Dec 29, 2006

Taking on the Perspective of the "Other Person"

If the estimates are correct, many people will cheat on a spouse at one time or another. So, it is probably safe to assume that many people can take on the perspective of a cheating spouse; they have first hand knowledge of how it feels - a combination of stress, anxiety, excitement, pleasure and guilt.

And given our psychological make-up, where we can more readily view our ourselves as victims rather than perpetrators of harm, it is somewhat easy for people to empathize with a faithful spouse who has been cheated on. Imagine what it feels like to discover that your spouse has been cheating on you? A mixture of shock, betrayal, anger, rejection and humiliation.

But, have you ever wondered what it's like to be the "other woman or man?" To be single and to be involved with someone who is married?

A viewer recently brought two websites to my attention - which examine affairs from the perspective of the "other person."

Here you go:

Dec 28, 2006

Lying Is Easier When No One Is Watching

It comes as no surprise that our behavior changes when other people are watching us. For instance, people laugh louder when watching TV with others than they do when watching TV by themselves.

And by simply placing a pair of eyes on a computer screen, people act more cooperatively. People are more generous and people are more likely to donate money when they feel they are being watched - even if it is by a fake pair of eyes.

And when it comes to lying, a new survey released today shows that people prefer telling lies when no one can see them doing it. People prefer to tell lies over the phone, through a text message, or over e-mail because they feel a lot less guilty about lying when it is not done face-to-face. Along the same line, the BBC also reports that people prefer to lie over e-mail at work.

The moral of the story? People feel more comfortable behaving badly, even lying to loved ones, when no one is looking over their shoulder. Our behavior, to a certain extent, is influenced by whether we think we are being observed.

Will technology, which physically separates us from each other, ultimately make lying more common? It seems so.

Dec 27, 2006

The Year in Review - Top Ten Stories about Lying, Cheating and Infidelity

A Not-So-Serious Look at the Top Ten Stories About Lying, Cheating and Infidelity - 2006

The "On the Edge of My Seat" distinction goes to Woody Allen for his movie Match Point; a riveting drama about the perils of infidelity. The entire time, the movie had me wondering how Mia Farrow ever survived Woody Allen's affair with her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn. For Woody Allen, life still must be stranger than fiction.

The "So Juvenile" distinction goes to the former Representative Mark Foley (R, not D, as was reported on Fox News) for his pervish behavior with an underage, male, congressional page (or two). The real shock of this story was not that a gay, republican congressman was hitting on an underage page, but that it caused countless cheating spouses to suffer in silence as they discovered how easily instant messages could be saved and retrieved.

The "Give Me a Break" mention goes to Pastor Ted Haggart, a leading evangelical preacher, who will be known for his famous denial of having sex with a gay, male prostitute on crystal meth. When initially accused, the Pastor Haggart, claimed that he bought meth, but "never used it." His excuse was so unbelievably lame that it brought back painful memories of President Clinton trying to recall the definition of the word "is."

The "Very Strange" distinction goes to the NYTimes for a front page article on the state of the Clinton's relationship. Care to know how many days a year the Clintons spent together last year? Or what their friends, on deep background, thought about their relationship? This article is so long, detailed, and packed full of non-information that it's impossible to read without wondering, "What in the hell am I missing?" To help fill in that gap, however, the article is peppered with anonymous reports of the former President being seen out-on-the-town, late at night, with another woman. Perhaps we are seeing a new form of reporting - Innuendo Journalism. Why say what you're trying to say, if you don't have to? Luckily, the media reaction to this article was rather negative (Media Matters and Huffington Post).

The "Farewell to Pretexting" distinction goes to Hewlett-Packard. Private investigators, hired by the company to investigate leaks to the media, used "pretexting" to obtain phone records of those under suspicion. Pretexting involves calling a company and pretending to be someone else in order to obtain a copy of their records. Pretexting was a tactic often used in infidelity investigations, but after the Hewlett-Packard scandal, Congress made pretexting a federal crime.

The "Enough!" distinction goes to the formerly alleged murder suspect O.J. Simpson, who had a book written for him called, "If, I Did It." This time around, however, the money trail led right back to Rupert Murdoch, who when caught, also tried to wash his hands clean of the mess by declaring that the project was a poor fit for his News Corp.

