Nov 30, 2006

Suspicious Phone Calls Can Raise Questions

Many cheating spouses often get caught because of suspicious phone call activity.

It can be very difficult for a cheating spouse to connect with his or her lover without raising some questions.

In many cases, an unsuspecting husband or wife starts to become suspicious when:

  • too many calls from the same number suddenly appear on a phone bill
  • there are an unusual amount of hang-ups
  • there are too many late night, work-related calls
  • a spouse starts turning his or her cell phone off when at home
Several new services, however, now make it easier for cheating lovers to keep in touch with each other:
These phone service companies allow users to create a private phone number where messages can be left - making it possible to keep one's real phone number out of the hands of a lover.

I guess this just goes to show how technology constantly changes the ways in which people conduct their affairs.

Nov 29, 2006

Reading Other People's Eyes

Thanks to the viewer who pointed me to an online version of Simon Baron-Cohen's "reading eye test."

The "reading eye test" is designed to assess how well you can empathize with others - a key characteristic in being able to read other people's emotions and intentions.

The online version, which can be found here, is a little long. It takes about ten minutes to complete. But, it may give you a pretty good idea about how well you can read other people.

Dangers of Online Cheating

A Pepsi executive met someone online who later threatened to tell his wife, unless, of course, he was willing to pay a $125,000 to keep his extramarital activities secret... Read the full story at the Smoking Gun or the NYPost.

This makes me wonder about the stories we don't hear about....

Report on Lying and Cheating By Youth and Adolescents

I thought I’d post some survey results, of 36,000 students, published by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, on lying and cheating by American youth and adolescents (the actual data can be found here).

I think these results are so interesting because they highlight what most social psychologists know - the values and beliefs that people express actually have little bearing on people’s behavior.

Percentage of students who believe that trust and honesty are essential:

  • 98.0 (Middle School)
  • 97.7 (High School)
But, how do these same students actually behave?

Percentage of students who lied to a parent in the last year about something significant:
  • 77.4 (Middle School)
  • 81.2 (High School)
Percentage of students who lied to a teacher in the last year about something significant:
  • 52.6 (Middle School)
  • 62.0 (High School)
Percentage of students who copied a document off the internet and passed it in as an assignment:
  • 23.8 (Middle School)
  • 32.9 (High School)
Percentage of students who cheated on a test in the last year:
  • 37.7 (Middle School)
  • 60.2 (High School)
Percentage of students who stole from a parent or relative in the last year:
  • 22.0 (Middle School)
  • 23.0 (High School)
Unfortunately, I believe that these results probably underestimate the amount of actual lying and cheating that goes on because people have a tendency to under report negative behavior.

And even without the problem of underreporting, the results tend to reinforce the idea that it’s usually wise to ignore what people say and it’s more informative to watch what they do.

favorite place

Nov 27, 2006

The Dilemma of Sex

Sex is very important in a romantic relationship. In fact, being happy with one’s sex life is directly linked to having a healthy relationship.

For most couples, their sex life is a very good indicator of how things are going in their relationship. And of course, the lack of sexual activity should raise some warning flags.

But, the problem with sex is that even in the best of circumstances couples have less sex over the course of time.

Sexual activity involves many different components – including emotional intimacy, physical arousal, and the thrill of excitement. And while sex with the same partner can become more emotionally enriching, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a high level of thrill seeking as the years go on.

In fact, it’s hard to maintain a high level of stimulation when any task becomes normative. This phenomenon is very widespread, but it’s probably the easiest to in its extreme form – that is, with any type of addictive behavior. Addicts always need more stimulation in order to achieve the same “high” – whether it involves drugs, alcohol, exercise, gambling or whatever. Essentially, more is never enough.

So, while repeated sexual activity may deepen an emotional connection between two people, it tends to put a damper on the level of excitement that can be achieved. And this is where a problem can emerge. For some people, a high level of excitement is very rewarding. Some people are tempted to cheat not because of any problem in their relationship, but simply because cheating helps certain individuals satisfy their need for excitement.

I am not trying to make excuses for anyone’s behavior, but I am merely trying to provide an explanation for one type of cheating: Cheating which is fueled by excitement and thrill seeking. This is also known as the Coolidge Effect.

