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The language of lying - Noah Zandan


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We hear anywhere from 10 to 200 lies a day. And although we’ve spent much of our history coming up with ways to detect these lies by tracking physiological changes in their tellers, these methods have proved unreliable. Is there a more direct approach? Noah Zandan uses some famous examples of lying to illustrate how we might use communications science to analyze the lies themselves.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Detection deception experts such as Pamela Meyer, in her popular book Liespotting argue that there are behavior cues everyday people can use to spot lying. Hear Pam discuss her book and ideas at this NPR link on the TED Radio Hour and listen to: Can You Spot A Liar? Scroll down at this site and check out the related story links. Click here and see some of the common clues that a lying person might give away that would allow you to detect that they are deceiving you.

But a host of reputable scientists, like John Fuerdy of the University of Toronto, question the efficacy of lie detectors: "Studies have long shown that polygraphs are remarkably unreliable, particularly for screening job applicants. As early as 1965, a congressional committee concluded that there was no evidence to support the polygraph's validity; a 1997 survey in the Journal of Applied Psychology put the test's accuracy rate at only 61 percent. Polygraph evidence is generally inadmissible in court because, as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas noted in his majority opinion in the 1998 case U.S. v. Scheffer, "there is simply no consensus that polygraph evidence is reliable." Indeed, the lie detector is so untrustworthy that Congress passed the Employee Polygraph Protection Act in 1988, making it illegal for private-sector employers to compel workers to take polygraph exams."

But all hope is not lost, new scientific research has given us the power to measure the brain like never before. According to neurological research by Dr. Leonard Mlodinow, a professor at CalTech, in his book Subliminal, 95% of what our brain is processing is subconscious. What if we could measure the subconscious communication of a liar and accurately spot deception?

Psychologist Dr. James Pennebaker at the University of Texas ran five studies in which he asked participants to either lie or tell the truth about different topics and different contexts and measured their language. Do you think we can we develop a linguistic lie detector?

Watch an interview with Dr. Pennebaker about the topic. Using a communications science technology called linguistic text analysis, people can examine the deceptive language of liars and for the first time ever, accurately predict whether or not someone is telling the truth. For more information about different linguist text analysis, watch his TEDx Talk: The Secret Life of Pronouns. Read an article by Matthew Newman and Dr. Pennebaker: Lying Words: Predicting Deception from Linguistic Styles and gain some insight into how to tell a true story from a false one.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Noah Zandan
  • Director Nadav Arbel
  • Artist Nadav Gazit
  • Narrator Noah Zandan

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