Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Telling Lies by Paul Ekman

book cover

Telling Lies
by Paul Ekman

ISBN-13: 978-0-393-32188-3
Trade Paperback: 386 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton
Released: 1985, 1992, 2001

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover:
From breaking the law to breaking a promise, how do people lie and how can they be caught? In this revised edition, Paul Ekman, a renowned expert in emotions research and nonverbal communication, has now updated his groundbreaking inquiry into lying and methods for uncovering lies. From the deception strategies of international public figures, such as Adolf Hitler and Richard Nixon, to the deceitful behavior of private individuals, including adulterers and petty criminals, Ekman shows that a successful liar most often depends on a willfully innocent dupe. His study describes how lies vary in form and can differ from other types of misinformation, as well as how a person's body language, voice, and facial expressions can give away a lie but still escape the detection of professional lie hunters—judges, police officers, drug enforcement agents, Secret Service agents, and others.

Telling Lies is a non-fiction book on how to tell if a person is lying. It also described how to better hide it if you're lying. A lot of the information was intuitively obvious, like someone who's caught off guard will be less able to hide a lie than one who's had time to rehearse a lie or has repeatedly told it. Also, he pointed out that many of the clues he gave to look for could also be done by those who aren't lying. So, unless the person confesses that they're lying, there's no sure way to know if they're lying even if you spot several of the lying clues. The content was easy to understand and not written in a highly technical way. There were some line drawings and black and white photographs to help illustrate his points about body language.

The book defined what lying includes and covered how the author got into studying lying, how lying is concealed, how clues to lying can leak through the liar's efforts to conceal the lie, why lies fail, how to spot lies by word choice, voice pitch, pauses in speech, and body language. He also gave details on the facial actions that point to lying, precautions to keep in mind when using this information to identify lying, information about polygraphs, using lie checking, and lies that have been told in public life (mainly in politics) that demonstrate his points. There were several charts in the appendix that summarized the lying clues.

I wasn't expecting a definitive way to spot lying, but I was disappointed that the information looked more useful to helping lairs lie better than helping people spot lies in everyday situations with any confidence.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter Four
People would lie less if they thought there was any such certain sign of lying, but there isn't. There is no sign of deceit itself--no gesture, facial expression, or muscle twitch that in and of itself means that a person is lying. There are only clues that the person is poorly prepared and clues of emotions that don't fit the person's line. These are what provide leakage or deception clues. The lie catcher must learn how emotion is registered in speech, voice, body, and face, what traces may be left despite a liar's attempts to conceal feelings, and what gives away false emotional portrayals. Spotting deceit also requires understanding how these behaviors may reveal that a liar is making up his line as he goes along.

No comments: