Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception

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If you serve a tennis ball wide, your error is obvious; practicing your serve improves your odds of getting the ball in next time. But with deception, you may not receive a hint that you've been lied to.

Proven Techniques to Detect Deception

Without that feedback loop, how can you adjust your behavior to improve your "performance"? How will you ever learn the distinguishing features of the lies you missed? You'd think we'd have gotten wise a few thousand years ago, considering how much evidence exists that some people are simply not to be trusted.

Deception and treachery have always been an integral part of the human experience. History's earliest records, and the narratives upon which religions and civilizations have been built, reveal an endless stream of lies told to gain food, sex, and power. Am I my brother's keeper?

From the Trojan horse to Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon's secret and illegal orders to invade Cambodia; from Lancelot and Guinevere's adultery to Bill "I did not have sex with that woman" Clinton; from the lip-synched hits that sank Milli Vanilli to the tale concocted by Chinese officials about which little girl had actually sung the national anthem at the Beijing Olympics; from Charles Ponzi to Bernard Madoff, it's easy to find examples of lies both legendary and historic. Lies have changed the course of human history on a grand scale, and of human lives on a smaller one.

Yet the truth bias continues. Without it, our civilization could not survive. Try to conceive of a society in which everyone viewed everyone else with suspicion. How could any normal human transactions and activities take place? Commerce would fail before it began; explorations and discoveries would founder; even normal parent-child relationships would be tangled by mistrust All right: we have to trust to survive.

Paradoxically, we have to lie to survive as well. Deception bestows a marked advantage on those who can get away with it. To make things more complicated, so does adept deception detection. Again, let's take a look at our early ancestors to see why both are true. Imagine a tribe during a time of famine. When food was plentiful, sharing it made sense.

Confident that they had a steady supply, tribe members could afford to be generous to others for the sake of tribal well-being. But when food became scarce, food hoarders were likely to have a better chance of survival Conversely, other members of the tribe had a survival advantage if they could discern the hoarders' lies and track down the food for themselves.

And so an evolutionary arms race begins.

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The better we get at detecting lies, the better the liars' stories become. The more sophisticated the stories, the more advanced and refined the techniques required to detect them. We can spot this evolutionary progress almost hourly simply by opening our e-mail. Even as we arm ourselves against the latest junk mail and online scams by installing firewalls and filters, spammers jump a step ahead with ever-newer tricks and manipulations.

Though there are countless examples of cheating, lying, and betrayal in every human institution — marriage, religion, politics — it's the business world that provides an excellent environment for examining the constantly morphing nature of lies and deceit. As businesses expand globally at exponential rates, it has become ever more urgent for us to rethink how we decide whom to trust, for the stakes are extraordinarily high. In the United States, institutionalized trust allows money and information to change hands quickly.

We take such trust for granted. If we pay our loan balance, the bank will give us credit. If we buy FDA-approved food, it is safe to eat.

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If we hire a reputable and talented accountant, he will accurately manage our company's finances to the best of his ability. It is only when the bonds of trust are broken that we realize how much we depend on them to keep the gears of business — and wealth — running smoothly. Though Kerviel's activities didn't quite destroy SocGen, they destroyed five times more value than Nick Leeson's rogue trades twelve years earlier — which had caused the collapse of his employer, Barings Bank. In extreme cases, business lies aren't just expensive: they can kill. In , Chinese authorities discovered that in order to boost the protein levels in milk products, twenty-two of the country's dairy producers had knowingly used milk adulterated with the toxic chemical melamine.

Four years earlier, a similar milk scandal killed thirteen babies, and in , melamine-tainted pet food made in China killed dogs and cats in the United States.

We Are All Liars

Seven of the companies had been given permission to run internal quality checks rather than be subjected to inspection from outside regulators. China's efforts to portray itself as a trustworthy business empire took a devastating hit as six Chinese babies died of the poison, and hundreds of thousands more became ill. Companies affected included Starbucks, which was forced to recall milk from three hundred of its outlets in China.

From rogue traders, to CEOs who withhold vitally important information from shareholders, to presidents who perjure themselves to conceal sexual indiscretion, to companies knowingly marketing and selling faulty products, our society pays an enormous price for businesses and leaders that traffic in lies. Are we really living in a more dishonest era? Are people fundamentally less trustworthy now than they were a century ago?

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Human nature doesn't change much over time. The art — if it is an art — of lying appears to be hardwired into the human brain.

In fact, people who cannot lie or spot lies are at a social disadvantage; there's even some evidence that this inability to deceive or spot deception indicates atypical brain development. Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, explains that children with autism do not always realize that people may say things they don't mean. This tells us something very important: that the skills you need to survive and negotiate the social world involve mind-reading and meta-representation — and that the capacity to deceive is a marker that a child is actually developing typical social skills.

Lies therefore appear to be an essential, if sometimes unwelcome, component of human interaction. And as noted earlier, not just human interaction! Examples of how animals lie abound in scientific literature:. When the second raven came over to investigate, Hugin rushed back to the real places the treats were cached. We could probably install computer chips in our brains to zap us every time we told a lie, and there would still be a certain number of Bernie Madoffs in the world figuring out a way around them.


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So why is the problem of lying more urgent now? Because deception has hit epidemic levels. Because the number of media now available to aid in the fabrication and dissemination of lies is growing virtually unchecked and shows no signs of stopping soon. Because the science of deception detection has evolved and can now inform our training. Because the echo of outrage we used to hear when someone cried "Liar! The most interesting highlights from the research survey are included in the book, while additional new findings are regularly featured on her blog.

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Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices. Martin's Griffin. Martin's Griffin St. About the author. More info. From the Publisher St. Now there's something we can do about it. Pamela Meyer's Liespotting links three disciplines--facial recognition training, interrogation training, and a comprehensive survey of research in the field--into a specialized body of information developed specifically to help business leaders detect deception and get the information they need to successfully conduct their most important interactions and transactions.

Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception by Pamela Meyer

Some of the nation's leading business executives have learned to use these methods to root out lies in high stakes situations. Liespotting for the first time brings years of knowledge--previously found only in the intelligence community, police training academies, and universities--into the corporate boardroom, the manager's meeting, the job interview, the legal proceeding, and the deal negotiation. Learn communication secrets previously known only to a handful of scientists, interrogators and intelligence specialists.

Liespotting reveals what's hiding in plain sight in every business meeting, job interview and negotiation:. Some really interesting information presented from a business perspective. Illustrating the ideas and focusing less on the business side would have made this more engaging.

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