[From “The History of an American Obsession: The Lie Detectors” by Ken Alder.]
“Despite this warning, the search for Momus’s window has continued down the centuries. The Greeks developed a science of physiognomy to assess people’s character from their facial features and gestures. On the assumption that anxious deceivers generated less saliva, uspected liars in ancient China were asked to chew a bowl of rice and spit it out. Judges in India scanned for curling toes. One pious Victorian physician suggested that God had endowed human beings with the capacity to blush so as to make their deceptions apparent. Today, you can pick up the basics of body language for a few bucks on almost any library resale
table – ‘Who’s Lying to You and Who’s Lusting for You!’ – along with guides for potting tricksters when you travel abroad. Popular manuals, updated with the latest findings of neuroscience, advise you how to track the eye movements and hand gestures of your spouse, boss, and stockbroker.
“Yet experts on deceit – the sort of psychologists who regularly ask Americans to lie to one another in laboratories – tell us that the vast majority of us are very bad at detecting deception, despite our confidence in our own powers. IN 2006, one review of the available research concluded that people can successfully sort truth-tellers from liars only 54 percent of the time, or about as well as blind guesswork. Surprisingly, the more intimately we know the deceiver, the worse we do. Even cops, judges, and psychologists – those citizens
professionally licenses to sort truth-tellers from liars – don’t get it right much more than half the time.”
Thanks to: In Chambers: A Commonplace of Interesting and Legal Things Compiled by firstname.lastname@example.org.