All humans lie. I do believe that. Can you tell when someone is lying? What do you do when you are lied to? Do liars have different brain structure? Why do we choose to deceive ourselves? The Radiolab broadcast entitled “Deception” addresses each of these questions. The broadcast consists of three sections: Catching Liars, People Who Lie, and Lying to Others. Each section explores deception through interviews with various professionals. In each section, many psychological perspectives can be detected. Although I found each section intriguing, it is the last section that really brought up thought-provoking questions in the area of psychology and human behavior for me.
I have always thought that I am pretty good at determining if someone is lying. However, listening to this portion of the broadcast made me question this. Paul Ekman claims that the human face presents expressions unconsciously that reflect whether the truth is being told. Ekman studied this for many years, and finally concluded that it will never be possible to determine whether an individual is actually lying. Our facial expressions, and even our tone of voice, may change when we are alleged to be lying, but this may simply reflect a change in our emotions. And, a change in emotions does not always mean someone is lying. This would leave some doubt as to the validity of lie detector tests. The psychodynamic perspective of psychology would take interest in this theory as our unconscious mind is likely what causes the change in emotion. The cognitive perspective also can be seen in this theory as well. Barry McManus and Steve Silberman claim that we have very slight changes in our facial expressions when we lie. They call it truth leakage. This occurs unconsciously, and likely a process that involves our brain and emotions. This concept is interesting, and believable. Both the psychoanalytical and the cognitive perspectives on psychology can be seen in this discussion. In the last interview under Catching Liars, Ellen Home tells a story about a woman that deceived many people. Those who were deceived by her have been left with a sense of mistrust in others. The behaviorist theory is reflected in this concept. Due to the experiences these people had with the deceiver, they mistrust. Their experience changed their future behavior.
People Who Lie
Psychologist Yaling Yang studies brain of liars, and discusses her results in this section of the broadcast. Her study revealed that people who lie more often have 25% more white matter in their brains. Yang’s research revealed that those who lie more have more white matter, which are the connections within the brain. With more connections, a person has the ability to process information faster and easier. This gives them the ability to come up with a story, or lie, quickly. This theory would be interesting to the those who study the biological perspective of psychology as it supports the idea that there is something genetic or natural about the behavior of lying.
Lying to Ourselves
I found this section the most interesting of the three in this broadcast. The topic was self-deception. An experiment by Harold Sackeim and Ruben Gur resulted in the idea that we actually always have two different beliefs at the same time, and we choose which one to go with when the time comes to make a decision. What researchers discovered was that the person who chooses the lie, rather than the truth, does better in all sorts of areas of lying. They concluded that some self-deception is not bad. In fact, they allege that those who choose to deceive themselves live happier lives; while those who do not lie to themselves are more depressed. Basically, realistic people are more depressed. They see the reality of the pain in the world. So, hiding ideas we know to be true (deceiving ourselves) may be necessary to get by in this world.
This concept really struck me. I can see it being true and how the world operates. I am a very realistic person. I do not color-coat things, and I have the tendency to stick to the facts. And as a result, I would say I am probably more depressed than the average person. Not so much depressed really, but not super excited about the reality of most situations. The behaviorist perspective can be seen in this concept as it alleges that we choose whether to lie or not. Also, there may be a bit of the psychodynamic perspective because this behavior could actually be unconscious and something we learned as children. Additionally, the humanist perspective would take interest in this concept as it indicates our behavior, that of lying, is connected to our inner feelings and self-image. By choosing to deceive ourselves, we create our own happiness.
We all lie. Sometimes others can tell, and sometimes they cannot. But, why do we lie? This is the question I am left with after listening to this segment. The broadcast did not directly address this question. They allude to the idea that we lie because our brain makes it easier to lie. They also allude to the idea that we lie because it makes us happier in life. I think both of these concepts are believable, but I also think there is more to it. My mind has a tendency to think about lying from the psychodynamic perspective, as well as the behaviorist perspective. We lie because we have learned from our experiences that in certain situations, we think it is the better choice. And, we lie in some situations unconsciously and for reasons we learned in childhood.