The truth about lies and deception…….honest.

I have read the terms and conditions. Surely the single greatest lie ever told, certainly in terms of the volume of us who have ticked that box knowing that really we haven’t.  However, deception breeds deception and with now defunct computer game shop Gamestation taking advantage of the aforementioned ‘fib’ by fiendishly incorporating into the smallprint of their online terms and conditions- that they owned the very soul of anyone whom blindly ticked the box -‘the immortal soul clause’ as it was called.  Over 7.500 people were caught out on April 1st 2010- they were refunded their soul in an email.

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However lying, deception, untruthful, false, dishonest, mendacious, perfidious, duplicitous, dissimulating, dissembling and double Janus-facedness is a normal human behaviour, not just human, animals deceive too. Koko the Gorilla had been taught sign language and ruthlessly blamed the ripping out of a sink from a wall on her pet kitten (Koko signed on the return of her keepers…..”The cat did it!”).  If we are to take an evolutionary view it is a survival mechanism, a simple smile to someone you despise or you feel threatened by is a useful tactic to hide any weaknesses that may be exploited by them and hide, deceive them of your true feelings. However false smiles can be detected if you know where to look – the muscles that generate a warm and honest smile are different to those that are created  when creating a false smile. It’s all in the eyes…you see.

Those lying eyes

real-eyesThe eyes truly are the window to the soul. However don’t be fooled by so called Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques  (a good example of pseudoscience) that if someone is looking up when telling you something then they are lying there is little evidence to support this but is something that your hear still being pedled around every now and then.

And there lies the crux of the matter…are there any reliable physical cues to deceptiouniversal-facial-expressionsn?  Maybe a more fundamental question is are there any universal responses of facial expression or body language? (The eyebrow flash for recognition of someone  is thought to be pretty universal as an involuntary response.)   Certainly classic research by Ekman into facial expression has suggested that there are a handful of truly universal expressions. However deceivingly there is a long tradition of supposed cues to deception or ‘tells’ as gamblers would say little unconscious signs of anxiety, uncertainty due to knowingly attempting to convince someone of something you know not to be true. Going red, not being able to look someone in the eye, looking at someone for too long in the eye, rubbing the back of the neck, rubbing the ear lobes, scratching the nose, excessive blinking (note that psychopaths reportedly blink less and maybe that is why they are better at deceiving people) are all ways many think they can spot a liar – but where does the truth lie?

Bad Lie detectors

Many of these are signs of anxiety not necessarily deception, blinkinghowever Polygraphs (aka lie detectors)  have been used for many years in criminal investigations in the United States (and on the Jeremy Kyle show) and provided as evidence, however it measures variations in physiological arousal (not lying) and therefore fundamentally flawed, the American Psychological Association concluded:

The development of currently used “lie detection” technologies has been based on ideas about physiological functioning but has, for the most part, been independent of systematic psychological research. Early theorists believed that deception required effort and, thus, could be assessed by monitoring physiological changes. But such propositions have not been proven and basic research remains limited on the nature of deceptiveness. Efforts to develop actual tests have always outpaced theory-based basic research. Without a better theoretical understanding of the mechanisms by which deception functions, however, development of a lie detection technology seems highly problematic.

For now, although the idea of a lie detector may be comforting, the most practical advice is to remain skeptical about any conclusion wrung from a polygraph.                                          Cited; http://www.apa.org/research/action/polygraph.aspx

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F.B.I training focusses upon a range of techniques for detection .

Good lie detectors

Where humans on average can detect lies at marginally above chance level – 54% but surely professionals such as Police officers are better?  When Samantha Mann conducted research into a new area of lie detection and found some interesting results, there seemed to be a greater emphasis on story cues rather than the historic notion  body language cues of the more experienced and stronger lie detectors used in the research.  Detecting true lies; Police officers abilities to detect true lies.  Mann and Vrij’s research supports the view that often the focus on lie detection is in behavioural cues rather than the more accurate experienced police officers who also rely on story cues as a method of detection.

There have been a number of publications integrating a range of approaches to lie  detection.

Here is an overview of  an alternative piece of research conducted by Mann and Vrij investigating high stake liars.

Professor David Canter and colleague  may be  about to turn the whole area on its head with current research taking place at the Centre for Investigative Psychology on revisiting the use of polygraph techniques in the UK. 

The BBC recently compiled a practical overview of lie detection – View it here. 

The fun of deception

However, the detection of lies can be fun……………..in a light entertainment kind of way.  The story cues on the clip below may seem so far fetched that it must be a lie…it must be………..mustn’t it?

Bedlam opens its historical doors……

‘A Church of Our Lady that is named Bedlam. And in that place be found many men that be fallen out of their wit. And full honestly they be kept in that place; and some be restored onto their wit and health again. And some be abiding therein for ever, for they be fallen so much out of themselves that it is incurable unto man’

William Gregory, Lord Mayor of London, c. 1450

The year is 1247, not much is happening in Britain Henry III is on the throne, Romford becomes a market town, a new silver long cross coin is introduced into the currency and then on October 23rd the Prifun-and-entertainment-in-18th-century-london-7-728ory of the New Order of St Mary of Bethlem opens.  in 1377 the Priory becomes a hospital but it wasn’t until around 1403 that confirmation that it was being used as a place for the housing of ‘lunatics‘ after an investigation by the Royal Commission following a scandal including the Porter.

From this moment on the institutions role would be one inextricably linked with the asylum of those suffering with disorders.  Far from a place of treatment ‘Bedlam‘. often was used as a place to visit, rather like a zoo.  Treatment tended to be based upon blood letting and similar unpleasantness based upon the historic view of Galen’s’ humours’.

Here is a new museum has been set up to commemorate this historic institution. Including art created by some of the inhabited the place.  ‘Work is on display by sebedlam-001veral renowned artists who spent years in Bethlem, including Richard Dadd – noted for his minutely detailed fairy paintings – who was locked up after he murdered his father. Jonathan Martin, brother of John Martin who was famous for his huge biblical scenes, only took up art when committed to Bethlem for his partly successful attempt to burn down York Minster and became a celebrity in the hospital, selling his work to visitors. His output is represented by a drawing of himself sitting in a wood full of lions, which according to his own inscription represents his dream “ of my foot cut off by the command of the princess and the king”. cited from the Guardian

The museum is free to visit and is situated here.

Following is the time team special that focuses on ‘Bedlam’, and in particular the graveyard used by the institution.

Here is a list of reasons for entry into one of The U.S historically significant institutions Trans-Allegheny (it was closed in 1994) which should give you an idea of how far the treatment and perception of dysfunctional behaviour, thankfully has come.

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Psychologists in focus; Kevin Dutton

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Dutton takes the view that we often miss what should be the obvious anomaly sidelined by the charm – But is it all smoke and fingers?

Kevin Dutton is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford.  He is specialises in the study of Psychopaths, but rather than the traditional forensic route Dutton takes interest how the ‘symptoms’ of psychopathy can have an advantage in a modern world that is fraught with stressors.  The psychopath often described as  having a selection of specific traits such as cunning and manipulativeness, lack of remorse or guilt, callousness and lack of empathy, charm, grandiose estimation of self, need for stimulation and pathological lying.  Not the best characteristics to put on a C.V.  It is included in the DSM under the classification of Antisocial Personality Disorder.   However in his book The Wisdom of Psychopaths Dutton discusses how these traits are rewarded in society particularly as resistance to stress where others feel the pressure, psychopaths are able to thrive. Self doubt and fear can impair decision making, the psychopath is arguably resistant to this – but would you want one as your boss?  Dutton is clear that this is far from the glorification of violent psychopaths (stating only a small minority of psychopaths are violent) rather acknowledging that the ‘spectrum of psychopathy‘ which all people can be measured and the right characteristics in the right circumstances can be a force for good – hence his term ‘the good psychopath‘.

Here is a quote from Dutton’s book the Wisdom of  Psychopaths, from James Geraghty cited as one of the UK’s leading neurosurgeons.

I have no compassion for those whom I operate on. That is a luxury I simply cannot afford. In the theatre I am reborn: as a cold, heartless machine, totally at one with scalpel, drill and saw. When you’re cutting loose and cheating death high above the snowline of the brain, feelings aren’t fit for purpose. Emotion is entropy, and seriously bad for business. I’ve hunted it down to extinction over the years.”

Do we need people like this in such high stakes roles where emotion maybe a hindrance rather than a help?  Or is compassion an essential characteristic that allows a surgeon to consider the long term impact of their work?

In fact jobs that Psychopaths are believed to flourish in are;

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Kevin Dutton

1. CEO
2. Lawyer
3. Media (Television/Radio)
4. Salesperson
5. Surgeon
6. Journalist
7. Police officer
8. Clergy person
9. Chef
10. Civil servant

here’s the list of occupations with the lowest rates of psychopathy:

1. Carer
2. Nurse
3. Therapist
4. Craftsperson
5. Beautician/Stylist
6. Charity worker
7. Teacher
8. Creative artist
9. Doctor
10. Accountant

At what age can psychopathy develop?  A recent study in the journal of abnormal child psychology argues that reliable cues of psychopathy can be observed as young as the age of 3 and in some cases younger.

 “We essentially found that preschoolers that show impaired development of conscience are deficient in how they process emotions, similar to what we find in older adolescent and adult populations with the same problems. These children are poorer at recognising other people’s emotional expressions, and images depicting others in distress don’t capture their attention like it does for typically developing children as young as age three,” Dr Kimonis

Read an article reviewing the ideas here from the Independent.  

Could you spot a Psychopath?  Take the test here.

An online study with over 2 1/2 million British participants found the following results relating to psychopathic tendencies.

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Dutton discusses how Psychopaths process ethical dilemmas differently.

Follow Kevin Dutton on twitter

The rise of the anti-psychiatry movement; Szasz, Laing and Rosenhan- ‘The Normal Are Not Detectably Sane’.

“Who in the rainbow can draw the line where the violet tint ends and the orange tint begins? Distinctly we see the difference of the colours, but where exactly does the one first blendingly enter into the other? So with sanity and insanity.”

Herman Melville – Author (Billy Budd, Moby Dick)

The 1960’s and 1970’s were a huge time for social and political change.  One such change that was at the very core of the Psychological community was the role of psychiatry.  Psychiatry  attempts to diagnose and treat mental health conditions but at the very heart there is still a raging argument today about what can be considered normal and thus define abnormality in particular the dangers that can arise from the medicalisation of normal experience.  Is psychiatry there to help or has it now or historically had a more sinister agenda, to control people through stigmatisation?

If you talk to God, you are praying;
If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.

–Thomas S. Szasz, The Second Sin, Anchor/Doubleday, Garden City, NY. 1973, p. 113.

Thomas Szasz is central to what is known as the anti-psychiatry movement which took the view that Psychiatry was a form of dangerous social control. Watch the video below to hear him briefly discussing his views on  psychiatry.

As part of the British Anti-Psychiatry movement R.D. Laing  shared the concerns of Szasz, taking the view from a more existentialist perspective providing case studies of schizophrenia rather than traditional  ‘flawed’  notions such as psychoanalysis or behaviourist perspectives in his famous text ‘The divided self’  in 1960.  Watch the video of Laing below.

David Rosenhan was present and inspired by Laing at one of his lectures.  Could there be experimental evidence to support the view that psychiatrists were unable to distinguish ‘Sane from insane’?  Thus leading to one of the most important studies of all time.  Read the original study by Rosenhan here.

Watch the video below for an overview of the study.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 published by the APA is arguably the most influential text in mental health.  It is used almost exclusively within the USA (most of the rest of the world use the ICD 10 published by the World Health Organisation and the Chinese have the Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders CCMD -3).  Review this document that discusses the history and provides an overview for all classification systems used. 

Did Psychiatry heed the warnings of Rosenhan?  Read and listen to the links from Tea Break Psychology 2

 

read an overview of the study with a critique/evaluation of Rosenhan’s conclusions. here.

The 1975 film ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest‘ dealt with many of the themes that Rosenhan and the anti-psychiatry movement were interested, it was very much a film of its time. Provocative, insightful and very well observed it still stands as one of the best films of the 20th century.

Here is a statement from the APA regarding the DSM 5

What was the process that led to the new manual?

The APA prepared for the revision of DSM for nearly a decade, with an unprecedented process of research evaluation that included a series of white papers and 13 scientific conferences supported by the National Institutes of Health. This preparation brought together almost 400 international scientists and produced a series of monographs and peer-reviewed journal articles.

The DSM-5 Task Force and Work Groups, made up of more than 160 world-renowned clinicians and researchers, reviewed scientific literature and garnered input from a breadth of advisors as the basis for proposing draft criteria.

The APA Board of Trustees, which approved the final criteria for DSM-5 on Dec. 1, appointed a Scientific Review Committee of mental health experts to review and provide guidance on the strength of evidence of proposed changes. The Scientific Review Committee evaluated the strength of the evidence based on a specific template of validators. In addition, a Clinical and Public Health Committee reviewed proposed revisions to address difficulties experienced with the clinical utility, consistency and public health impact of DSM-IV criteria.

Read an article here on the current DSM 5 F.A.Q from the APA

And finally….a more individualised view on the difficulties and dangers of labelling people based upon subjective criteria…