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Staying Healthy and Fighting Cancer

Are They Lying? How Can you Tell?

Roth As it turns out, we really can't tell when someone is lying. That is despite what we are lead to believe by such television programs as "Lie to Me". Apparantly according to the Washington Post, it is virtually impossible to know when someone is lying.

Brain studies actually show that lying is a natural response that does not cause any unusual brain patterns or activity and therefore cannot be measured accurately and consistently. So body language, hints of facial expressions and certain actions are simply unreliable. Oh dear.

Lie To Me is based on the entirely serious work of Paul Ekman, the famed psychologist and author, who sold Fox his professional life rights for the series and acts as its consultant. Ekman, 75, has spent more than four decades studying nonverbal communication and its sexy sidekick, truth detection. His firm runs seminars for people -- say, security staffers at airports -- who want to study his "micro-expression expression training tool" system to see who might actually be dangerous. Here's the kicker: You can't. "We've been testing people's ability to discern a lie for 15 years now and haven't noticed any real change over that time," he says in a telephone interview. "We've tested about 15,000 people in every profession you can think of -- CIA, judges, lawyers. Less than 1 percent are any good at it. Most people are only at about the level of flipping a coin." He writes: "Most liars can fool most of the people most of the time."

Even those folks who specialize in lie detection such as police or FBI interrogaters (and who are good at their jobs) are not good at detecting lies at home. Cops are good at detecting lies about crimes and therapists are good at detecting lies about emotions but in their personal lives they are clueless.

Read more about this fascinating area of research in the Washinton Post. And if you need a good guide to teach you how to "read" others, try these Books on Reading Facial Expressions

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