The "Bad Timing" mention goes to the former Governor of New Jersey, Jim McGreevey, for his Confession - a book about his secret life as a gay, married politician. Unfortunately, sales of his book didn't pan out as well as his affair, which ended miserably. While Jim McGreevey was ahead of the curve when it came to getting into trouble with other men, who could have known that his book release would face such stiff competition from the Republicans (see, "So Juvenile" and "Give Me a Break")?

The "Something Is Terribly Wrong" distinction goes to John Mark Karr - known for falsely confessing to killing JonBenet Ramsey. I knew something was terribly wrong with the entire case when I discovered myself reading the details of Mr. Karr's airplane MEAL on his flight back to the US in the NYTimes. And I am quoting from the article, "he sipped champagne and drank beer and chardonnay with a meal of fried prawns." Despite the hype surrounding this media spectacle, the American public quickly sensed that Mr. Karr, while having done something unimaginably wrong at some point in his life, had little to do with JonBenet's death. It's unfortunate that the Boulder Police Department could not have done the same. Everyone would have been better off had Mr. Karr been spared his 16 minutes of fame.

The "Getting Tiresome" distinction goes to websites trying to identify spouses and lovers who have cheated in the past. Hopefully, these websites have hit their peak, providing more of a forum for revengeful ex-lovers than useful information.

The "Terrible Misfortune" distinction goes to Brooke Astor, the former grand dame of New York Society, who at age 104, had to suffer the indignity of having her son allegedly try to steal her fortune from her. To make matters worse, her son was also accused of forcing her to live in wretched, uncharitable conditions. It is sad that the formerly active, wealthy, socialite found herself the subject of many court filings and countless articles in the NYTimes - including one commenting on the condition of her urine-soiled couch. Shame to those involved and to the NYTimes for endlessly covering the sordid details of this affair. The entire incident left me wondering - is Brooke Astor to the NYTimes, what Natalie Holloway is to CNN?

happy holidays

Dec 19, 2006

Damage to the Brain and Infidelity

There is a strong connection between the brain and behavior. Damage to specific parts of the brain, often results in unusual behavior.

For instance, Phineas Gage, who had an iron pole propelled through his brain, is probably the best known example. Before the accident Phineas was considered to be a mild-mannered, considerate and thoughtful man. After the accident, however, Phineas's behavior was marked by the use of profanity, inappropriate and sexually-charged behavior.

And there are many other examples of the unusual impact that damage to the brain can have on subsequent behavior. For instance, damage to some parts of the brain leaves people unable to recognize faces, of anyone, including their own. Damage to other parts of the brain can leave people unable to form new memories, somewhat similar to the lead character in the movie, Momento. And some damage leaves people unable to experience fear, so when placed in dangerous situations, they tend to become more amused than frightened.

The most recent example to come to attention, however, involves infidelity.

Stephen Tame, who suffered a head injury after taking a fall at work was later unable to control his sexual urges. After his injury, Stephen, who was recently married, committed infidelity, couldn't resist pornography, and frolicked with a prostitute. It appears that his marriage is headed for divorce and that his life is in ruin - except for the $5.8 million dollar judgment he recently won against his employer.

You can read the full story about Stephen's predicament here.

The New York Times also recently published an article on how brain damage can influence moral reasoning.

Dec 15, 2006

The Face of a Cheater

This comes as no surprise - people make a lot of judgments about others based on their appearance, and in particular, we pay a lot of attention to other people's faces.

But, can we tell who is more likely to cheat, simply by looking at their face?

Perhaps so.

A study published this month by Daniel Kruger in the journal of Personal Relationships, shows that people consistently judge more masculine-looking versions of a male face as someone who is more likely to:

  • commit infidelity
  • make a pass at someone's else girlfriend
  • be promiscuous
More masculine-looking faces (e.g., wider jaw, more pronounced brow, square chin, etc.) are due to higher levels of testosterone during development. And other research indicates that higher levels of testosterone are linked to promiscuity and infidelity.

Taken together, there may be some truth behind the idea that our public face reveals something about our private behavior.