Investigate Before You Date?

"Don’t Date Him Girl," "Unfaithful People," "Cheaters Hall of Shame…" you name it….

Almost every week a new website emerges with the sole purpose of identifying a cheating spouse or lover. The intended goal of these sites is to create a database of cheaters in order to prevent other people from becoming a victim of infidelity.

I guess the idea behind these websites goes something like this: You meet someone new who happens to capture your interest, so you decided to check his or her relational history online, and depending on what you discover you either follow your heart or you abandon your romantic intentions and move on to someone else.

While the idea is appealing, does it really work? I have my doubts.

To begin with, creating a database of cheaters is problematic simply because too many people cheat. If the estimates are correct, it’s safe to assume that half the population may cheat at one time or another. So, for a database to be somewhat accurate, it will have to list millions of people. But, if most people are listed, how useful does that information become? As a general rule, information is most useful when it identifies a small and defined group of people. When information applies to too many people, it becomes less informative because it doesn’t help people make decisions. If most of the people you are interested in dating have cheated at one time or another, how do you decide who to date?

Related to the point above, not only do too many people cheat, but there are too many databases currently in existence. Given the hundreds of databases that exist, and that these databases do not share the names of cheaters with each other, to do a thorough search requires extensive time and effort. Just trying to identify all of the databases that exist can take the better part of a day. Not to mention the fact that registration is often required before a search for a cheater can even be done. When you think about it, who has all of the time and effort required to conduct even a minimal check?

Another problem with these sites is the tone they take. For the most part, these sites come across as being vindictive in nature. Despite the fact that these sites claim that they are trying to prevent others from getting hurt, more often than not, these sites come across as little more than an opportunity for an ex-lover to settle a score. And when people encounter comments and claims made out of spite, they tend to discount what’s said. After all, who hasn’t been hurt by an ex-lover? And who really takes heed of what an ex-lover has to say? People assume that ex-lovers are biased and that they only present one side of the story.

Finally, these sites don’t really take into account the most basic tenet of human nature: Love is based on faith, hope and promise - not facts. When romance is involved, people are blind to the truth. After all, even convicted serial murders receive marriage proposals. I suspect that websites designed to identify cheaters, will have little impact on people’s decision-making when it comes to love and romance. Why? the promise of love will always trump information, logic and reason.

I don’t want to come across as being too critical. I believe that these websites serve a purpose; it’s just not the purpose they claim to serve. In their proper perspective, these sites can be entertaining to read and they can provide a place for an ex-lover to vent about things that went wrong. As long as liable isn’t being committed, I don’t see any harm being done. I just don’t see much value in them either.

Nov 24, 2006

Human Lie Detectors

As I've mentioned in previous posts, it's extremely difficult to tell when someone is lying. On the other hand, almost everyone likes to think that they can detect deception.

So, if you're like most people, you probably don't realize how often people lie to you and get away with it.

In fact, in some of the most interesting research on the topic, Maureen O'Sullivan, a professor at the University of San Francisco, shows that fewer than 1 in 500 people can detect deception with any degree of accuracy. To date, only a handful of people, out of thousands tested, can tell when someone is lying by watching their body language or their nonverbal behavior (MSNBC and BBC reports).

According to the reports of this research, these "wizards," as they are called, do not focus on any single nonverbal cue (probably because there isn't a consistent set of clues), but rather these wizards are highly motivated to figure out what's going on in social situations and they also happen to be really good at reading people. For the most part, these wizards rely on their intuition and feelings when trying to detect deception (MSNBC and BBC reports).

One of the "truth wizards" identify by Professor O'Sullivan has started her own blog where she comments on events and news stories of the day. It's definitely a cool site and something to check out if you have any interest in understanding lying and deception.

But for me, the most puzzling aspect of this story is not that only a few people can really detect deception, but how little coverage this issue gets in the popular press. Almost weekly I discover a new article describing how to catch a liar. Without fail, the advice given contradicts what the literature shows.

I guess most people would rather be given bad advice on how to improve skills they do not possess, rather than acknowledge the truth: Few people have "the gift" when it comes to detecting deception.

