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Calibration, Sensory Acuity and Lie Detection

07 Jan 15
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It’s really hard to tell whether someone is lying to you.

You might know someone that has a characteristic ‘tell’ – a mannerism that lets you know that they are lying. Or you’ve heard about changes in the amount of eye contact that people make when they lie. Or you’ve been really studying hard to pick the different emotions through microexpressions (a la Lie to Me/ Paul Ekman). Or you’ve learned about how the direction someone looks can indicate how someone is thinking as Bandler and Grinder noticed back in the 1970s. Or you figure, “just give them a polygraph” (which is better than most people but still far from perfect). Maybe you’ve tried Liespotting or learning about What Every BODY is Saying, but let’s face it: in real time, it’s still really really hard!

One question that seemed to be taken for granted: Do people actually move differently when they lie?

Our friends at Cambridge were wondering the same thing. And so they figured they would test it out. Using full body motion capture suits!

Researchers used those fancy (and expensive) suits – like they use in the movies for special effects – to take away codifying inherently subjective interpretations from human observers (upon which other methods rely) and trade it in for objective, conclusive evidence of how people behave when lying. The findings were pretty clear: The sum of joint displacements indicates lying 75% of the time. Better still, this related to guilt and was independent of anxiety, cognitive load or cultural background, so the researchers guess they can get it up to 82% with some extra refinements.

It’s great to have this validate the calibration drills and exercises in our NLP Practitioner training!

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