Thursday, March 31, 2005

How Can You Tell If Someone Is Lying?

by Martha Brockenbrough

Of all the stupid things people can do, lying is right up there with chain saw juggling, potato chip collecting, and nude riverdancing in public places.
Just watch the news any evening, and most of the people featured doing the perp walk to the county courthouse found themselves there because they lied about something. Still, people lie all the time.
A Cornell University professor recently finished a study that counted how frequently 30 of his students lied--about 26 percent of the time, the group learned.
Interestingly enough, the participants lied most often on the phone--37 percent of the time. They lied face to face 27 percent of the time, 21 percent of the time on instant messenger, and 14 percent of the time in e-mail messages.
The moral here: It's easiest to lie when someone isn't looking at us, and isn't going to have a potentially permanent piece of evidence proving our deception.

(The other moral: If you're the parent of a college student, talk with your kids over e-mail, or you might end up sending more "emergency book money" than necessary.)
I'm not in the camp of people who think all lies are bad. Sometimes, when someone asks us, "Do these pants make my butt look big?" it's better to say, "No, not to me," than it is to say the truth, which may well be, "Yes. Absolutely enormous. What were you thinking?"
Since we can't make anyone tell us the truth--and don't always really want to hear it anyway--the next best thing is to be able to determine when someone is lying (and when we should change into something more slimming).

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