Excerpt from Telling Lies
A failure to think ahead, plan fully, and rehearse the false line is only one of the reasons why mistakes that furnish clues to deceit are made when lying. Mistakes are also made because of difficulty in concealing or falsely portraying emotion. Not every lie involves emotions, but those that do cause special problems for the liar. An attempt to hide a feeling or conceal an emotion at the moment it is felt could be betrayed in words, but except for a slip of the tongue, it usually isn’t. Unless there is a wish to confess what is felt, the liar doesn’t have to put into words the feelings being concealed. One has less choice in concealing a facial expression or rapid breathing or a tightening in the voice.
When emotions are aroused, changes occur automatically without choice or deliberation. These changes begin in a split second…People do not actively select when they will feel an emotion. Instead, they usually experience emotions more passively as happening to them, and, in the case of “negative” emotions such as fear or anger, it may happen to them despite themselves. Not only is there little choice about when an emotion is felt, but people often don’t feel they have much choice about whether or not the expressive signs of the emotion are manifest to others. It may not even be possible to control one’s actions if the emotion felt is very strong. A strong emotion explains, even if it does not always excuse, improper action.
Attempts to Conceal Emotions
When an emotion begins gradually rather than suddenly the changes in behavior are small and are relatively easy to conceal if one is aware of what one is feeling. Most people are not. When an emotion begins gradually and remains slight, it may be more noticeable to others than to one’s self, not registering in awareness unless it becomes more intense. Once an emotion is strong, however, it is much harder to control. Concealing the changes in face, body, and voice requires a struggle. Even when the concealment is successful and there is no leakage of the feelings, sometimes the struggle itself will be noticeable as a deception clue.
While concealing an emotion is not easy, neither is falsifying the appearance of an unfelt emotion, even when there is no other emotion that must be concealed. It requires more than just saying “I am angry” or “I am afraid.” The deceiver must look and sound as if he is angry or afraid his claim is to be believed. It is not easy to assemble the right movements, the particular changes in voice, that are required for falsifying emotions. There are certain movements of the face face, for example, that very few people can perform voluntarily. These difficult-to-perform movements are vital to successful falsification of distress, fear, and anger.
Falsifying becomes much harder just when it is needed most, to help conceal another emotion. Trying to look angry is not easy, but if fear is felt when the person tries to look angry the person will be torn. One set of impulses arising out of the fear pulls one way, while the deliberate attempt to seem angry pulls the other way. The brows, for example, are involuntarily pulled upward in fear. But to falsify anger the person must pull them down. Often the signs of this internal struggle between the felt and the false emotion betray the deceit.
Feelings about Lying
Not all deceits involve concealing or falsifying emotions. Yet even when the lie is about something other than emotion, emotions may become involved. For example, the vain middle-aged man who conceals his age might be embarrassed about his vanity. To succeed in his deceit he must conceal not only his age but his embarrassment as well. The plagiarist might feel contempt toward those he misleads. He would thus not only have to conceal the source of his work and to pretend ability that is not his, he would also have to conceal his contempt. The embezzler might feel surprise when someone else is accused of her crime. She would have to conceal her surprise or at least the reason for it.
Thus emotions often become involved in lies that were not undertaken for the purpose of concealing emotions. Once involved, the emotions must be concealed if the lie is not to be betrayed. Any emotion may be the culprit, but three emotions are most often intertwined with deceit: fear of being caught, guilt about lying, and delight in having duped someone.
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