We're Only Human: The Burden of Lying; September / October 2011; Scientific American Mind; by Wray Herbert; 2 Page(s)
One of my guilty pleasures is the long-running TV show NCIS, a drama focused on the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The hero is a former marine, now Special Agent Jethro Gibbs, a disciplined detective with an uncanny ability to observe and question criminal suspects. Gibbs doesn’t say much or display a lot of emotion in the interrogation room—indeed, his cool demeanor is his trademark—yet he is a keen lie spotter.
Psychological scientists are fascinated by real-life versions of the fictional Gibbs. Detecting lies and liars is essential to effective policing and prosecution of criminals, but it is maddeningly difficult. Most of us can correctly spot barely more than half of all lies and truths through listening and observation—meaning we are wrong almost as often as we are right. And half a century of research has done little to polish this unimpressive track record.