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"Spy the Lie" by Philip Houston, Michael Floyd, and Susan Carnicero

Sep 28, 2016 | Books

How do you know if someone is lying to you? With children, especially your own, it can be pretty easy. But most adults are pretty good at convincing us of what they want us to believe. Read: We can lie really well. In fact, some scientists think our ability to lie might account for us being at the top of the food chain.

We all lie, and a lot more often than we think. According to the authors of Spy the Lie, all of whom were detection experts and trainers for the CIA, the average person lies about 100 times a day and it starts ten minutes into a conversation. A lot of other studies bear that out. Now, none of us think we lie that much, right? Apparently not. Further, we’re not very good at knowing when others are lying, and police and trained investigators aren’t any better at it than the rest of us. Which is why this Deception-Detection Methodology has been developed and is now taught to FBI and CIA agents, among others. Mr. Houston is credited by other other two with coming up with the method, which the two of them became experts in and contributed to.

This is a step up from just reading body language and Messrs. Houston and Floyd, and Ms. Carnicero use such fun stories to demonstrate how effective it is. They look at the transcripts of O.J. Simpson and Jerry Sandusky. Now, a whole lot of us could tell Sandusky, at least, was lying. But knowing someone is guilty does nothing to provide evidence that can convict him. And just because he’s lying doesn’t mean he’s guilty. He could be covering for someone else. Not in Sandusky’s case, but in others.

You have to dig for more information. But the kinds of questions most of us would ask at that point are not very effective. The authors may ask what they call a presumptive question. (I call it, assuming the close.) “Did you steal this money?” “No, I did not.” [several questions later] “What did you do with the money?” And it works! It’s almost like people really want to confess, they just don’t have the guts to.

The information in this book is great and it’s written so that it’s easy to understand. The problem I had with it is that it pretty much depends on there being an interrogation. If you’re just in normal conversation or interaction with someone, most of this won’t work because if the person doesn’t want to answer any more questions, they won’t. They’ll leave or force a subject change or whatever. Our lives are not interrogation rooms.

Also, they so show how effective their methodology can be, but they don’t really tell us how to use it. They never walk us through a complete interview. For instance, I’d guess the presumptive question won’t work immediately after they’ve said they didn’t do it. But they don’t show us what questions to ask in between.

It does still have value for most of us, of course. It would be very helpful in any kind of negotiation. It could root out lies from people we thought were honest. But it’s real use is when the person can’t walk out. It’s a quick read, though, and very enjoyable. Go ahead and read it. Just read other books about this, too.

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