if I'm not making eye contact ... my eye muscles may not be working properly today. I may think I'm looking you in the eye, and it may appear to you that I'm looking at your cheek or my eyes may be moving in an attempt to get my eyes to focus.

Tonight, I didn't keep eye contact with anyone for any length of time. My eyes were really bothering me.

If I'm pale ...it could be because I'm sick ...if I'm blushing ... it could be because of the lupus.

I often touch my face, nose included because I itch, constantly ..thank you lupus skin.

I also keep my hand on my head frequently because of the myasthenia (neuromuscular disease) when my neck fatigues ... it looks like I'm just striking a bored pose ... when in fact, I'm holding my head up.

I clear my throat a lot because of the allergies ...or .. days like today when the muscles aren't working right ..and it feels like my throat muscles are closing. I feel like I have to clear my throat just to keep it from collapsing on itself.

While I understand that body language CAN be a cue to lying ... PLEASE don't use it as an automatic judge ... especially if you don't know the person.

You may have just met someone perfectly honest who has myasthenia gravis, lupus, MS, many forms of muscular dystrophy ... or any number of things ...

healthpsych said...

Hey Dr. A.,
Thanks for dropping by. I'm with you on that one..I always try and use humour when a situation makes me uncomfortable.
And you're right...a deer still sounds rather iffy to me.

Hello Dreaming Again,
A very important point and one that I'm disappointed I overlooked. I hope you don't mind that I amended my post to include your comment. Thank you for adding that.

Flea said...

May I guess the source for the captions on the photos?

The final credits from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"?

I ain't lyin', but I may be just wrong.

best,

Flea

Borneo Breezes said...

I am a doubting Thomas, poking my hole into the wound. I think most of these are easy to fake. Intuition works for me most of the time if I let it.

Alison said...

Hmm, when I lie I like to smile a lot. No, seriously, I'm with borneo breezes. The use of intuition along with some of the signs you list is my only tried and true method. Serial liars will deny any lieing of course, so you only have these things to go by.

mckay said...

since i abhor being the recipient of lies told, i made a decision decades ago to try my best to never, ever lie. when i feel the urge, i stop and as myself why. what am i afraid of? what can i say that's not a lie, but still sounds better than the horrible truth (being late on a report because i forgot...duh....)

i want people to understand that they can trust me. oh, and my other thing is i refuse to gossip. it's becoming a national epidemic - maybe even a pandemic.

healthpsych said...

Aha Flea,
Well-spotted with one minor correction...the OPENING credits (HA!) The things some people will do to try and fit a Grand Rounds theme!

Hi Borneo Breezes,
I swear by intuition too. Usually works fine.

Hi McKay,
I'm not overkeen on gossip either.
Interesting subject though.

Hi Alison,
I'll have to watch out for those smiles if we ever catch up!

Anonymous said...

I have to caution people on the common fallacy that people who don't make eye contact are liars. Many aboriginal people believe that eye contact is a sign of disrespect or challenge. I have heard people in the north say "We listen with our ears not our eyes." Many cultures have gender specific eye contact rules as well.
On the other hand, the best liars have trained themselves to make eye contact as part of the scam.