David R. Henderson  

Lie to Me

The Principal of Convenience... "I Don't Care"...

Like my fellow blogger Bryan, I take particular pleasure in seeing people "tell it like it is." For that reason, I particularly like the new TV show, "Lie to Me." In it, some federal government employees (you can't have everything) specialize in reading facial expressions and body language and they use their expertise to solve crimes. I like this show the way I liked the first season of CSI when the people involved really did investigate crimes using their skills rather than being policemen, as they have tended to do in later seasons. I have no idea whether the science (art?) has developed to the point they say it has, but it's fun to watch them call people--often other government officials--when those people lie.

I especially like their splicing in actual videos of real people lying, expressing contempt, etc. In the episode last week, for example, they showed the famous Bill Clinton scene in which he denies having had sexual relations with "that woman." They point out that this eyes and his finger were out of sync and put a lot of weight on that fact. My favorite two last week, though, were showing Donald Rumsfeld and Barack Obama using their middle finger.

Check out this analysis, using the same methods, of a Condi Rice interview.

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CATEGORIES: Revealed Preference

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The author at Club for Growth in a related article titled Another 'Lie to Me' Fan writes:
    Like me, economist David Henderson is also a fan of the TV show, Lie to Me. And, coincidentally, for the same reason.... [Tracked on February 24, 2009 5:25 PM]
COMMENTS (12 to date)
P writes:

I believe they actually work for a private consulting firm that does a lot of government contracting.

It's a pretty good show though, a bit too politically correct, but like you say, you can't have everything. The terrific Tim Roth helps make up for a lot.

Mike Rulle writes:

I have been told this science/art is more advanced than one might think---even though the show (which I also like--Tim Roth is very good; I still love the "Honey Bunny" diner scenes from Pulp Fiction) certainly over states its capabilities. But...it does make one paranoid to think there are people who can virtually read your mind. Then again, if it can be used effectively against the "pols", then we should welcome it!

Jay writes:

"I have been told this science/art is more advanced than one might think"

I have heard similar things. The sources also relayed to me that the science is being supressed by politicians. I wonder why pols would be against giving the general public the capabilities to detect lies?

RickC writes:

Take it from me folks, there are some guys out there who have elevated the reading of body language/understanding of the psychology and physiology of people under stress, like when they're lying, to a artful science. I tell you this as a former military interrogator.

The problem is the skills are not transferable to just anybody, it takes a certain type of person. A friend of mine is a master of it. I myself never seemed to "get" it. In that way it's more like an art.

I"ve watched my friend at work and the way he can get into a person's head is actually quite frightening.

An interesting aside. He and I never figured out why the government/CIA ever had to resort to the methods they supposedly have over the last few years. A little sleep deprivation and other simple techniques, along with the body language/psychology stuff and getting the info you want is surprisingly easy most of the time.

Jacob Oost writes:

I'll reserve judgment until I see some hard empirical data. Sounds like it could be another "bite mark analysis" pseudoscience.

Ed Hanson writes:


I guess I will just have follow your lead again. I will get my scientific knowledge from television. Thinking of the years I wasted reading and studying economics, when all I had to listen to the bastion of scientific thought of television. How I now regret reading the great Austrian economists. How stupid of me reading so many volumes by Milton Friedman. I will now become a cheerleader, following the greats of television, borrow our way out of debt, and, of course, spending is stimulus, and thankful that monetizing it all will lead us to prosperity.

David R. Henderson writes:

Ed Hanson,
What's your favorite of Milton Friedman's books?

Ed Hanson writes:


I am a sentimentalist, so it is the first one I read, "Capitalism and Freedom." Despite the evils of television, the book he wrote with making of the series, "Free To Choose" has the greatest impact. As an aside, if I lived in California, and had the means and access, I would rent a giant screen across from the Governor's house, and play in an unending loop, his introduction to the repeat and update of the PBS series.


But I do not live in Caleeefornia. But I bequeath my idea to any there who will act on it. If it happens, I will act on my second idea. I will mail, one at a time, my copies of "Free To Choose" to Arnold, I own four. It would be great if people all over the world did the same.

Finally, while I got your ear, there has been something seriously missing from those writing at EnonLog. While tax reduction stimulus ideas, such as a holiday of payroll taxes are better than the approved spending stimulus, the idea has a critical fault. I consider Milton's Permanent-Income Hypothesis as correct as the best of any other economic truth. And every idea I have seen here has been temporary in nature, they will not change behavior. But pardon me if I seem to be lecturing you, I know you are familiar with it. I bow to profession of Economics, except when they lead this amateur to a loss of freedom.

Ed Hanson writes:


A post script.

Reading my last sentence again, I want to make it clear I do not consider you, Arnold, or Bryan in the category of economists leading to a loss of freedom. It generally is aimed at those economists who find economic answers which lead to ever expanding government.

Srini writes:

[Comment removed for supplying false email address. Email the webmaster@econlib.org to request restoring this comment. A valid email address is required to post comments on EconLog.--Econlib Ed.]

Headwellred writes:

This 'science' is NLP or neuro linguistic programming, Bander and Grindler started it in the late seventies by observing the well known psychologist and hypnotherapist Milton Erickson from the eye movements to very in depth calibrations of face and body reading.

It is used regularly and now even sales people are trained in it so that you can see a no before the customer says no and change tack accordingly.

masstexodus writes:

I also think they are a private firm - they will work for anyone though for their fee (including policial parties and private schools).

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