Truth and lies

Unconsciously Knowing When Someone Lies

Lying and ‘fake news’ dominates the internet, TV, and print. Therefore, it seems appropriate the look at some of the science of lies. Here’s the first…

Studies have found that we are not very good at detecting lies. We think we are, but we are wrong. 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 – half were liars and half were truth tellers.
  2. Subjects guessed whether they were told the truth or a lie.
  3. They guessed correctly less than half the time

However, the subjects were then 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 saw quick pictures of the truth tellers, they chose truth words.   When pictures of the liars were flashed, subjects 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’. I’ve always been a believer in the unconscious; accessing it is the problem, but this is a nice study. A second experiment confirmed these findings.

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