Nov 22, 2006

thanksgiving

Stolen Content

As far as blogs go, this one's brand new. It's really not been around that long, but already someone has stolen much of my writing and tried to pass it off as their own.

As far as I know, this is the first time someone has stolen my work, and I am surprised by how much it upsets me.

For starters, I'm kinda of amazed that someone would actually lie and cheat in order to say something about lying and cheating. It's hard to imagine how the person, who did it, didn't think about what they were doing while they were doing it.

And even though I study lying and cheating, I'm somewhat shocked by my own reaction to it. I find it somewhat ironic that even someone, who has a healthy cynical side, doesn't really expect cynical things to happen.

But, perhaps my reaction helps explain why betrayal always hurts no matter what the circumstance. Maybe betrayal always comes as a surprise because, deep down, no one really wants to anticipate that someone else would do them wrong.

Nov 21, 2006

Top Ten Signs of Cheating

People tend to be curious about the signs of a cheating spouse.

So, it may come as no surprise, that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of lists claiming to identify the warning signs of an unfaithful husband or wife.

So, rather than create another list, I'd thought I'd try to highlight a few of the lists that already exist.

In doing so, I've tried to come with a diverse set of lists. Some of them are based on practical experience, some come from professional investigators, and some are based on the psychology of cheating and infidelity.

But, no matter what list you use, it helps to keep the following in mind: These lists identify POTENTIAL cues of infidelity, not the real thing.

And it's all too easy to fall into the trap of letting your perceptions get the best of you. But, if your spouse is really cheating, a list of clues isn't going to help you solve that problem. If anything, reading these lists is only likely to make you more suspicious and less trusting.

Top Ten Lists of the Warning Signs of Cheating:

  1. Associated Content - 7 Signs of a Cheating Partner
  2. iVillage - 32 Signs of Emotional Cheating
  3. TruthAboutDeception.Com - An Interactive List of the Signs of Cheating
  4. About.com - 5 Warning Signs of a Cheating Spouse
  5. 24.com - 23 Telltale Signs of Infidelity
  6. AskMen.Com - 8 Signs that She's Cheating
  7. Investigator Bob Brown's - 14 Indicators of Infidelity
  8. Advanced Surveillance Group - 22 Signs of Cheating and Infidelity
  9. 77Investigators.com - 28 Warning Signs of a Cheating Spouse
  10. True U Magazine - 7 Signs of a Cheating Partner

What Is She Really Thinking...

... reading true wife confessions might give you a clue.

Do We Really Want To Know The Truth?

Everyone says that they want their partners to always tell them the truth, but is that really the case?

In my opinion, sentiments about always telling the truth in romantic relationships tend to be based more on self-deception than reflective thought.

When it comes to telling the truth in a romantic relationship, the truth cuts both ways. The truth can bring people closer together and it can push people further apart.

Telling the truth is important because it creates understanding, intimacy and closeness.

But, telling the truth has its limits.

To begin with, couples don't always see eye-to-eye on every issues that comes up. And discussing every difference is annoying and it causes unnecessary conflict. Sometimes pretending to get along is the wisest course of action.

Not only does withholding the truth sometimes help couples avoid unnecessary conflict, but the truth can also be quite harsh. Over the course of a long-term relationship, partners are going to have negative thoughts and feelings about each other. This is just a part of life. And sometimes it pays to keep one's negative feelings to oneself. The truth, once spoken, not only hurts, but it can't be taken back. While negative feelings are often fleeting, expressed negativity can last a lifetime. Unfortunately, partners are much more likely to remember a negative comment than a compliment. When it comes to love and romance, isn't it sometimes better to censor one's thoughts before they are spoken?

And if people are so earnest about hearing the truth, why do they punish others for being honest? Most people, when told an unpleasant truth, react poorly - ranging from the silent treatment to a much more aggressive reaction. As a general rule, such punishment is used to teach people the following lesson: Don't do that to me again. As you can see, a paradox quickly emerges. People say they want to know the truth, but their actions suggest just the opposite.

So, when a partner says "I always want to know the truth," that's most likely anything but true.