Or think of it this way: If you were a guy, who would you want to have around your girlfriend... the second or fifth guy pictured above? That is, the more masculine- or feminine-looking male?

Anyway, if your interested seeing how people respond to faces, the following site may be of interest: Face Research

Dec 14, 2006

Tactics of Conversational Distraction

Mimicry, camouflage and distraction can all be used to mislead others.

Distraction, in particular, involves drawing a target's attention away from one's real goal or purpose, in order to better accomplish that goal. For instance, birds will often fake an injury to lure predators away from their offspring. Along the same line, pickpockets often create distractions, such as someone fainting in a crowd, in order to divert attention away from what's really going on. And, of course, distraction is commonly used in sports, war, politics, and so on.

To successfully engage in distraction, it usually involves some form of mimicry (e.g., trying to appear injured) and camouflage (e.g., trying to blend a crowd). And while blatant forms of distraction, like those mentioned above, are typically easy to spot (from the right vantage point), what are some of the more subtle ways that people engage in distraction?

How do we engage in distraction in our everyday conversations?

At one time or another, everyone has found themselves in the following situation: A conversation is veering toward a potentially dangerous topic - a topic where telling the truth is really not an option. But, at the same time, most people would prefer not to lie. Can the topic be avoided, somehow, without the other person noticing? Is there a way to socially distract the target from having that conversation?

Tactics of Conversational Distraction

  • Seize Control - When a conversation appears headed toward dangerous territory, take control of it. If you have to, interrupt the other person (raising your voice works), bring up relevant, but less dangerous topics, and move the conversation toward safer ground.
  • Bombard with Questions - Distract the target with questions so they don't have a chance to ask questions themselves.
  • Emotionally Stun - Bring up an emotionally difficult subject (e.g., "have you heard from... about..."), a subject where the target is likely to get trapped in their own emotions causing them to lose their focus.
These distractionary tactics work well when trying to avoid a subject from coming up. But, they work less well once an issue has been raised.

In future posts, I'll discuss some of the ways people use language to mislead when attempts to distract others have failed.

Dec 12, 2006

Dec 11, 2006

Financial Infidelity

I just ran across a news story about financial infidelity - hiding money or one's spending habits from a spouse. Definitely an interesting read as the holidays approach.

Dec 10, 2006

Not All Differences Are Created Equal - Problems in Detecting Deception

First, I want to apologize for this rather long post. But, there is an issue that has always bothered me when it comes to detecting deception. An issue which I don’t think gets near enough attention.

There is a fallacy underlying most of the research on detecting deception. And the fallacy goes something like this:

  • People’s nonverbal behavior changes when telling the truth versus lying.
  • If we can identify some of the nonverbal differences involved, then we train people to detect deception.
This argument seems pretty logical and straightforward, but it’s not.

There is already much debate surrounding the idea that the nonverbal cues of deception can be reliability identified. But, just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that it can be done.

Here’s where I think the real problem starts. There is a big difference between identifying nonverbal cues associated with deception, and being able to use those cues to detect deception.

Specifically, the problem is that the nonverbal cues which have been identified are based on statistically significant differences. These significant differences are not the same as diagnostic differences; that is, differences which can be used to distinguish group members from each other.

I am going try to explain this distinction using a concrete example, but first some basics about statistical significance and research on detecting deception.

To begin with, a significant difference refers to the idea that an observed outcome is probably not due to chance. And a great description of statistically significant differences can be found on the Cancer Guide website.

But, for our purposes let's use an example. Let’s assume that we watched two groups of 60 people each. People in the fist group were instructed to tell the truth about their favorite vacation and include as many details as possible. Now, the individuals in the second group were given the same instructions, but told to lie. We could videotape everyone’s stories and count how often certain types of nonverbal behaviors occurred. Watching the tapes, we might just notice that people in the lying group touched their face more often than people in the truth telling group.

And there might even be a significant difference between the two groups with respect to this nonverbal behavior. Let’s say that, on average, liars touched their face 5 times, while truth tellers only touched their face 3 times. Even though we’ve found a statistically significant difference – a difference that is unusual – this does not necessarily mean that we can use this information to detect deception. Significant differences cannot always be used in a diagnostic way. That is, in way to reliability distinguish group members (liars from truth tellers) from each other.

Ok, let me show you a concrete example of why this can’t typically be done.

I often teach the same course during the semester - a day course and a night course. And every time this happens, the students in the day class earn better grades than the students in the night class. I think this difference occurs because students taking night course are more likely to work full-time during the day and have little extra free time for studying.

Here are 2 sets of grades from the last time this happened (see, Table 1).

Table 1 - Scores from two separate classes (full data is provided in Table 3).

Day Students' Scores
Night Students' Scores

Now, the average scores for the students in the day class is 85.02 or a "B" while the average score for students in the night class is 80.31 - right around a "C+" or "B-."

And there is a significant difference in grades between these two classes – the difference observed is probably not due to chance (t[118]=1.679, p < .05). It’s a small difference, but it’s still a statistically significant difference. In other words, I can say with some confidence that students in my day class really did earn better grades than students in my night class. So, far so good. I’ve identified a significant difference that exists between two groups.

Or to think about it in terms of detecting deception, I’ve found two groups which statistically differ from each other – just like noticing a difference between liars and truth tellers with respect to some nonverbal behavior.

But, here is the twist and where the problem emerges. I’ve now combined the two classes and reordered their scores from highest to lowest (see, Table 2). You know the two groups of students are significantly different with respect to their grades, but can you tell them apart based on their scores?

In other words, can you reverse engineer the problem?

This is the same problem as trying to catch a liar by looking at his or her nonverbal behavior. Give it a try. Here are all of my students' scores. Which class does each student come from – the day class or the night class?

Table 2

Students' Scores
Guess What Class?
100.00 D or N
100.00 D or N
98.44 D or N
97.88 D or N
97.61 D or N
97.15 D or N
96.82 D or N
96.59 D or N
96.57 D or N
96.30 D or N
96.29 D or N
96.05 D or N
95.85 D or N
95.85 D or N
95.84 D or N
95.78 D or N
95.60 D or N
94.47 D or N
94.02 D or N
93.90 D or N
93.84 D or N
93.78 D or N
93.71 D or N
93.51 D or N
93.25 D or N
93.15 D or N
92.73 D or N
92.64 D or N
92.49 D or N
92.47 D or N
92.37 D or N
92.09 D or N
91.96 D or N
91.85 D or N
91.85 D or N
91.85 D or N
91.70 D or N
91.57 D or N
91.44 D or N
91.44 D or N
90.92 D or N
90.66 D or N
90.15 D or N
89.77 D or N
89.74 D or N
89.50 D or N
89.37 D or N
89.10 D or N
88.84 D or N
88.73 D or N
88.33 D or N
88.17 D or N
88.17 D or N
88.08 D or N
88.05 D or N
87.89 D or N
87.81 D or N
87.54 D or N
87.54 D or N
87.29 D or N
87.13 D or N
87.08 D or N
86.77 D or N
86.60 D or N
86.56 D or N
86.34 D or N
86.06 D or N
85.81 D or N
85.75 D or N
85.73 D or N
85.72 D or N
85.03 D or N
84.95 D or N
84.44 D or N
83.69 D or N
83.68 D or N
83.16 D or N
82.63 D or N
82.40 D or N
82.13 D or N
82.10 D or N
81.89 D or N
81.84 D or N
81.84 D or N
81.06 D or N
80.79 D or N
80.55 D or N
80.36 D or N
80.28 D or N
79.51 D or N
79.25 D or N
79.00 D or N
78.70 D or N
78.48 D or N
78.22 D or N
78.21 D or N
77.96 D or N
77.95 D or N
77.43 D or N
75.90 D or N
75.13 D or N
75.01 D or N
74.33 D or N
72.41 D or N
67.33 D or N
66.83 D or N
66.55 D or N
65.75 D or N
57.99 D or N
47.20 D or N
45.77 D or N
44.30 D or N
44.19 D or N
44.19 D or N
40.42 D or N
38.09 D or N
38.09 D or N
38.09 D or N
36.30 D or N
32.64 D or N

Now, even if you were to play it safe and assume that anyone with a grade above the middlemost score was most likely from my day class, and anyone below that score was in my night class… you’d still not get it right. Take a look at the data again, this time with the right answers provided.

