Face to Face with the Target
Lightman is correct. It is generally believed that people find it harder to lie when they confront the person who is the target of their lie. That is why with very rare exceptions when a defendant testifies it must be in front of the victim. I don’t know of any research that has actually tested this idea. Maybe it is so obvious that no one wants to bother. But then it seems obvious that the world is flat.
CAVEAT: How the Lightman Group spots lies is largely based on findings from my research. Because it is a drama not a documentary, Dr. Lightman is not as tentative about interpreting behavior as I am. Lies are uncovered more quickly and with more certainty than it happens in reality. But most of what you see is based on scientific evidence. Each show also provocatively raises the complex psychological and ethical issues involved in perpetrating and uncovering lies. In this critique I explain more about the science behind what you have been seeing and when the show takes poetic license.
Betrayal of Trust
Trust is a matter of faith — that the person who is trusted won’t exploit that trust. Intimacy in close working relationships, romance, and friendships requires, depends, on trust. Yet it is well known that the last person to realize he or she is being sexually betrayed is the person betrayed, whose trust blocked out recognition of any the signs of betrayal that everyone else picked up.
We don’t want to learn that our trust has been betrayed: that the person you hired is embezzling, or that your children are stealing money from your wallet or purse. It is terrible to discover that trust has been betrayed, and most of us avoid any clues pointing to that discovery.
Once trust has been betrayed can it ever be restored? Not all the time. Even when the betrayal is forgiven, when the betrayed person doesn’t want to give up the relationship, it may be hard to completely trust again. That is the price of lying about serious matters – the loss of trust, which may never be restored. Suspicion, the opposite of trust, undermines relationships that matter, and make the suspicious person miserable.
All of us face a choice about trust: do we take the risk of being misled by trusting, based on faith, or do we take the risk of not only disbelieving a truthful person, but never being able to establish close connections because of our suspicious distrust?
Yes Means No
Foster points out that she is nodding yes when she is saying no, a gestural equivalent of a slip of the tongue. I discovered gestural slips in my very first study of nonverbal behavior during graduate school. The one shown in the program – nodding yes when saying no – I have seen in serious crimes. The person usually has no idea that his or her action has exposed the lie.