The Truth Factor

Let’s Talk!

Let’s start by watching the following movie clip:

This is, of course, the famous scene from the film A Few Good Men (1992) starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore and Kevin Bacon. This courtroom thriller tells the story of how inexperienced Navy lawyer LT Kaffee (Cruise) defends two Marines accused of murdering a PFC named Santiago. As a last resort, Kaffee cross-examines Col. Jessup (Nicholson) and coerces him into telling the truth.

Whenever the subject of truth is discussed, I often replay with amusement this scene in my mind. The high emotional charge of this movie clip is a good illustration of the ambivalent relationship most people have with truth. They usually insist on being told the truth while often not being able to “handle the truth”.

Let’s explore this idea…

According to Wikipedia truth is defined as “in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal”. This definition implies that there is such a thing as an objective truth, and that it is possible to identify it, and to align one’s behaviour with it.

In a TED talk titled “How to spot a liar”, American author Pamela Meyer affirms that we are all liars. In fact, it is socially acceptable to lie and tolerate lies from others. Most of these lies are considered “white” lies that help minimize friction in social interactions.

The more developed the neo-cortex in animals, the better they are at lying. Therefore, humans are quite competent liars. We start lying very early in life. Meyer points out that babies will fake crying, wait to see who responds to their cries, pause, and continue crying. One year-olds learn concealment while 2 year-olds bluff. By the time we become adults, most of us are expert liars.

Truth Pict 1bMeyer explains that lying is a cooperative act. We have to be willing to accept the lie. Also, lying bridges the gap between what we wish we were and who we really are. That gap may be significant because according to her, we are lied to on average between 10 to 200 times per day.

Family law attorney Neal Simon states that 75% of all lies go undetected. Furthermore, a review of 200 academic studies suggests that we are able to identify a lie only about 50% of the time. Sadly, law enforcement personnel and judges are no better at catching a lie than the average person.

Lies negatively affect our trust in others, but also the trust in ourselves. After all, if we lie on regular basis, we may assume others do the same. Consequently, most of us are cynical when it comes to believing what others tell us.

Our current politics culture reinforces our general disillusionment about people’s lack of integrity. We often do not believe in public figures such as politicians and official statements from government agencies. Actually, we readily believe negative facts over positive ones.

Trust is often damaged when we are lied to because we intuitively sense the selfish intention behind the lie. Based on my own experience, 90% of the time, people lie to protect themselves even when it harms others. The remaining 10% of the time, it is to protect someone who is (at least at the present moment) unable to face the truth. In other words, we tend to consider these “sensitive” individuals not as our equals since we give them a fictional rosy version of reality that they can cope with.

Generally, people will be offended if told a positive or negative lie, but will also feel hurt by a negative truth. Ultimately, most people only want to hear positive truths, especially if it’s about themselves. Unfortunately on Earth, there are a significant greater number of negative truths compared to positive ones.

One of the other major drawbacks of being inundated with lies is that it promotes divisions and wars. Psychiatrist David R. Hawkins points out that the endless wars fought by humankind over many centuries is due to the fact that peace is the consequence of objective truth prevailing. Therefore lying plants the seed of separation, injustice, fear, violence and ultimately war.

Truth Pict 2The distortion of truth can range from omissions, exaggerations, minimizations, to pure fabrication of facts. Also, lies can vary from “white” benign ones to betrayal and criminal offenses that can have severe consequences for whole countries.

One telltale sign that someone is lying is that their story often doesn’t make sense. There is only one version of objective truth, therefore all the pieces of the story fit perfectly well together. Lies often leave obvious gaps that simply cannot be filled with logical answers.

However, there is a difference between being truthful and being honest.

Webster’s dictionary defines honest as “showing or suggesting a good and truthful character”. This definition suggests that a person has pure intentions, and is not trying to deceive others. However, that person could still unknowingly give false information to people. In other words, they honestly didn’t know the truth, but others could still be harmed by them.

The concept of honesty brings to light that many people perceive life and truth differently. We have to take into account factors such as the person’s age, gender, sex, culture, education,  level of awareness and time in history before understanding their perception of what is true.

How do we determine the truth?

