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Posts Tagged ‘lying

“Ask no questions and you’ll hear no lies”*…

Police thought that 17-year-old Marty Tankleff seemed too calm after finding his mother stabbed to death and his father mortally bludgeoned in the family’s sprawling Long Island home. Authorities didn’t believe his claims of innocence, and he spent 17 years in prison for the murders.

Yet in another case, detectives thought that 16-year-old Jeffrey Deskovic seemed too distraught and too eager to help detectives after his high school classmate was found strangled. He, too, was judged to be lying and served nearly 16 years for the crime.

One man was not upset enough. The other was too upset. How can such opposite feelings both be telltale clues of hidden guilt?

They’re not, says psychologist Maria Hartwig, a deception researcher at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. The men, both later exonerated, were victims of a pervasive misconception: that you can spot a liar by the way they act. Across cultures, people believe that behaviors such as averted gaze, fidgeting and stuttering betray deceivers.

In fact, researchers have found little evidence to support this belief despite decades of searching. “One of the problems we face as scholars of lying is that everybody thinks they know how lying works,” says Hartwig, who coauthored a study of nonverbal cues to lying in the Annual Review of Psychology. Such overconfidence has led to serious miscarriages of justice, as Tankleff and Deskovic know all too well. “The mistakes of lie detection are costly to society and people victimized by misjudgments,” says Hartwig. “The stakes are really high.”

Science-based reforms have yet to make significant inroads among police and other security officials. The US Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration, for example, still uses nonverbal deception clues to screen airport passengers for questioning. The agency’s secretive behavioral screening checklist instructs agents to look for supposed liars’ tells such as averted gaze — considered a sign of respect in some cultures — and prolonged stare, rapid blinking, complaining, whistling, exaggerated yawning, covering the mouth while speaking and excessive fidgeting or personal grooming. All have been thoroughly debunked by researchers.

With agents relying on such vague, contradictory grounds for suspicion, it’s perhaps not surprising that passengers lodged 2,251 formal complaints between 2015 and 2018 claiming that they’d been profiled based on nationality, race, ethnicity or other reasons. Congressional scrutiny of TSA airport screening methods goes back to 2013, when the US Government Accountability Office — an arm of Congress that audits, evaluates and advises on government programs — reviewed the scientific evidence for behavioral detection and found it lacking, recommending that the TSA limit funding and curtail its use. In response, the TSA eliminated the use of stand-alone behavior detection officers and reduced the checklist from 94 to 36 indicators, but retained many scientifically unsupported elements like heavy sweating…

In a statement to Knowable, TSA media relations manager R. Carter Langston said that “TSA believes behavioral detection provides a critical and effective layer of security within the nation’s transportation system.” The TSA points to two separate behavioral detection successes in the last 11 years that prevented three passengers from boarding airplanes with explosive or incendiary devices.

But, says [Samantha Mann], without knowing how many would-be terrorists slipped through security undetected, the success of such a program cannot be measured. And, in fact, in 2015 the acting head of the TSA was reassigned after Homeland Security undercover agents in an internal investigation successfully smuggled fake explosive devices and real weapons through airport security 95 percent of the time…

You can’t spot a liar just by looking — but psychologists are zeroing in on methods that might actually work: “The truth about lying,” from @knowablemag.

[Image at the top: source]

* James Joyce, Ulysses (barmaid Miss Douce, in “Sirens,” 11.219)

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As we deliberate with Diogenes, we might recall that this date in 1954 was, according to the True Knowledge Answer Engine, the most boring day since 1900. The site analyzed more than 300 million historical facts and discovered that April 11, 1954 was the most uneventful news day of the 20th century. No typically newsworthy events occurred at all… though of course now the day has become a bit more newsworthy, because it has the distinction of being so completely uneventful.

