Deception Detection

In the December issue of Money magazine there’s an interesting article on detecting deception, not in relationships as many in communication study it but in terms of dealing with real estate brokers or employers—a kind of interesting take. The article, by Etelka Lehoczky, offers four suggestions for catching a liar: (1) do not trust your instincts—a combination of skepticism and humility about your instincts works best; (2) deter lies—make yourself a harder target to be lied to; questioning what you’re told and arming yourself with information will often deter attempts at lying; (3) detect lies—watch the nonverbals, though here you’re on shaky ground since truth tellers when confronted with difficult questions often respond in the same way as liars (e.g., revising statements, looking puzzled, glancing upward to think); and (4) focus on the truth—amid unrelated questions keep returning to the original issue and see if the person responds with the same words and in the same way; if so, the person may be lying. The nonverbals—such as touching your face, shrugging your shoulders, steepling, and sitting still—are often good starting points for asking yourself if the person is lying but research has not been able to substantiate the reliability of these cues. In fact, at the recent NCA convention I attended a panel on deception detection in relationships and Tim Levine, from Michigan State, the respondent, noted—correctly as I read the literature—that nonverbal cues are often misleading and that the more reliable cues will be found from a linguistic analysis of the statements. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to hear Judee Burgoon who also addressed this topic in her Carroll C. Arnold distinguished lecture on “Truth, Deception, and Virtual Worlds.” But, that speech I understand will be sent to NCA members, courtesy of Allyn & Bacon. It will be well worth reading, I’m sure.

NCA Convention

The 2005 convention is over and was o.k. Too many of the papers, I thought, were in the nature of thinking out loud instead of well-reasoned, well-thought out, and well-researched studies. And for the most part I thought the presenters failed to address the really important issues facing the discipline, education, the nation, and the world. There were exceptions, of course, and those were a pleasure to hear.


Public Speaking with PowerPoint

Just in case you haven’t seen Time magazine (11/14/05, p. 96) there are some interesting notes on public speaking. For example, according to Microsoft, PowerPoint is used in an estimated 30 million presentations throughout the world every day—not that many when you consider that PowerPoint has over 400 million users. No statistics on how many of these users are in our public speaking classes. Among the new developments: a digital remote with a laser pointer built in, Ovation software that enables you to create a scrolling teleprompter onscreen, and Keynote 2, an inexpensive alternative to PowerPoint from Apple. Among the public speaking suggestions offered in this brief piece: begin with a bang (avoid apologizing, thanking people, or explaining how you picked the topic), keep your slides simple (limit bullets to 6 words), use multimedia (pictures, video, and music), and tell a story with colorful anecdotes.


Where is NCA?

Regardless of your political affiliations or leanings, shouldn’t we all be surprised (shocked, disturbed, annoyed, angered—take your pick) at NCA’s silence on the issues of communication ethics and free speech facing the nation today? The failure of the White House to level with the people over the leaking of the name of the covert CIA operative, the prisons of torture, and the “evidence” for “weapons of mass destruction” that led to a war that killed over 2000 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis (with the number rising every day)—to name just a few—surely seem like communication issues. This is not to say that NCA should become a partisan political organization, but shouldn’t we expect the National Communication Association to have something to say about the need for open, free, and truthful communication (and the current lack of such communication) with particular reference to these issues that newspapers, news magazines, and even Jay Leno address daily? Where is NCA?


Relationship Website from Australia

This is a great website with lots of stuff on relationships and on relationship conflict management. It's definitely worth a look.
Australian Relationship Support



The recent article by William Safire in the New York Times (magazine section, 11/6/05) on “homolexicology” adds nothing really new to the discussion of cultural identifiers in our texts except for some interesting historical notes. For example, the word “gay” originally meant “lighthearted” and was a slang term in British English for “a loose woman” in 1825. The term was then used to refer to a “homosexual boy” in 1935.
Later, of course, it was generalized to include all those who had an affectional orientation to same-sex others. [As I write this I notice that Microsoft Word underlines “affectional,” indicating that it’s not in its dictionary.] Although technically the term “gay” can be used to refer to both homosexual men and homosexual women, gay women are increasingly preferring the term “lesbian” since “gay” has become so identified with homosexual men and implies in some way that women are a subset of men. It’s similar in some ways to our elimination of such terms as “poetess” and “actress” which imply that the unmarked “poet” and “actor” are male. The word “queer” can be used to refer to both homosexual men and women but, because of its still negative connotation, it’s almost universally resented when used by “outsiders,” much like other “negatively” nuanced cultural identifiers. This is just a specific instance of the general rule that the linguistic privilege to use terms that may have negative connotations—whether referring to nationalities, races, or affectional orientations—is limited to insiders (i.e., members of the group in question). Safire correctly notes (as I do in the texts) that the term “homosexual” is generally inappropriate when referring to a gay man or lesbian largely because of its almost exclusive emphasis on sexuality and also because it does not include the social and cultural dimensions of same-sex orientation which “lesbian” and “gay” do.
Relevant to this little lexicology post are the titles of the two volumes written by NCA members of the GLBT division and caucus. The first, published in 1981, was called Gayspeak: Gay Male and Lesbian Communication (Pilgrim Press) and the second, published in 1994, was called Queer Words, Queer Images: Communication and the Construction of Homosexuality (NYU Press). GLBT or LGBT, btw, stands for “gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender” or “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender” and seems to be gaining acceptance as the most inclusive designation, though not without political ramifications.
And, just to make matters a bit more confusing, the NCA caucus is named the “Caucus on Gay and Lesbian Concerns” but the NCA Division is called the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Communication Studies Division.


The curriculum vita

It's been customary to include an academic vita on these websites and blogs and I've resisted for some time--not knowing exactly what should and what should not be included. But, I hit upon some compromise that I thought might work--include the writings and some other basic information and leave out the rest I originally thought it could be posted with a button on the side but that didn't work and so it's a regular and overly long post. I never kept a record of convention papers, book reviews, and instructor's manuals so these are fortunately absent from this list. I've also included just a bit of story behind some of the texts. Of course there's a story behind every book--and every article--but I spare you this history and included only a few notes on the current titles.