Too Much Time On Your Hands

I stumbled upon this site tonight... and I'll keep adding to the list as I find more.

But really. Who has the free time to do this kinda stuff?

Even if I had all of the free time in the world, I'm pretty sure that this isn't how I'd spend it.

viva la difference

Nov 20, 2006

Rules About Love

Relationships are never easy and in many ways we make them more difficult than they need to be.

In my opinion, much of the sadness we experience in our relationships stems from our desire to overlook what's obvious about people, love and romance.

So I thought I'd create of list "Rules About Love" and update as things come to mind.

Rule #1 - People Do What They Find Rewarding and There is Little You Can Do To Change That

People are driven by their emotions to seek rewards. In other words, if a person finds an activity enjoyable, he or she will try to do it again. If your girlfriend enjoys talking to her ex, she will continue to talk to him. Or if your husband enjoys spending his free time with friends, he'll try to keep doing it.

And there is little you can do to change what a person finds enjoyable. While you can ask a partner to change his or her ways, you can't change a partner's underlying desires. At the end of the day, trying to limit a partner's actions doesn't really solve the problem, it just takes away from a partner's enjoyment in life.
Rule #2 - People Rarely Understand Their Own Behavior
Strangely enough, the mind allows a person to make decisions without being aware of his or her motivations and desires. But, if you ask someone why they do the things they do, most of the time you'll get an answer. The answer, however, usually has little to do with the truth. People make thousands of decisions everyday with little awareness of what they are doing. So, if you want to get a feel for what's going on, it helps to ignore what partners might say, rather watch what they do. Consistently watching a partner's behavior tends to be more revealing than listening to the explanations which are given.
Rule #3 - Most Relationships Don't Fail - They Probably Never Had the Potential To Succeed
Most relationships are doomed from the start by people making poor choices when it comes to picking a partner. And people make poor decisions for a variety of reasons: insecurity, fear of being alone, lack of experience, getting carried away by excitement and passion, thinking that love is enough to make things work, etc.

Ultimately, relationships work the best when people find a companion - someone they enjoy spending their time with. A partnership which is based on mutual respect, equality, and a genuine sense of appreciation. Usually, it takes a lot of mistakes before people learn that the things which draw people together at the start of a relationship, are usually not enough to keep people together over the course of time.
Rule #4 - People Have Different Needs for Intimacy and Closeness
Rarely, are people exactly alike when it comes to needing attention, closeness and intimacy. Some people require constant reassurance and attention, while other people actually prefer their independence, their autonomy and they need a lot of free time (particularly, time spent away from their partners). When couples are terribly mismatched, this can cause a lot of problems. One person is constantly trying to get closer while other is constantly trying to pull away. One person feels hurt, unloved and neglected while the other person feels like they are being constrained, trapped and suffocated.

And even when two people get together, people who are more similar with respect to their relational needs, things can change over time. Our needs for intimacy and closeness can sometimes change on a daily basis. Some days we might want to feel close and connected, and at other times we can find ourselves needing some freedom and space.

So, it often helps to realize that a partner's needs can sometimes be very different from our own needs. And more often than not, these differences have nothing to do with the relationship, it's just the way things are.
Rule #5 - Effective Communication Is Important, But Not all Problems Can Be Talked Away
Communication is a problem for many couples. But, learning how to communicate more effectively won't solve every relational problem that couples face. Many of the issues that come up cannot be solved no matter how effectively people learn to talk to each other. For instance, incompatibility or a genuine dislike of a partner are not going to disappear because people acquire new ways of talking. In fact, if such problems exist, better communication skills may make people more aware that these problems can't be solved.

Nov 19, 2006

Nov 17, 2006

When It Comes to Love, Does One Size Fit All?

When people find out that I study deception and close relationships, in some form or another, most people get around to asking, "why do lovers lie?"

Besides the usual answer, that lying is driven by a conflict of interest, part of me also believes that there is a much larger issue involved. An issue, which can sometimes be hard to discuss with people in a face-to-face setting.

Is it possible that not everyone belongs in a romantic relationship?