Table 3 – Best Guess Plus Real Answer

Students' Scores
Best Guess
Actual Class
Correct Guess
100.00 D D Correct
100.00 D N Incorrect
98.44 D N Incorrect
97.88 D D Correct
97.61 D D Correct
97.15 D N Incorrect
96.82 D D Correct
96.59 D D Correct
96.57 D D Correct
96.30 D D Correct
96.29 D D Correct
96.05 D D Correct
95.85 D N Incorrect
95.85 D N Incorrect
95.84 D N Incorrect
95.78 D D Correct
95.60 D D Correct
94.47 D D Correct
94.02 D N Incorrect
93.90 D D Correct
93.84 D D Correct
93.78 D N Incorrect
93.71 D D Correct
93.51 D N Incorrect
93.25 D N Incorrect
93.15 D D Correct
92.73 D N Incorrect
92.64 D D Correct
92.49 D N Incorrect
92.47 D N Incorrect
92.37 D D Correct
92.09 D D Correct
91.96 D N Incorrect
91.85 D D Correct
91.85 D D Correct
91.85 D D Correct
91.70 D N Incorrect
91.57 D D Correct
91.44 D N Incorrect
91.44 D N Incorrect
90.92 D N Incorrect
90.66 D N Incorrect
90.15 D N Incorrect
89.77 D D Correct
89.74 D D Correct
89.50 D D Correct
89.37 D N Incorrect
89.10 D N Incorrect
88.84 D N Incorrect
88.73 D D Correct
88.33 D N Incorrect
88.17 D D Correct
88.17 D D Correct
88.08 D D Correct
88.05 D N Incorrect
87.89 D D Correct
87.81 D N Incorrect
87.54 D N Incorrect
87.54 D D Correct
87.29 D N Incorrect
87.13 N D Incorrect
87.08 N D Incorrect
86.77 N N Correct
86.60 N D Incorrect
86.56 N D Incorrect
86.34 N D Incorrect
86.06 N D Incorrect
85.81 N D Incorrect
85.75 N N Correct
85.73 N N Correct
85.72 N N Correct
85.03 N D Incorrect
84.95 N N Correct
84.44 N N Correct
83.69 N D Incorrect
83.68 N D Incorrect
83.16 N N Correct
82.63 N D Incorrect
82.40 N D Incorrect
82.13 N D Incorrect
82.10 N N Correct
81.89 N D Incorrect
81.84 N N Correct
81.84 N N Correct
81.06 N D Incorrect
80.79 N N Correct
80.55 N N Correct
80.36 N D Incorrect
80.28 N N Correct
79.51 N D Incorrect
79.25 N N Correct
79.00 N N Correct
78.70 N D Incorrect
78.48 N N Correct
78.22 N N Correct
78.21 N N Correct
77.96 N D Incorrect
77.95 N D Incorrect
77.43 N D Incorrect
75.90 N N Correct
75.13 N N Correct
75.01 N D Incorrect
74.33 N N Correct
72.41 N D Incorrect
67.33 N N Correct
66.83 N D Incorrect
66.55 N N Correct
65.75 N N Correct
57.99 N N Correct
47.20 N N Correct
45.77 N D Incorrect
44.30 N N Correct
44.19 N D Incorrect
44.19 N D Incorrect
40.42 N N Correct
38.09 N N Correct
38.09 N N Correct
38.09 N N Correct
36.30 N D Incorrect
32.64 N N Correct

Even in the best case scenario, you’d only be right 53.3% of the time. “Just guessing” or flipping a coin would get you that type of answer.

This example illustrates just one of the problems that can occur when crying to catch liars based on significant differences in nonverbal behavior. And decades of research on detecting deception reveals a very similar pattern of results. Significant differences between truth tellers and liars are identified. Training programs are created. Testing shows only modest gains in people’s ability to detect deception. In fact, most studies on detecting deception show that people are not very good at it – the accuracy rate is usually around 50 to 60%.

Personally, I believe the main problem underlying research on detecting deception is due to the fact that significant differences do not necessarily identify diagnostic differences.

For the most part, nonverbal cues associated with deception, can only be seen when looking at group averages, not specific individuals.

