TED Talk Takeaway: Pamela Meyer on How to spot a liar

We’re all born liars. That’s right. Ever since we were born into this world, we already know how to. Researchers have long known that the more intelligent the species, the larger the neocortex, the more likely it is to be deceptive. So, no surprise to find out how prevalent lying is in today’s world.

Lying is a cooperative act.
Think about it, a lie has no power whatsoever by its mere utterance. Its power emerges when someone else agrees to believe the lie. Now not all lies are harmful. Sometimes we’re willing participants in deception for the sake of social dignity, maybe to keep a secret that should be kept secret, secret. We say, “Nice song.” “Honey, you don’t look fat in that, no.”

But there are times when we are unwilling participants in deception. And that can have dramatic costs for us. Last year saw 997 billion dollars in corporate fraud alone in the United States.

“Look, everyone is willing to give you something. They’re ready to give you something for whatever it is they’re hungry for.” And that’s the crux of it. If you don’t want to be deceived, you have to know, what is it that you’re hungry for? And we all kind of hate to admit it. We wish we were better husbands, better wives, smarter, more powerful, taller, richer — the list goes on. Lying is an attempt to bridge that gap, to connect our wishes and our fantasies about who we wish we were, how we wish we could be, with what we’re really like. And boy are we willing to fill in those gaps in our lives with lies.

Fun Facts:

  • On a given day, studies show that you may be lied to anywhere from 10 to 200 times. Now granted, many of those are white lies. But in another study, it showed that strangers lied three times within the first 10 minutes of meeting each other.
  • We lie more to strangers than we lie to coworkers.
  • Extroverts lie more than introverts.
  • Men lie eight times more about themselves than they do other people. Women lie more to protect other people.
  • If you’re an average married couple, you’re going to lie to your spouse in one out of every 10 interactions. It you’re unmarried, that number drops to three.

Here’s the interesting part.
What we’ve been wanting to know: How to spot someone is lying:

  • Studies show that people who are overdetermined in their denial will resort to formal rather than informal language. We also heard distancing language from Bill Clinton’s footage: “that woman.” We know that liars will unconsciously distance themselves from their subject.
  • Liars are known to freeze their upper bodies when they’re lying.
  • We think liars won’t look you in the eyes. Well guess what, they look you in the eyes a little too much just to compensate for that myth.
  • Real smile VS fake smile: the crow’s feet of the eyes.

An honest person is going to be cooperative. They’re going to show they’re on your side. They’re going to be enthusiastic. They’re going to be willing and helpful to getting you to the truth. They’re going to be willing to brainstorm, name suspects, provide details. They’re going to say, “Hey, maybe it was those guys in payroll that forged those checks.” They’re going to be infuriated if they sense they’re wrongly accused throughout the entire course of the interview, not just in flashes; they’ll be infuriated throughout the entire course of the interview. And if you ask someone honest what should happen to whomever did forge those checks, an honest person is much more likely to recommend strict rather than lenient punishment.

Now let’s say you’re having that exact same conversation with someone deceptive. That person may be withdrawn, look down, lower their voice, pause, be kind of herky-jerky. Ask a deceptive person to tell their story, they’re going to pepper it with way too much detail in all kinds of irrelevant places. And then they’re going to tell their story in strict chronological order. And what a trained interrogator does is they come in and in very subtle ways over the course of several hours, they will ask that person to tell that story backwards, and then they’ll watch them squirm, and track which questions produce the highest volume of deceptive tells. Why do they do that? Well we all do the same thing. We rehearse our words, but we rarely rehearse our gestures. We say “yes,” we shake our heads “no.” We tell very convincing stories, we slightly shrug our shoulders. We commit terrible crimes, and we smile at the delight in getting away with it. Now that smile is known in the trade as “duping delight.”

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