Have you caught the television show, “Lie to Me”? It is a newer show based on the work of psychologist Paul Ekman who has researched the ways we involuntarily respond (movements, facial expressions, eyes, etc.) when lying. If you are bored, try watching your friends and family as you ask them penetrating questions. Last night I was up watching TV because I couldn’t sleep. A couple of actors were involved in a infomercial about an enhancement product. I couldn’t help but laugh when the host (a woman) kept saying “this is great” and other praiseworthy statements while looking down and away and shaking her head. She looked about as comfortable as someone having to undress in public.
But, can you really tell if someone is lying? Ekman has compiled an interesting history of research but the data suggest to me that we aren’t all that good in detecting lies. In fact, we’re probably no better than chance. I read a Washington Post article that talked about how some people become quite good at detecting deception in particular situations (e.g., police with thieves) but that these same people don’t seem to be as good at doing that in other parts of their lives.
1. We make these decisions based on our gut as well as our observations. And our gut is about as accurate as coin flips. We consider particular data and reject other data, but not in a thoughtful, conscious way.
2. We don’t always want the truth (this has been brought by other reviewers of this show). We can’t handle the whole truth. If we tried, we’d never trust anyone. We would become paranoid.
3. Deception is a practiced activity, and frankly, we’re pretty good at it. Some are better than others. The best get away with it for a long time.
You might wonder if we can spot lying with other technologies and as you know some things can be detected. Lie detectors do detect autonomic responses. Unfortunately, they can’t tell why you had that response. Some computer programs can detect some unique features often found in text written by those lying (has to do with the amount of positive and negatives used).
One more thing about deception. It is my belief that many people want to tell a portion of the truth. And that is what comes out–the portion they want to believe and they want you to believe. They want to confess–just not the truth as it really is. A good interviewer can draw out these “confessions” and then expose the mis-information to reveal the lie.
Be sure your lies will find you out? Well, we know that is true in light of eternity. And maybe we will find us exposed in this life as well.
Am reading CS Lewis’ The Silver Chairagain (my least favorite of the Narnia chronicles). If you’ve not read it, it tells the story of the King Caspian’s son, Prince Rilian, and his escape from the underworld by the help of two British children and a Marshwiggle. Prince Rilian has been captured by a witch who keeps him insane and believing that he was rescued by her and that she will put him on a throne soon in the overworld. He stays sane except for an hour when he is bound to a silver chair at which point he comes to and know who he is and that the evil witch murdered his mother.
The children and the marshwiggle help him escape the chair while he is sane. He turns on the chair with a sword and shreds it to pieces. At that moment, he has all the clarity of sane thinking and sees reality as it really is. But moments later, the witch returns and begins to cloud his mind with a soothing music, voice and something thrown on the fire. Within minutes they begin to doubt the truth and believe that what is bad is good and what is good is only a fantasy. They disbelieve Aslan, the sun. The Overworld is fantasy and the underworld is the true world.
Now, this story is not about addiction but it reminded me how quickly we can move from seeing the abomination of an addictive habit to beginning to believe it might not be so bad. The addict “repents” from the consequences of their action only to fall right back because the siren song has their number.
Do you notice this in your life about irritability, rage, jealousy, substances, food, internet sex? It doesn’t have to be a traditional addiction, just something that we find ourselves telling (to ourselves) those sweet little lies.
[Note: those looking for my blog summary of Integrative Psychotherapy, ch. 6 will need to come back tomorrow. Running behind :(]
How much do we really benefit from instruction? Yes, instruction increases our knowledge base. That is certainly true. But do we benefit–does our behavior really change from it? Do we learn and does it show? Allow me the freedom of hyperbole here…
This question about instruction was raised in my Sunday School class on Isaiah by our teacher John Timlin. Consider the following examples:
1. The first Fall (instruction was given and rejected) happens. God remakes creation through the flood. What happens next? Noah’s son mucks it up.
2. Israel is warned against falling away from God by Moses as they enter the promised land. He not only tells them what to avoid but that they will likely do it anyway. What happens? Israel turns away from God to pride and idolatry.
3. The Prophets warn both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms that unless they turn from their idols, God will punish them via Assyria. First the Northern Kingdom falls. Does Judah learn from this? No. Read the passage of Ezekial 23 adn the two sisters for a graphic image of this not learning from instruction.
Fast forward to today. Does information about the risks of drug use, unprotected sex help? Some, I’m sure. But not as much as we’d like to think…
So, what does God do? he blinds the people (Isaiah 6:9ff; parables in the Gospels) so that we are left without any doubt that our salvation comes only from him. In Isaiah 6 at the end, there is only a stump left. We the vine are a mere stump. And out of that stump, the root of Jesse grows and we are grafted back in as branches.
Yes, we learn from instruction, but not enough to save ourselves. Thanks be to God for his rescue plan!
Okay, what I’m about to say isn’t completely true, but hyperbole aside, I think my point is still valid…
Who is most dangerous? The one who believes him or herself to be powerless but want just a little power to be seen, known, heard, etc. When we feel powerless we do not believe our reactions to others to be anything but a trifle. So, we do not see our impact on others. And so we excuse our rantings as nothing more than a cry to be heard.