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Identifying Deception Society’s Responsibility

FullTextImage/img/@altPamela Meyer speaks on "liespotting," concluding day one of VMI's Leadership Conference. -- VMI Photo by Kevin Remington.

The 500-seat Gillis Theater on the VMI post was filled to capacity with high school and college students and teachers from across the nation as VMI’s second biennial Leadership Conference, “Cheating, Lying and Honor in America’s High Schools, Colleges and Universities,” opened yesterday. The conference continues today, as the current generation of students takes the lead in discussing and presenting strategies for encouraging academic and personal integrity.   

LEXINGTON, Va., March 6, 2012--Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception, concluded the first day of VMI’s Leadership Conference by describing how falsehoods can be detected through attention to verbal cues, body language, and attitudes indicative of dishonesty.

“We can learn to identify deception and build organizations and institutions that are based on trust and integrity that is verified and therefore longer lasting,” said Meyer.

According to Meyer, not only is it necessary to refrain from telling lies, but it is imperative that one not be party to a lie.

“Lying is a cooperative act,” said Meyer. “Holding up a code of honor and integrity might require that we get a little bit better at spotting lies.”

Meyer described verbal cues such as over emphasizing, using formal language, euphemizing, making weak denials, and offering excessive detail. In addition, Meyer gave examples of body language that indicates disingenuousness, such as wringing one’s hands, performing grooming gestures, and closing one’s eyes while speaking.

Meyer illustrated these clues by showing footage from news and films which displayed the telltale signs of deceit, including clips of Bill Clinton, Herman Cain, John Edwards, and Alex Rodriguez.

Meyer described American society as a “post-truth society,” in which Americans have become deeply ambivalent about telling the truth.

“Why are we ambivalent about the truth?” asked Meyer. “We’re actually pretty ambivalent about ourselves, and we all kind of hate to admit it, but we wish secretly that we were better husbands, better wives, richer, taller, more powerful, smarter, more strategic, better cooks, better golfers, and the list goes on and on. ”

Deceitful behavior is, as Meyer sees it, caused largely by individuals’ feelings of inadequacy.

“Lying is an attempt to bridge that gap: to connect our wishes and our fantasies about who we wish we were, how we wish our worlds could be with what it’s really like.”

Lying is nothing new, however. As Meyer explained, deception is a part of humans at a primal level. She compared the lying of a child with the lying of Koko the gorilla, who, taught to communicate with sign language, once blamed her pet kitten for ripping a sink out of the wall.

However, by building “networks of trust,” people can begin to create a more honest society.

“No matter what changes, human character and integrity are still what’s going to matter,” said Meyer.

–John Robertson IV