Body Language of Deception
Deception is a necessity when living with humans in society. It's behavior that covers reality.
Here are examples of deception.
- Parents tell their children there is a Santa Claus that brings them presents.
- People tell others they "look great" when they really look terrible.
- "It's so nice to see you!" The person is really thinking, "I don't have time for this today."
- "We'll be there at the wedding." They know they have no intention of coming.
- "I tried really hard, but I couldn't do it." They never even started.
- "You were great in the concert." They were off key the entire time.
- "I love your art." They hate it.
- "The food is wonderful." It's terrible.
Log Your Lies
Take a day or two and observe what you communicate and keep a log for just ONE hour where you have a conversation with others. Note what you said that wasn't absolutely true right next to what you really thought or felt.
You'll be disturbed to discover that you deceive for one reason or another about 12 times per hour.
Of those 12 times per hour, a sharp mind who has objective coding of your behavior can calibrate to about 2/3 of those
There is a problem.
They will also identify a significant number of false positives. That's where the person you are communicating is basically shouting with their body, "I'm lying to you right now!"
Except they are not.
Therefore, realize that as you become more skilled in detecting deception you also find more false positives.
Humans, in general, are experts at deception in low to medium-risk scenarios. Humans can estimate when someone is lying with some degree of accuracy. Let's say "half the time." (Defining this is in itself the subject of an article.)
However, most humans aren't very good at deceiving OR recognizing deception, when the stakes are high. The fact is most people aren't in situations where deception occurs with a great deal on the line.
This simply means that because the sample size of your experience with high stakes lying is relatively small compared to your sample size of people lying to you about "little stuff" ...you aren't going to be as tuned into detecting deception in high stakes.
You aren't alone.
All of the examples I listed above are "low stakes deception." These are deceptions that generally don't have huge ramifications if you are found out to be deceiving.
And these are the kinds of experiences where you and I almost intuitively "know" when someone is being straight with us or not.
Then things get more difficult as the stakes rise.
If someone is accused of a crime, their behavior becomes VERY DIFFICULT to read.
Police read the behavior of those accused of a crime with LESS SUCCESS than non-law enforcement officers for the simple reason that police are looking for information to fill a story line they have generated. They need evidence to fit.
The scientist, the thinker, the objective observer is only interested in what reality is.
It's VERY DIFFICULT for people to separate their need to FILL A STORY when they MUST be discovering reality.
Imagine a guy received a text on his cell phone from girlfriend #2 and girlfriend #1 sees that text. Now this is a relatively high stakes deception activity that is about to occur.
It's not because he is guilty or innocent, it's because of what is at stake if he is perceived as lying vs. telling the truth.
Perhaps a bigger stake is the guy who got picked up by the cops for robbing the store. This guy faces jail if he is perceived as guilty. The police officer does not have a significant stake in the situation.
Whether the individual is innocent or guilty doesn't matter. Both innocent and guilty must deceive, and the reason law enforcement is so poor at detecting deception is because they only see people in specific contexts where deception is quite predictable.
The problem is innocent people and guilty people tend to act remarkably similarly in "official settings" like a police department or in court. You want to see deceptive behavior? Try being vetted for a jury sometime and observe all the deception that happens there!
Context matters more than innocence or guilt.
Most body language "experts" don't know you are learning here, so they pretty much tell the media what the media wants to hear. "She did it."
The fact is that when I look at cues, I filter out cues that will be the same from those who are deceiving whether they did something bad or not. Then you look at those cues which are most likely to help you out in analyzing the situation.
Factors of Body Language Analysis
The manifestation of low stakes deception in someone's body
language, in general, is very different than someone's body language
in a high stakes situation.
- The context is the most important factor in body language and
nonverbal communication. Context is location, environment, crowding,
group or other expectations.
- Lying is not cut and dried. You can lie and tell the truth in
the same sentence. A lie is rarely 100% a lie. And the truth is
rarely 100% the truth. In other words, rarely is lying, "light switch
on" or "light switch off."
- Behavior in the context of deception can run the gamut from
"low stakes," where nothing significant happens by having a lie revealed,
to "high stakes," where the earth will quake and hell will pay
when the lie (or a perception of a lie) is made public.
With all of the above in mind...
Deception Cues ...
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