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.

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