In the past, marriage was not always tied to romantic love. Marriage was more practical in nature, designed for raising families. I'm not saying that couples didn't have genuine feelings and affection for each other, but notions of love and romance were tempered by reality.

Current day notions of love and romance, by comparison, tend to go to the other extreme. Most people now believe that love is supposed to be based on complete honesty, undying passion, and an all-encompassing view of emotional closeness. People often talk about finding their soul mate who will complete them. And it almost goes without saying - everyone expects their partners to be faithful.

All of this begs the question: Have we somehow set the standards so high that everyone falls short?

While many people have fallen for the idea of perfect love, few couples can make it work in the long run. For many people their relationships are filled with half-truths, fading passion and emotional distance.

Quite frankly, I believe that many people are simply not well-suited for the demands of a modern-day relationship. Not only have we set our expectations as high as possible, but many people have personality characteristics which make it difficult for them to be emotionally intimate with a romantic partner.

Yet, despite the fact that many people are poor candidates for romantic love, people feel pressured to fit the norm - to fit into our current version of love and romance.

Ironically, our pursuit of ideal love tends to produce results which are far from ideal: Our quest for perfect love causes much heartache, anguish and pain. When things don't go exactly according to plan, people are left feeling inadequate, disappointed and they start questioning themselves - "How and why did this happen to me? Why can't I make love work?"

Again, could the answer be as simple as this - not everyone belongs in a modern-day romantic relationship?

Ultimately, I believe that much of the lying and cheating that occurs in our close relationships is caused by couples setting unrealistic expectations, which they can never meet. And by people trying to be someone who they are not.

I also find it somewhat ironic, that Bella DePaulo, one of the leading scholars on lying and deception, is also a leading advocate for "singlehood."

Perhaps Bella knows something the rest of are still trying to figure out.

Why People Lie

As a general rule, lying is driven by a conflict of interest.

All close relationships are marked by both collaboration and competition. Collaboration, in the sense that two people share the same values, goals and interests.

And of course, competition, or conflict, is present in every relationship as well. No two people are always in complete agreement with each other.

During collaborative moments, telling the truth is easy and it also happens to be the wise thing to do. There is very little reason to hide things from a partner when two people are working toward the same goal.

In fact, being honest actually makes collaboration easier to achieve. For instance, when trying to cook dinner with a spouse, there is little incentive to lie about what’s going on (i.e., like saying “Ok, I’ll peel the tomatoes” when in fact, you won’t). Again, lying in such situations only works against one’s own self-interest (i.e., dinner takes much longer to prepare).

On the other hand, in situations where there is an actual conflict of interest, a situation where two people want different things, then deception is much more likely to occur.

For instance, imagine that your partner wants you to help around the house on the weekend, but you have a chance to do something much more appealing.

Of course, you can always tell the truth in such situations. But when telling the truth is likely to result in the loss of freedom, or increased conflict, or disapproval or even punishment, then people are more likely to lie.

Simply put, people lie in order to avoid negative outcomes when pursuing goals which run counter to their partner’s wishes.

Nov 16, 2006

Caught on Video

Women caught on video confronting her husband about infidelity.

Nov 15, 2006

Tracking a Spouse Using GPS Technology

Sometimes relationships remind me of a game of cat-and-mouse.

As cheating spouses rely on technology such as instant messaging, text messaging, private phone numbers, and online services to help facilitate an affair, suspicious spouses fight back with computer monitoring software, keyloggers, hidden gps devices, and more recently, cell phone tracking services.

Yes, you can now track a spouse's movements through their cell phone.

Unfortunately, as Robert Sullivan discovered, in this high-tech game of cat-and-mouse, the mouse usually catches a break.

Robert Sullivan was convicted of illegally using a GPS device to track his ex-wife's movements.

While it's not illegal to use technology to help facilitate an affair, more often than not, it is illegal to use technology to monitor a spouse's activities without his or her consent (see, gps tracking cheating spouse).

Need an Alibi?

A cheater's worse fear is getting caught. So, more often than not, cheating spouses rely on their coworkers, friends, and sometimes even their family to help cover their tracks.

But why put other people in such a bind, when for a mere $75 you can have the folks over at the Alibi Network help you hide your affair?