Emotional Skills and Lie Detection for Negotiators and Lawyers

The Lives of Others

Does one detect deception better by making people uncomfortable as in The Lives of Others?

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9 Responses to “The Lives of Others”

  1. On the one hand, people who feel powerful (and perhaps even just at ease) are better liars because, according to Dana Carvey’s research, the feeling of power (actual of self-perceived) diminishes the brain activity that would result in involuntary micro-expression. On the other hand, when you make people uncomfortable they are more likely to experience cognitive load, requiring the interpreter / interviewer to separate indications of such cognitive strain from micro-expressions that may be evidence of a lie. Bottom line is that I don’t know, which is why I didn’t vote. Clark, what’s the answer?

  2. Thomas says:

    I’m of the opposite opinion. For one thing, people who are placed under physical and emotional stress are prone to confabulation and error, because the stress gives them difficulty remembering details of important events, and because they tend to say whatever they believe the interrogator wants to hear, just to stop the stress of the interrogation. A prosecutor I once knew advised me, “You can make a child testify to anything. If you ask a question, and the child gives you an answer you don’t agree with, just keep looking at the child, silently. The child will keep offering different answers until the child comes up with the story that fits your scenario.”

    In the converse, as World War Two army intelligence specialist Henry Kolm recounted to Frank Rich of the New York Times, “We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture.”

  3. mindy says:

    There’s quite the debate among intelligence types about what approach works. Many agree that rapport building can be very effective. Others think that some people respond better to fear. One point that is always important to remember: don’t confuse the fear you create by your questioning with fear that means the person is lying. That’ why it’s almost always better at least to start with a more ingratiating approach.

  4. Pete says:

    According to this report (http://www.fas.org/irp/dni/educing.pdf), “The scientific community has never established that coercive interrogation methods are an effective means of obtaining reliable intelligence information.” (p. 130)

    The video certainly makes it look effective, but even in this video there is a question as to the reliability of the information obtained. A person being tortured will say anything to make it stop. Sleep deprivation and intense stress also interfere with memory, making information obtained by these means less reliable.


  5. K says:

    Building rapport is so much better. Harsh interrogation techniques are single-mindedly and harshly fixated on providing results, not necessarily truthful results but just results so that the harsh conditions will be ameliorated.

  6. Ashley Ernst says:

    I strongly disagree with the notion that making people uncomfortable will allow an interrogator to detect deception better. I believe that each person has a level of discomfort at which they will say anything to get themselves out of the situation. In The Lives Of Others, the prisoner reached that level when he was told his wife would be arrested and his kids would be put into state custody. It was at that point that he gave up a name. I think that you need to know someone’s baseline in order to be able to determine whether they are lying. Making them more and more uncomfortable increases the chance that the interrogator will make a mistake when trying to detect a lie. I believe this is so for two reasons. First, they have no idea what this person’s behavior is like in a normal situation, so they have nothing to compare it to. Second, the increase in stress makes it more likely that the person will flub, or act oddly when asked questions.

  7. Ike Lasater says:

    Who knows the memory of another? I imagine there are people that believe they know. And there people who know they don’t. The science in the last decade, as I understand it (i.e. remember what I have read about it) reveals that from our first remembering of an event just passed, we change our memories with each act of remembering. see Proust Was a Neuroscientist. Now this is not to say that this character in this movie did not “remember” something relevant to explain who helped his neighbor to flee. But it is clear that what he remembered is not what happened. Our memories are much to limited in scope and are too changeable to be ever accurate. So, even when I believe I am telling the truth, I am not telling the whole truth and may be telling a completely inaccurate version of what happen and not realize it. See The Invisible Gorilla. I may act like I am lying for reasons that have nothing to do with whether my memory would be considered accurate when compared with some form of documentary evidence. And if I “confess” to having lied, why should that be believed more than my original statement? Haven’t I undermined my credibility by recanting. So which statement am I to now believe. The one that best fits my reconstruction of events? And then there are the jokers in the deck who lie without compunction and thus provide no external indicators. I least, I am told that such exist. For 20 years I took testimony in over 1000 depositions and months and months of trial. In this course of this, I often heard that so and so was lying. I hear countless lawyers in their briefs or in open court assert that there opposing counsel was lying to the court. Since then I have for thousands of hours facilitated conversations between people in conflict (mediated these conflicts). Frequently, one persons memory is in apparent conflict with the others. When I am in conflict with another person, I find myself believing the other person is fabricating, because what they say they remember does not match my memory. The truth is I don’t know. the more I read and experience in this life the less I trust my perception, and even less my memory of that initially faulty and necessarily incomplete interpretation of the original events. So who is telling the truth. Can you tell from outside me whether I am telling the truth, when I on the inside have doubts about what the truth is?

  8. mindy says:

    Excellent point, and this is a very hard one to teach! When I trained Homeland Security, we did one day on microexpressions and emotion, and another day on memory. Really, the memory takes much longer to explain. There are only seven basic emotions on the face. But there are many factors that go into what kind of memory is “normal.” And you’ve touched on just one: when people remember things, and they tell a story, it is normal, that it vary a bit.

  9. AnJo says:


    If you dangle the confession afront of a suspect as the only way out for 40 hours you´ll get a lot of them to say anything just to make it stop.

    A sudden accusation might educe a micro expression out of somebody though.

    So the answer is like always “it depends”

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