I Kid You Not

By David Ryback, Ph.D.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of best-selling Blink, describes this ability to see the true emotions despite attempts at lying.  We do it so automatically and unconsciously, we feel as if we’re reading others’ minds. Actually, writes Gladwell, “there is enough accessible information in a face to make everyday mind reading possible.  When someone tells us ‘I love you,’ we look immediately and directly at him or her because by looking at the face, we can know—or, at least we can know a great deal more—about whether the sentiment is genuine.”

So our attempts at lying are often in vain. You might think you’re fooling others but, guess what, they can see the true emotions being expressed involuntarily quite often.  Psychologists Mark Frank and Paul Ekman were able to isolate 46 facial movements and code them into more than 10,000 microexpressions in what they call the Facial Action Coding System.  This system has proven to detect lying with 76% accuracy.  Brain scientists have even figured out what parts of the brain become activated when people lie—the anterior front cingulate, the right orbital/interior frontal, and the right middle frontal cortex, in case you were wondering.  Those who are trained to interpret these microexpressions by the Transportation Security Administration are known as behavioral detection officers (BDOs).  Companies such as No Lie MRI of San Diego and Cephos of Pepperell, Massachusetts are looking to use brain-scan technology for airport and other security challenges.   Lying, especially where such technology exists, becomes more and more of a challenge.


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