For centuries, man has tried many methods to separate truth from falsehood. Some of these methods were rather odd.

For example in West Africa, criminal suspects passed a bird’s egg to one another. The person who broke the egg was considered guilty because it was assumed that nervousness over the commission of a crime made their hands shake and damage the delicate eggshell.

In ancient China, potential criminals held a handful of rice in their mouths during the prosecutor’s speech. If the rice remained dry at the end of the speech, the criminals were declared guilty.

Nowadays, people can be subjected to polygraphs to determine their innocence. However, according to American reporter Dan Vergano, the average accuracy of the polygraph is only about 61%, which is quite lower than the accuracy rate of 80-98% claimed by the American Polygraph Association.

One can also study the face of people to identify micro expressions. The concept of micro expressions is based on Psychologist Paul Ekman’s work on universal emotional expressions such as happiness, anger, disgust, fear, sadness, surprise and contempt.

Whenever a person is under intense stress (i.e., being interrogated) micro expression lasting between 1 and 1/25th of second involuntary occur on their face. It is possible to determine the person’s true emotions, but still this does not mean that the said emotion is related to a lie.

Essentially, the basic assumption of these different methods of lie detection is that when someone lies, some of their automatic functions (i.e., heart rate) will show some change and betray them.

Truth Pict 3Luckily, there is a more reliable way to determine a past or present truth. American Chiropractor Dr. Bradley Nelson and Hawkins among others, have use kinesiology to get to the truth.

When someone keeps in mind a truthful statement, muscles remain strong and when we lie, our muscle strength automatically decreases. The truthfulness of the statement is beyond time or space, therefore we can transcend context. Furthermore, we don’t have to use the suspected liar for the test since the Universe is an infinite internet database accessible to all at anytime and everywhere.

However, there is an important caveat to using kinesiology: In order for the test to be valid both individuals – the tester and tested – have to have reached basic integrity and be unbiased. This may sound obvious, but according to Hawkins only about 20% of the world population have reached that level. It is therefore important to test the level of awareness of both individuals before the test by asking basic questions such as their name, and see how their body reacts.

Interestingly even without the use of kinesiology, many people can experience objective truth. When one tells the truth, there is an immediate surge of energy and a lightness felt throughout the body. It is as though the Universe, using the body as its interpreter, joyfully says “Yes!” to truth.

The concept of truth affects every part of our lives. Every moment of the day we are faced with the decision to either be truthful or to lie. Humankind has always struggled with this dilemma, both praising and simultaneously condemning the truth teller.

Although we might justify our lies, we know in our hearts that it leads us away from being authentic in our professional, social and private lives. Lies isolate by creating an emotional wall between us and people around us.

As the Western World proclaims to want peace, we first have to take the difficult step of being truthful regardless of how uncomfortable this may be. Luckily, there are ways to get to an objective truth with methods such as kinesiology. Hopefully, little by little we may one day say without hesitation “we can handle the truth”.

Literary Truths

According to Pamela Meyer author of Liespotting, here are other interesting facts about lying:

  • Men lie 8 times more about themselves than about other people.
  • Women lie more to protect other people.
  • Strangers lie 3 times within 10 minutes of meeting each other.
  • We lie more to strangers than to co-workers.
  • Extroverts lie more than introverts.
  • The average married couple lies 1 out of every 10 interactions. Unmarried couples lie 1 out of every 3 interactions.
  • When someone is truly happy, the muscles around their eyes will involuntarily contract when they smile.
  • Liars may forceful look directly into a person’s eyes to over-compensate for the fact they are lying.

Truth in Motion

References

Honest – Merriam Webster Dictionary
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/honest

Pamela Meyer: How to spot a liar
http://www.ted.com/talks/pamela_meyer_how_to_spot_a_liar.html

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Hawkins, David R., Power. Power Vs Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior. Carlsbad: Hay House, 2009.

Dr. Nelson, Nikken & The Emotion Code (Part 3)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muHXRwstrcw

Simon, Neal, and Mario R. Ventreli. “How I learned to stop worrying about liars and love microexpressions.” American Journal of Family Law Winter 2012: 143.

Truth – Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth