This week: This is how it really happenedEdited by: Arakun the Twisted Raccoon
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Quote for the week: "Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom."
How do you know if someone is lying to you? Some people are terrible liars, while others can make up the most outlandish stories in the world and still be believed. The latter type are likely to be good writers!
If you know someone very well, you may recognize their "tells" which show you that they are lying. Maybe your daughter twists her hair when she is telling you a fib, while your son is more likely to bite his lip or turn red.
There are some generalized cues that many people use to determine whether someone is telling them the truth. For example, in the US and many European cultures, it is generally believed that if someone does not look you in the eye while talking to you, they are lying. In some other cultures, children are taught to look down when speaking to an adult as a sign of respect. Imagine what might happen if a child is from a culture that taught him to look down when talking to an adult, but his teacher is from a culture that associates lack of eye contact with lying.
Many people who are on the autism spectrum may become very anxious or confused when forced to make eye contact. Imagine what might happen if a person with autism is accused of a crime and testifies in front of a jury or judge that associates eye contact with truthfulness.
It is especially important that police officers, judges, and juries are able to recognize the truth. If they do not believe an innocent person who is telling the truth, he may go to prison for a crime he did not commit. Likewise, they might also allow a killer to go free if they believe his lies.
Even if investigators believe a witness or suspect's account of events, they seldom take it at face value without corroborating evidence. Statements from other witnesses, credit card receipts, security video, and forensic evidence are all taken into consideration when determining a suspect's innocence or guilt. If a defense attorney believes that a suspect's testimony will not be believed, he or she may advise the suspect not to testify.
A polygraph, or lie detector is a device that measures physiological responses such as pulse rate, blood pressure, skin conductivity (sweating), and respiration while a witness is giving a statement. Interpretation of polygraph tests is based on the assumption that a person will become anxious when lying or about to lie. Changes in the measured physiological responses are thought to indicate the anxiety and/or guilt associated with telling a lie. For example, an anxious liar may exhibit increased heart rate and blood pressure, breathe faster, and start sweating.
Polygraph examiners will establish a baseline by asking several questions where the truth is known and the subject has no reason to lie, such as his age, address, occupation, or marital status. Then they will ask additional questions with known answers and instruct the subject to lie, so they can see any difference in reaction. After the baseline is established, they will proceed to questions involving the case.
Many experts do not believe that the results of a polygraph test are accurate enough to be used as evidence. They argue that people do not all have the same reactions to lying or telling the truth. For example, a sociopath may have no qualms about lying and will not exhibit the physiological responses expected. Also, an innocent person may become anxious just because he is afraid he will not be believed. For this reason, polygraph tests are inadmissible in court in many areas. If you want to use a polygraph test of a character as part of the plot in your story, do research to determine if it would be accepted in the place where your story is set.
Something to try: Write a mystery story with a character who is an extremely good liar.
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