Dec 8, 2006

The Problem with Polyamory

I suspect that most people, in their heart of hearts, are "polyamoralists." That is, they are capable of loving more than one person at a time.

If your curious, here are some sites that explain "polyamory" in detail:

But, what's interesting to me is that while most people cringe at the idea of polyamory, myself included, many people secretly practice key elements of it.

In fact, if the figures on sexual and emotional infidelity are correct, then it seems that many people unknowingly participate in a critical aspect of polyamory. A "pseudo" polyamory, in the sense, that they experience love for more than one person, but they attempt to hide it. A true polyamoralist is honest and open about his/her feelings and desires.

Why do so many people only practice the more scandalous part of polyamory; that is, the sexual and emotional aspect of loving more than one person?

Because love and sex are full of double standards due to competing interests. What's good for me when it comes to dating, is not necessarily good for me to date. So, while everyone may have some polyamoralist tendencies, few people want to be involved with someone like that.

An Affair - Whose Obligation To Keep Quiet?

A court in the UK has granted a public figure a temporary right to privacy to prevent his adultery from being aired in public. The adulterer claims that public knowledge of his actions would harm his wife and children.

So, what starts out as a rather typical story of love and betrayal, suddenly takes a new twist. Two people cheat on their spouses. One of the aggrieved spouses, who wants to seek revenge by exposing the affair in public, is temporary prevented from doing so, in order to protect the other aggrieved spouse from suffering more harm.

In a nutshell, the complicated story goes something like this: You cheated with my wife and now I have to help keep it a secret because if your actions became public, it may hurt your own wife and children. And of course there is always another way of looking at this. You cheated with my wife and now I want to expose my own wife’s infidelity in order to cause your family harm.

What's worse? Someone who cheats or someone who wants to expose cheating out of spite?

The full story can be found here.

And here's a related story about a scorned wife who chose to expose her husband's affair on a billboard advertisement.

Dec 7, 2006


The art of hiding in plain sight.

The other day, I wrote a post about mimicry – the attempt to appear as someone or something we are not.

Camouflage is another basic form which deception can take. Camouflage is also widely used across a variety of species. Unlike mimicry, camouflage involves an attempt not to be recognized or be seen. It is an attempt to blend into one’s surroundings – to go unnoticed.

And as luck would have it, today I ran across an ad for Schott’s Almanac, which contains a section closely related to camouflage in social interaction. Their take is a little different, however, in that Schott’s Almanac offers advice on how not to recognize someone you know in passing, referred to as “The Cut.”

But, their advice on how not to recognize someone, also seemed to be applicable to not being recognized. So, I thought I would embellish upon some of their “Cuts” and add one of my own -“The Cut Inanimate.”

The Direct Cut – directly stare at the other person, but without giving any hint of recognition. A high risk move, which only the best can pull off. It is probably wise to use this strategy as a last resort, in tight, confined spaces and when one has already been spotted.

The Cut Indirect – look the other way and pretend that you never saw the acquaintance. Slow, natural movements are advised. And it helps if the direction you glance toward actually has something of interest to look at. Avoid the temptation to glimpse back over at the other person to see if he or she is still there.

The Cut Sublime – use an object of some sort to distract one’s attention away from having to acknowledge the other person. Looking at one’s watch, picking-up almost any object, or pretending to use one’s cell phone will usually suffice. Based on person experience, however, if using a cell phone, it helps if it doesn’t ring while pretending to talk on it.

The Cut Inanimate – pretend not to be alive. Break eye contact, put on a blank face, decrease breathing, stop all body movements, and patiently wait for the encounter to pass. This strategy happens to be used quite frequently by the students in my classes.

Dec 5, 2006

Some Relationships Are Better at a Distance

A new study published this month by Laura Stafford shows that not all long-distance relationships can survive when couples move closer to each other. Over one third of the long-distance couples who were reunited did not survive being together past the three month mark.

To be fair though, long-distance couples who remain geographically separated were just as likely to break-up during the same period of time.

But, what were some of the problems these couples faced as they transitioned from a long-distance to a short-distance relationship?

  • The realization that their boyfriend or girlfriend is annoying in someway – lazy, sloppy, immature. And ironically, some people discovered that their formerly geographically-distance boyfriend/girlfriend had now become emotionally-distant.
  • The loss of freedom and privacy. Many people felt that they were no longer free to do as they pleased. They had to constantly check-in with their partners and they had less time for themselves, their friends, and their family.
  • Fighting and conflict became more common. Conflicts were harder to avoid and they became more difficult to resolve.
  • Increased jealousy and suspicion. For some people, seeing how their boyfriend or girlfriend behaved around others raised the idea that their partner might be the type of person who was likely to cheat.
Of course, there were also some positive outcomes as well. Many people were happy to have more time to spend together and they felt that living closer to each other gave them the opportunity to become more serious as a couple.

But, couples who broke-up, as compared to those who stayed together, were more likely to miss the benefits that a long-distance relationship can provide: a focus on quality time, a sense of freedom, and the excitement and novelty that comes by only being together once-in-a-while.

Dec 4, 2006


I love watching people.

And luckily for me, I'm not too bothered by hypocrisy. Because, after all, everyone is hypocrite (myself included), which makes people watching all the more entertaining.

I am often amused by how people have such a difficult time acknowledging the truth about what they are doing.

When I mention that I study deception, most people give the standard response - "I hate deception" or "I never lie." But, how people manage to say this without reflecting on their own behavior makes me wonder.

We are surrounded by deception. Deception takes on so many different shapes and forms that it's impossible to escape.

At its most basic level, animals engage in deception through the use of mimicry. Mimicry involves taking on the appearance of another in order to avoid punishment or seek rewards (also see, camouflage).

And there are many instances of the use of mimicry throughout the animal kingdom.

Mimicry always involves some type of deception because it consists of changing one's appearance away from what is true. In short, mimicry involves trying to take on the appearance of someone or something you are NOT.

And examples of human mimicry are abundant - from the use of cosmetics to create a more youthful appearance, to the wearing of fake watches, to the use of phony smiles to help people get their way.

If you look at life this way, much of what we do is designed to create a false impression - to mimic, fool and mislead.

Dec 2, 2006

Dec 1, 2006

Detecting Deception

One of the reasons I started this blog is out of frustration.

There happens to be a lot of misinformation on the web about how to detect deception. Don't get me wrong, there also happens to be a lot of useful information on the subject as well.

But as someone who has followed this issue for over a decade, it is somewhat troubling that the more questionable advice is often the easiest to find.

For example, one of the most popular sites offering advice about detecting deception contains many inaccuracies.

In fact, the first three tips for detecting deception by are just plain wrong.

  • decreased body movements
  • the lack of eye contact
  • increased facial touching, decreased touching of the chest/heart...
None of these statements are true.

Nonverbal cues of deception depend on the personality of the liar, the nature of the lie being told, and the context or setting in which the lie happens.

Some people gesture more when lying; some people gesture less. Eye contact does not necessarily change when lying or telling the truth. And increased facial touching also depends on the context.

There is NOT a consistent set of clues that can be applied across any given situation. It simply doesn't work that way.

A much better rule of thumb is to look for an inconsistency in a person's behavior.

Does a person's nonverbal behavior seem inconsistent with his or her normal behavior or with what is being said?

But, even this advice is probably of little use to most people (explained below).

One more example of the type of bad advice that's being offer - again, on another page at This time the advice deals specifically with eye movement and lying.
  • Does a person look up to the left?
  • Down to the right?
  • and so on....
Again, this advice is based on myth, not scientific evidence.

In fact, one of the primary researchers, who is involved with eye-movement research (NLP, as it is called), actually has the following advice to offer when asked questions about eye-movement, lying and detecting deception:
"But so far as I know, there's no absolute way to know if someone's lying. Human beings are far too complex for our current understanding to give definite results."
And a real human lie detector, has the following to say about watching eye contact:
"Please, please, please - if you are judging someone by their eyes alone - Stop!!"
So, what sites offer better advice and information on how to detect deception?
None of these sites, however, offers a simple technique for detecting deception. For the most part, these sites acknowledge just how difficult it can be to catch a liar.

Finally, there is little evidence to suggest that people can be taught to detect deception in any meaningful way.

It appears that detecting deception is a skill that only a few people have. A skill held by a very small set of human lie detectors.