Tuesday, September 20, 2011

To Tell the Truth

Last year, the registrar at my school had to deal with so many fake addresses she walked around muttering, "Everybody lies!"

While this is probably not true, sometimes we feel like we've had all the lies we can take. How can we tell if someone is telling the truth?

Wray Herbert, in the current issue of Scientific American Mind, has figured out three strategies to identify a lie in progress.

The first method is to ask for the story to be told in reverse. It takes much more mental effort to lie than to tell the truth because you must create something, determine if it sounds real, and to remember what you fabricated. Asking for the details in a backwards order is so mentally exhausting that the liar will usually trip himself up.

Technique number two involves constant eye contact. This also requires additional mental effort, which is why liars tend to look at an object rather than a person. This distraction will also cause most liars to make a mistake.

Asking for the liar to draw a picture is the final method. Having to provide visual-spatial information is also mentally taxing, leading to inconsistencies and a lack of detail that proves the lie.

We want to trust the people we meet. But it's good to know who can and cannot be trusted. Honestly!