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Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 13 – The Whole Truth

Sadness Over Guilt Lightman says Clara shows more sadness than guilt. It is still unclear whether there is a distinctive facial expression for guilt, which is different from what is seen in sadness. Lightman would probably be basing his judgment on the lack of any attempt to hide the face, with a hand, or by turning away, which some scientists, but not all, believe occurs most often with either guilt or shame, but not sadness. When sadness is severe, when the person is resigned to helpless, hopeless feelings, the head is not held up but instead the head slumps, the chin is down, and gaze is downward or the eyes are closed. When the other phase of sadness – anguish – is felt, then the gaze may be directed outwards seeking help. [...]

Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 12 – Sweet Sixteen

Terrified Sick When Lightman says to his daughter Emily -- “Where have you been? I was worried sick”  -- we don’t really hear the full meaning of all his words. Phrases such as “I was worried sick” are used too often for us to register them fully. If Lightman had said ‘I was so worried that I nearly threw up’ or ‘I was so worried that I got a splitting headache’ we would have heard it fully, because that is a novel combination of words not a cliché. Worry refers to a moderate level of fear; not strong enough to make the worried person sick. It would make more sense if the phrase was: ‘I was terrified sick.’ Very intense emotions, when prolonged over time, can produce physical illness. Lightman was probably [...]

Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 11 – Beat the Devil

Hotspot Lightman and Foster tell the students possible but not necessary interpretations of the behavior they show to them. When Nixon looks down and hesitates it could be generated by an attempt to lie, but it could just as well be the product of being cautious in choosing his words, or as one of the students suggests, that he was checking his notes before giving a reply. An innocent person who knows he is under suspicion would be wise to be cautious about what he says, careful to check his notes. That is why we would call this a hot spot not a lie, it suggests something more is happening than what is being revealed, but only further questioning might reveal whether it is caution or a lie. Foster says that crossed [...]

Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 10 – Tractor Man

Smiling Speaker Foster tells Lightman that she can hear from his voice that Miller is smiling. It is not only the inflection that reveals the smile, but the smiling lips change the length of the vocal channel from which sounds are emitted. Many advertisers use announcers who sound as if they are smiling, because we like to hear that sound. Telling a Child the Truth When the little boy, Oscar, overhears Lightman and Steele talking about the bomb, Lightman tells Oscar the truth. It is very out of character for Lightman not to lie to deal with a problem or get information. He has lied repeatedly in previous programs. Was he truthful to Oscar because he doesn’t want to lie to a child? Or was he unable to think of a way [...]

Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 9 – Fold Equity

Change is Hard Cal: "things change." Foster: "but people don’t…" Cal proves Foster right when he secretly gambles. It would have been more accurate if Foster had said, “most adults don’t” because change is harder, not impossible, but harder by the end of the teens. Of course it also depends on what aspect of a person Cal and Foster were referring to. Beliefs, thinking patterns, attitudes are far easier to change than emotional make-up, such as how quickly and strongly one becomes emotional, and what triggers an emotion. Even that can be changed, often for the worse, by severe trauma as in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Addictions, whether to a recreational drug, alcohol or gambling are notoriously difficult but not impossible to change, at least the behavior can change if not [...]

Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 8 – Secret Santa

Fear is Good Foster tells Lightman fear is healthy. Fear is aroused when danger is sensed. The danger can be sensed in an instant, in the blink of an eye, before we are consciously aware of the threat. Fear mobilizes us to take the necessary actions that sometimes save our lives. Consider the near miss car accident: before we are aware of the danger, in a split second, our fear of the impending harm, pumps blood into the large muscles of our legs preparing us to run, changes our facial expression to signal others who see us that there is an impending threat, makes complex evaluations of the speed and angle of the car heading towards us, and enables us to make the necessary adjustment in steering wheel, gas, and brake. And [...]

Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 7 – Black Friday

Interrogation Questioning Lightman gives the young boy Max some tips about how to ask questions when he interviews the couple he suspects are not really his parents. Don’t ask them questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. That is one of the tips I always emphasize with police. You want people to use as many words as possible. The more words someone speaks the easier it is to determine if the person is being truthful; a pretty strong research finding. It is much easier to lie if you only have to say one word: yes or no. But in the courtroom in which juries have to evaluate the truthfulness of witnesses and defendants, the questions always have to be asked so that they can be answered with a [...]

Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 6 – Lack of Candor

Face to Face With the Target Lightman is correct. It is generally believed that people find it harder to lie when they confront the person who is the target of their lie. That is why with very rare exceptions when a defendant testifies it must be in front of the victim. I don’t know of any research that has actually tested this idea. Maybe it is so obvious that no one wants to bother. But then it seems obvious that the world is flat. Betrayal of Trust Trust is a matter of faith -- that the person who is trusted wont exploit that trust. Intimacy in close working relationships, romance, and friendships requires, depends on trust. Yet it is well known that the last person to realize he or she is being [...]

Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 5 – Grievous Bodily Harm

Reading Friends We later find out that Terry lied when he said he just owed twelve grand. Did Lightman miss it? With people we know well and with whom we are emotionally involved, we often fail to recognize signs of lying. We want to believe them; we overlook what total strangers might recognize. That’s why the cuckolded spouse is the last one to know what is happening. Poker Twice winners of the international poker tournament in Las Vegas sought me out. They claimed that they had won (more than a million dollars!) because they could spot bluffs. I tested them on how well they could distinguish lies from truthful responses during an interrogation. They were not much better than chance. Their knowledge was specialized to the very few behaviors that were shown [...]

Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 4 – Honey

Inconsideration Attending a social mixer Lightman flirts with Cynthia, the curator who is the ex-wife of Lightman’s client. Cleverly he entices her into telling him that she was never unfaithful during her marriage. But did Lightman need to dump her in such a thoughtless way, waiting for him to return from feeding a parking meter? He could have told her he had to go to a prearranged meeting. His inconsideration for how she will feel when he doesn’t reappear doesn’t fit with Lightman’s caring attitudes towards his own ex-wife, his daughter, and Foster. Innocent Runners The FBI agent Ben says innocent people don’t run. That is not always so; innocent people run when they are convinced they will be wrongly judged, as is in the case here. False Inference Dodge What Foster [...]

Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 3 – Control Factor

Not Perfect Glad to see Lightman acknowledge that he does not know if he can find the young girl’s mother. Usually he doesn’t admit that he can’t always solve problems, or spot liars. Rivals I also have rivals, but we are anything but friendly. But as you soon find out neither are Lightman and rival Jack Radar. Jack once worked with Lightman who was his mentor. It turned out badly, so we have to conclude that Lightman did not recognize early enough that Jack was untrustworthy. I have made the same mistake. It happens when your hopes for a possible co-worker blind you to spotting the warning signs that everyone else sees. Distractions It is a clever idea -- staging a distraction that might cause an innocent person to complain about the [...]

Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 2 – Truth or Consequences

Experts' Findings Lightman tells his ex-wife that whatever he finds out he will disclose both to her, the defense attorney, and the prosecution. That is not the way it usually works. Typically experts can only tell what they find out to those who hired them. If it isn’t useful or might help the opposing side the other side never find out, and neither does the jury. Baseline Knowledge of how someone usually acts when being truthful -- the baseline -- is critical to spotting a lie. We each have our own behavioral style, our own mannerisms. If, for example, someone always talks hesitantly, then hesitant speech is his or her baseline. If such a person were to be hesitant when asked about a crime it doesn’t mean anything. But if it were [...]

Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 1 – The Core of it

Lie Motives Dr. Lightman tells the bookstore audience he can spot a lie but isn’t able to know what motivated the lie. I have described eight different motives for lying. The most common one is to avoid being punished for breaking a rule, law, etc. The second most frequent motive for lying is to get something more easily or not otherwise obtainable without lying. Sign of Contempt Right after Zoe says to Cal “it will take time” she shows a beautiful contempt expression, tightening one lip corner. It’s brief but slower than a micro. John Gottman’s research on marriage found that contempt is a serious indicator of trouble ahead: Zoe and Cal are divorced. Multiple Personalities Loker heralds what is going to come next by crediting handwriting as a [...]

Lie to Me Season 1 Episode 13 – Sacrifice

I am sorry this commentary on the final program in this year’s season is so late. I was in Europe vacationing when it was shot, unable to see it until I returned. Quite apart from being a very entertaining program, setting the stage for how the increasingly complicated relationships among the actors will unfold in the next season, there were two points briefly made that I believe are very, very important. Lightman disagreed with Deputy Messler, the woman who was interrogating the suspect Hamza Ali. She was certain that Ali’s fearful facial expression proved he is a terrorist, "he’s scared because he’s been caught." Lightman told her that Ali could be scared because "you’ve thrown him in a cell and threatened to render him." In Paul Ekman's book Telling Lies (1985/2009) I [...]

