Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Detecting Lies: Three Categories
at 9:22 AM
I've realized that when I am reading someone as to whether or not they are telling the truth, I quickly categorize them into one of three categories within seconds:
Positive people are those who immediately convince me they are trustworthy. It's because their expressions are so genuine, or their actions, words or overall demeanor are very sincere. There is instantly no doubt about it: they are telling the truth. You just know they are being honest.
Most often, I don't even have to listen to what positive people are saying, because their facial expressions are a dead giveaway: They are overflowing with emotion. It's the sincere overflow of emotions that lead me to this conclusion.
Tom Cruise, with regard to the Katie Holmes engagement, is one person right now that comes to mind who is overflowing with genuine emotion. You can just watch his facial expressions and know that he is telling the truth, without even listening to what he has to say. Try lying and making those facial expressions with his enthusiasm: You can't do it, no matter how hard you try.
The opposite of positive is, of course, negative. Negative people do things that instantly tell me they are lying. From telling stories that don't make sense, to awkward speech patterns, to inappropriate facial expressions that contradict their story, to endless stuttering. They give instant clues that they are being deceptive. Most often, though not always, it is the emotions on their face that tell their story first.
The next type of person is a neutral person. These people are hardest to read, because these people don't express a lot of emotion. Neutral people tend to lack genuine enthusiasm, and most often come across as someone who is not excitable. They usually come across as mundane and monotone.
While the majority of people who fall into the neutral category are suspicious, it does not mean that they are lying. And that is where it gets tricky. Some people just lack normal expressive emotions and instead are subdued, even when they are telling the truth.
When I realize I have categorized someone in the neutral category, I really have to focus to get to the truth, and it doesn't always come quickly like it does with positive and negative people—it takes minutes rather than seconds (or even longer!). Listening to their story becomes imperative. With a rare few, sometimes I am not able to discern the truth, and I have to give it up until more information presents itself.
Neutral people who are liars are usually psychopaths.
What makes it even more tricky is that some psychopaths who are lying give off emotional indications that are supportive to their story, even though they are lying. You have to see this in action to understand it. They even make facial expressions that are consistent with what they are saying. It's twisted and hard to explain until you can experience it.
What usually gives away that a neutral person or a pathological person is lying is that the actual events of their situation aren't logical. These people stretch the truth, play on the "what-ifs" and the could-be-possible-odds too many times for reality to be present. When you add up all the usual bits to their story, the odds become one-in-a-million, or statistically very, very unlikely. That, combined with other subtle hints, all add up to give away a neutral or pathological liar.
Also, it is common for liars to dull their emotional responses and try to play neutral, but these liars are actually not true neutrals. I'll call them false neutrals. These people leak information differently than classic neutral liars: They flicker emotions and microexpressions, whereas the true neutral liar likely will not. One suspect that comes to mind who acts like this right now is Joran van der Sloot. Of course, I am not accusing him of lying. However, I just think his behavior is very suspicious.
A false neutral liar's speech may become unnaturally slow as if someone taped them and played it back in slow motion. It's rather odd, because when they speak the truth, their speech rate increases to normal or above, but when they lie, they suddenly slow their speech way down, or vice-versa. Again, a true neutral liar will not do this. He will be the same throughout the interview. He will not change or vary at all. He is highly controlled in his all of his responses, or flat out lacks emotions, which is notable.
Sadly, most people want to give others the benefit of the doubt, and that is how these neutral masters of deception get away with lying so frequently. That's how pathological people kill successfully! That is how serial killers get away with their crimes for so long. People don't add up the odds—they don't put the intricate piece of the puzzle together.
Neutral people who are lying are usually pathological liars, though not all pathological liars are neutral.