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Thursday, March 25, 2010

3 Lie Detectors

I'm normally not a fan of network television programming. Because it's made for the masses, and the masses seem ever more predisposed to consuming mind-numbing, pandering, and senselessly over-glamorized fare, I'm often left feeling dumber after watching it, so I choose not to. Sometimes, however, an intelligent and well-written show sneaks through, and though they sometimes survive (e.g. LOST), many times, the vast quantities of minimum-wage stares they generate amongst the aforementioned proletariat leaves them not long for this earth, and they end up canceled, in lieu of yet another iteration of Survivor. This will likely be the case with Lie to Me. A FOX show based on the life and work of Dr. Paul Ekman, a real life human lie-detector, with a life so fascinating that fans of the show often don't believe me when I tell them it's all real.

I've read Dr. Ekman's books, and I'm a huge fan of him, the show, and Tim Roth. It's intelligent, interesting, well-written, and intellectually entertaining - which is why I expect it's only got a season left before we get to see another extension of Prison Break or reincarnation of Melrose Place. But it's gotten me thinking about other sure fire ways to tell if someone is lying - even if you haven't conducted decades of facial expression study, or even the wherewithal to read about it. So here they are: three lie detectors that anyone can use:

1. Get Smart. If anyone ever declares to you how smart they are, you know two things about them instantaneously: (a) they're lying - and will probably continue to do so, especially regarding their personal description; and (b) they're not smart. Here's the thing about smart people, they never tell you how smart they are. They don't have to. Because, you'll either figure it out, or it likely doesn't matter to them whether you think so or not. People who know they're stupid, on the other hand, have a vested interest in not letting this information get out. It's not the smartest thing to openly declare how smart one is, as a preemptive strike for whatever mindless nonsense will come stumbling out of their mouth subsequently - but remember these are dumb people we're talking about. What did you expect?

2. The Sixth Sense. If you ask someone what they're looking for in a significant other, and one of the first things about of their mouths is "a sense of humor" - as above, you already know two things about them: (a) they're lying - and probably wouldn't know a good sense of humor if it walked up to them in clown shoes and slapped them; and (b) they're shallow bastards. Do you know any stand-up comics? I don't mean your friends that do the open mic from time to time, I mean the real thing. Well I do, and they are, nearly without exception, profoundly lonely people. The ones who achieve a celebrity level of success and financial stability can be found in relationships, but so can anyone who achieves a celebrity level of success and financial stability, funny or not. The reality is that "a sense of humor" has become the politically correct way of declaring that you're not simply looking for someone to satisfy your hedonism, but someone with some substance. Unfortunately, if you can't find any other way to say this, it's a fairly reliable indicator that you don't mean it.

3. The Goods. If someone is asked to describe someone and the first thing they come up with is "he/she is a really good guy/girl" - just like the two "detectors" before this, you already know two things: (a) the person you're asking doesn't know the person they're describing very well, and (b) that person probably isn't "good" at all. Somewhere amidst the myriad fables, fairy tales and behavioral axioms that we were bombarded with as children, we learned that if we don't have much to say about someone that we know, we default to saying something nice. As adults, this becomes "he's a really good guy." This is offered up as an alternative to a single memorable attribute or anecdote that we might be able to come up with - or even worse - as an alternative to how much of an untrustworthy ass they know them to be. The latter usually comes up as a matter of gender solidarity, but not exclusively. It's the descriptive version of "what's up" as a greeting. We don't really care to hear what's up, it's just how we say hello without sound like we just wandered out of the 1950's. No matter which way you slice it, this is an unmitigated lie and usually a reliable red flag.

* * *

According to Dr. Ekman, "Every person tells 3 lies every ten minutes." It's staggering when you think about it, really. We lie to ourselves, we lie to each other, we lie ubiquitously. We lie to be selfish and we lie to be unselfish. No matter what you believe, to whom or how your pray, or where you are from - none of us are truthful creatures, and the stigma attached to untruths in the abstract is undeserved. Looking for salvation in truth or lies is just as foolish as searching for it amongst rocks and rivers. The best thing you can really do is listen, and regardless of the veracity, factualness or rectitude of what's being said, you will learn something. And if you can tell the difference between what's real and what's not, you'll learn a whole lot more.


Denise said...

and to think -- you used #3 to describe a girl to me just this week! ("she's just a really nice girl...")

Nick said...

I personally find all of them to be true .. Like Glenn, I tend to be acutely aware of the 3 to 10 ratio. I do find myself using the "He's a good guy" line myself a lot, lol! but then i don't like most people anyway!

Jen and Tonic said...

I also don't like it when people say, "Just trust me on this one." Why do you need to ASK me to trust you? Much like #1, I either do or don't feel a way about something.

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