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Lies are only skin deep?

Friday, May 09, 2008 - 02:00 PM

Over the course of human history, the methods used to determine if someone is telling the truth have ranged from horrific to downright silly. The legend of La Bocca della Verita holds that if someone fibs with their hand in the mouth, it gets bitten off.

More recent research looks at brain activity during deception. We also interviewed Britton Chance about the possibility of remote lie detection using infrared examination of brain activity. New research directs our attention to the skin, where sweat gland activity may be detected from a distance. The helical structure of a sweat gland allows it to behave like an antenna for electromagnetic frequencies in the range of 100 GHz.

Skeptics note that this is just another way to detect stress, not lies. Even the researchers say the most appropriate application of the technology is to monitor medical patients or athletes.


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Comments [4]

Brook Hubbeling

To thine own self, be true. I have often believed that people who lie to themselves may lead a skin deep happiness due to their own selfishness. Does it make a person's life easier to accept without questioning or to never take a stand on their convictions? Probably. But happiness is not the end goal of a satisfying life, is it?

May. 12 2008 11:24 AM

I'd add that it I find it a sad commentary on our society, though no surprise at all, that those who lie to themselves are happier. I also believe the scientists' solution -- helping people get better at self-deception -- is exactly the wrong solution and would lead to disaster if practiced on a large scale. If the truth is depressing, there are undoubtedly good reasons. That being the case, experts/leaders/psychologists/etc. should be encouraging people to take concrete actions to try to improve society -- not teaching people to deceive themselves.

May. 09 2008 11:02 PM
Michael Russell

Commenter Maria, above, seems to be better than most at lying to herself. I'm the opposite, I'm often depressed and disappointed by the state of this world, and I agree with this shows report that people with this 'skill' of self-deception are happier and more successful.

Because they can easily ignore negative results or information, this makes them better competitors. And because they refuse to give up on their goals, even if the outcome looks bleak, they act to take advantage of opportunities that more realistic people might not even realize exist.

However, the idea that these 'self-deceivers' are truly happy worries me. It seems to me that if they were actually happy they wouldn't need to lie to themselves?

Perhaps I'm ignoring something, but if self-imposed ignorance is truly bliss then all of us sould be capable of such insincere serenity.

I think I prefer honest failure and sincere suffering to false hope or psycho-euphoria, but there seems to be something to this theory. Call it the psychology of positive thinking, or competitive edge, the lie that one is better than others, that you are elite, superior, could explain the evolutionary necessity of prejudice, bigotry, racism, sexism, etc.

This could explain our 'human nature' and show us why saints are usually burned at the stake.

May. 09 2008 02:34 PM
Maria Coronel

I though your presentation on "Lies are only skin deep?" was thorough and entertaining! I have a different perspective on the results of lying to oneself which might lead to more happiness. I am a very realistic person and allow myself to accept my mistakes, and always seek for the truth of what I really feel and what I am experiencing. I am also mostly a positive person and seek to enjoy my life. Do you know if I could participate in a study, or a session to see what results I would produce?

May. 09 2008 02:08 PM

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