Lie to Me Season 1 Episode 12 – Blinded

Liar or Sociopath? Foster calls Jenkins a pathological liar; and so does Lightman later in the program. I think the portrayal of Jenkins better fits a sociopath: anti-social, manipulative and exploitive of others for his own entertainment, and charmingly socially skilled. Sociopaths only lie when it suits their purposes, they are not compelled to lie. Just such a compulsion reputedly is what characterizes pathological liars, who are said to lie even when the target knows they are lying, even when they don't benefit from the lie. I have examined a few people who claimed to be pathological liars but I was not convinced they had no choice. I doubt there really are such people. Baseline Jenkins cleverly lies about everything to prevent the establishment of a baseline -- a standard of what [...]

Lie to Me Season 1 Episode 11 – Undercover

Baseline Lightman says he needs to establish a baseline to know what these guys look like when they are not stressed. The term baseline refers to a person’s usual behavior during ordinary circumstances. Changes from that baseline suggest that something important is occurring: it might be the stress of being under suspicion or emotional reactions to telling a lie. Without a baseline we run the risk of misinterpreting unusual behaviors, for we don’t know if the person always acts in that unusual way. It is risky to judge truthfulness without a baseline; hence my practice of never making an important decision based on a single, brief meeting. Teeth Clench Antoine is clenching his teeth, which is a nervous habit in some people, but when it is not (which you would know if [...]

Lie To Me Season 1 Episode 10 – Better Half

Generating Signs of Fear Lightman tells the boy he will be eaten up by a wolf to increase the boy’s fear of being caught if he was indeed lying. It didn’t generate any signs of fear or lying -- so it did work. But many laymen and professionals would judge that Lightman went too far. My evaluation is that he is on the edge of acceptable practice, which is where Lightman usually likes to be. Contempt Garcia, the TV host, angrily says, “You’re damn right I feel contempt.” Very often one emotion calls forth another emotion. Lightman’s question “Why did you feel contempt” activated Garcia’s anger that Ambrose didn’t show gratitude for the loan, but thought he was being squeezed to return the money. And then Ambrose’s son’s claim that he saw [...]

Lie to Me Season 1 Episode 7 – The Best Policy

Guilty Knowledge Lightman is using the guilty knowledge technique, mentioning something that only the guilty not an innocent person will know about and watching for who shows a reaction. This technique is sometimes used in polygraph exams: ‘was the person strangled, shot, stabbed, bludgeoned to death?’ Only the killer knows and is likely to show a physiological reaction when the actual weapon is mentioned. Often the newspapers reveal so much about a crime that this technique can’t be used because everyone knows everything the police know. Natural Performers Lightman acknowledges that he can be fooled. When we measured every behavior we could see or hear there were still a few people we could not classify as either liars or truth tellers – they are what I call natural performers. They don’t lie [...]

Lie to Me Season 1 Episode 6 – Do No Harm

A Sign When the therapist grasps the chair arm Lightman interprets it as sign that she agrees that Samantha was abused. It could also be an attempt not to lose control of herself, or what she is willing to reveal. Using Reactions Lightman talks angrily on the phone to his daughter so Foster can check how Samantha’s parents react: Their sympathy, then horror is not what you would expect from abusive parents. Lightman used this same trick in earlier programs – seeing how people react to something he does just to see how they react. Without words the listener’s facial expressions provide useful information. Much later in the program Lightman finds out where the other girl is hidden even though Samantha won’t tell him. Her nonverbal reactions to his twenty questions game [...]

Lie to Me Season 1 Episode 4 – Love Always

Warnings What Lightman shows is what I first saw in news footage of Hinckley’s face ten seconds before he shot former President Reagan. We consider it a warning, not a certainty that someone who shows this expression will soon attack. We have no way to find out how many times that expression is shown and no attack occurs (perhaps because a police officer pays noticeable attention to the potential attacker.) We also cannot know how often attacks occur not preceded by this expression. My research in five countries, two of them non-Western, strongly suggests that this expression is at least sometimes shown prior to a physical assault. We currently train security and law enforcement to be alert to it. We are continuing research to discover any other dangerous expressions. Hot Spots Lightman [...]

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