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Written by LW

April 11, 2021 at 1:01 am

“There are three types of lies — lies, damn lies, and statistics”*…

 

Charts

“Hiding in Plain Sight”

 

A chart’s purpose is usually to help you properly interpret data. But sometimes, it does just the opposite. In the right (or wrong) hands, bar graphs and pie charts can become powerful agents of deception, tricking you into inferring trends that don’t exist, mistaking less for more, and missing alarming facts. The best measure of a chart’s honesty is the amount of time it takes to interpret it, says Massachusetts Institute of Technology perceptual scientist Ruth Rosenholtz: “A bad chart requires more cognitive processes and more reasoning about what you’ve seen.”…

Five examples (like the one above) of the kinds of tricks that charts can try to pull, explained: “Five Ways to Lie with Charts.”

* Benjamin Disraeli

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As we stack the deck, we might recall that it was on this date in 2010, at 2:32p EDT, that the U.S. stock markets suffered a “Flash Crash”– in a period of just 36 minutes, the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, and Nasdaq Composite collapsed and rebounded (the Dow, e.g., lost 9% of its value, then recovered most of it).

Nearly five years later, the SEC charged a 36-year-old small-time trader who worked from his parents’ modest stucco house in suburban west London with having caused the collapse (using spoofing and layering, along with a form of front-running– all now explicitly outlawed).  But many experts are not convinced; to this day, there are numerous theories– but no consensus– as to the cause(s) of the crash.

Flashcrash-2010

The DJIA on May 6, 2010 (11:00 AM – 4:00 PM EDT)

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Written by LW

May 6, 2019 at 1:01 am

“What’s old is new again”*…

 

Toward the end of the 1800s, an insane asylum physician in Zurich discovered a surprising tendency among his patients. One, an Austrian maid, had spent years wandering the countryside, claiming to be royalty. A second, an hysterical epileptic, habitually convinced strangers that she was their distant relative. A third, a chronic masturbator, posed as Catholic (he was in fact Protestant), and compulsively pilfered items which he then discarded unused. In 1891, Anton Delbrück summarized his discovery in Die pathologische Lüge, christening the condition pseudologia phantastica, or, as we now say in English, pathological lying. And with that came the emergence of a public health issue requiring large-scale study, and somewhat improbably, widespread concern about an epidemic of dishonesty and even fake news…

As Mark Twain said, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme”– the tale of the late 19th century “pathological” lying and fake news that plagued the nation: “Shameless Liars.”

See also: “The Great ‘Fake News’ Scare of 1530.”

* proverbial gloss on Ecclesiastes 1:9

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As we deliberate with Diogenes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1764 that English radical, journalist, and politician John Wilkes was declared an outlaw and expelled from the British House of Lords.  Wilkes and Thomas Potter had written a pornographic poem dedicated to the courtesan Fanny Murray entitled “An Essay on Woman,” a parody of Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Man.”  Wilkes’s political enemies– foremost among them our old friend John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich—  obtained the parody. Sandwich had a personal vendetta against Wilkes that stemmed in large part from embarrassment caused by a prank of Wilkes involving the Earl at one of the Hellfire Club‘s meetings; he was delighted at the chance for revenge. Sandwich read the poem to the House of Lords, which declared the poem obscene and blasphemous. The Lords moved to expel Wilkes.  He fled to Paris to avoid a hearing, but was tried and found guilty, in absentia, of obscene and seditious libel.

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Written by LW

January 19, 2017 at 1:01 am

“All Cretans are liars”*…

 

A recent psychological study suggests that, while fibbing is a pretty universal phenomenon, a small proportion of the population are responsible for the vast majority of lies told in the U.S. and the U.K.  The British Psychological Society reports on the results– and the epistemological issues they raise…

Epimenides, a Cretan

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As we ask after Diogenes, we might send procedural birthday greetings to Erle Stanley Gardner; he was born on this date in 1889.  An attorney, Gardner applied his legal skill to writing detective fiction; working under his own name and a set of pseudonyms (A.A. Fair, Kyle Corning, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J. Kenny, Les Tillray, and Robert Parr– and to a self-imposed quota of 1,200,000 words per year– he is best known for his Perry Mason series, which went on to become first a radio, then a television series.  His books have sold over 200 million copies in 30 languages.

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Written by LW

July 17, 2014 at 1:01 am

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