Unconsciously Knowing When Someone Lies

Studies have found that we are not very good at detecting lies. We think we are, but we are not. In experimental conditions, we guess right about half the time – Radiated Ratsnake, Copperhead Racer - Elaphe radiataoko_1oko_1same as flipping a coin.  I’m sure the odds go up when you know the person very well, but when you don’t, it’s guesswork on the conscious level.  Anyway, back to the unconscious.

Researchers at Berkeley tried tapping into the unconscious with an experiment that went as follows:

  1. Subjects were shown videos of liers and truth tellers.
  2. Subjects guessed whether they were told the truth or a lie.
  3. Subjects were shown an image of the person from the tape, but the image was flashed so quickly that it was not discernible consciously. Then, they were asked to do a work task which involved clumping words together, i.e. truth words such as honest or valid, and lie words such as dishonest. When they had seen quick pictures of truth tellers, they were more likely to go to truth words and choose them.  When they had seen pictures of liers, they gravitated toward the lie words. The researchers conclude that we unconsciously pick up cues. Maybe this is what people really mean when they talk about ‘my gut’ or ‘my instinct’.  Hmmm, I’ve always been a believer in the unconscious; accessing it is the problem, but this is a nice study.

So, I’ve been flashing pictures of my books as you read this. I’m sure you are headed directly to Amazon.com to stock up on all of them.

Source: L Brinke. Psychological Science

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