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“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.

source

Written by LW

April 11, 2021 at 1:01 am

Crime Blotter, Air Travel Edition…

Lynsie Murley, a 24-year-old Amarillo woman (pictured above, via Facebook), sued the TSA for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress in connection with a May, 2008 incident at the Corpus Christi airport.  As Smoking Gun reports:

Murley charged in her lawsuit that she was “singled out for extended search procedures,” and that a TSA agent frisked her and “pulled Plaintiff’s blouse completely down, exposing Plaintiff’s breasts to everyone in the area.”

TSA employees, Murley added, “joked and laughed about the incident for an extended period of time.” After leaving the security line to be “consoled by an acquaintance who had brought her to the airport,” Murley returned to the line, where a male TSA worker said that he had wished he was there when she first passed through. The employee, Murley recalled, added that “he would just have to watch the video.” The incident left Murley “extremely embarrassed and humiliated,” according to her complaint.

The government settled the suit.

In a resonant but still unresolved case, SG also reports on the case of Iurii Chumak…

The 53-year-old was arrested last month after allegedly groping a flight attendant while onboard a British Airways flight traveling from London to New York…  According to the FBI, Chumak placed his hand up the flight attendant’s skirt and “grabbed her genital area” when she bent over to pour coffee for another passenger. Although the incident was witnessed by a second flight attendant, who immediately placed him in restraints, Chumak maintained that he had simply been “drinking on the airplane, fell asleep, and woke up in restraints.”

Since his bust, Chumak has been locked up at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. He was named last week in a misdemeanor criminal information charging him in connection with the in-flight April 28 incident (the filing of an information–in lieu of a grand jury presentment by federal prosecutors–often indicates that a defendant is negotiating a guilty plea).

 

As we reconsider our travel plans, we might console ourselves that it was on this date in 1886 that President Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom in a White House ceremony.

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Hands up!…

For the Holiday travellers among our readers, a tribute– from Frank Sinatra himself– to the friendly folks at the TSA…

via Laughing Squid.

As we rethink the balance between “safety” and freedom, we might recall that it was on this date in 1976 that apneist Jacques Mayol, later Luc Besson’s inspiration for the film The Big Blue, became the first man to swim to a depth of 100 meters undersea without breathing equipment.

Mayol, headed down (source)

All that glitters…

In the age of Photoshop and Auto-Tune, it’s no real surprise to find that icons don’t actually look nor sound as they do in the media for which they are adored (see, e.g., here and here).  Still, as this Britney Spears feed reminds us, the reality can be jarring…

Your correspondent has done his best to confirm the legitimacy of the loop.  While there’s (understandably) been no confirmation from Ms. Spears’ camp, it’s included here, as he can find no meaningful refutation…  rather, mostly just comments expressing no surprise whatsoever that things are not as they are meant to seem.  The “T-Pain effect,” as it’s come to be known, is now so widespread (again, see– and listen– here) that it seems to be taken for granted.  Indeed, readers can download a T-Pain iPhone app that will do a similar job for them… all of which must be a frustrating state of affairs for performers like Billy Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones, who actually do their own singing, unaided and beautifully.

In any case, it’s a (painful) reminder that too often these days, what glitters isn’t even nearly gold…  indeed, too often it’s tin.

As we reach for the earplugs, we might recall that it was on this date in 2002 (in anticipation of the first anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon) that the TSA “Threat Level” was raised to Orange.  It bounced between Orange (high) and Yellow (elevated) from then until mid-August, 2006, when it returned to Orange– where it remains to this day.

source: Wikimedia

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Written by LW

September 10, 2009 at 12:01 am

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