Note: This article is based on a research paper I wrote while at the University of Vermont. Unfortunately, I am unable to find the paper and therefore will have to rely on a now fuzzy memory. Also without the original I am unfortunately unable to provide sources. I will attempt to provide relevant links to articles such as wikipedia and the likes. For those who have an interest and/or expertise in lying and deception please join in the conversation.
Everybody lies, even if a person claims to have never told a lie, there will most likely be a situation that arises where information could be withheld to spare the total damage of the truth. Lying and deception can be used to not only cover something up, but can also be used to gain information.
To start, let’s take a look at what makes a bad lie.
A bad lie is not well thought out and full of holes that can be easily detected. Characteristics of a bad liar are typically through non-verbal communication. If you go to Social-engineer.org, in my links list, check out their pod-cast on interrogation techniques. One of the speakers states that in order to figure out if someone is lying you need to get a baseline of the subject so you can observe changes when the questioning begins. In other words, the old thought of “He’s looking down and to the left, he must be lying” needs to be rethought because everyone reacts differently when telling a lie. That isn’t to say that all findings of past should be thrown out the window, but they should be adapted.
One common clue of a bad liar is that he or she will not look a person directly in the eyes. They will also have nonverbal cues that contradict what is being said, so keep an eye out for jerky body movements, covering of the mouth and even putting physical barriers between the person. As a source for this article visit this site for cues. Another thing that is observable is the the fight or flight response. So, if a baseline of behavior is established for the liar in question, then all that is required is to observe fight or flight responses, such has shallow and rapid breathing, perspiration, increased heart rate, etc While these can indicate a possible lie, it may very well be that the person is just nervous. Like non-verbal cues, also get a baseline for speech and language patterns. Again visit blifaloo.com to read about verbal cues, such as “A statement with a contraction is more likely to be truthful: ‘I didn’t do it’ instead of ‘I did not do it’.”
Now that the groundwork for verbal and non verbal cues have been layed out, let’s take a look at building a “perfect lie” using a magician as an example.
So, what do magician’s have in common with the likes of con men or social engineers? The good ones have lying down to a science. A magician uses lies and deception for entertainment and legitimate monetary gains. The latter two use lying and deception to manipulate people either for information not privy to them or for ill gotten gains. The connecting factor is all three professions understand the mechanics of lying, deception and human behavior.
One thing a good liar will do is practice their lie to a point where they even start to believe it. If one can deliver a story smoothly, while being plausible, part of the battle has been won. Everything a magician says is planned. Their patter is designed not only to be entertaining, but to also illicit desired responses from the spectators. Not only that, but to use language in order to misdirect and misinform for the desired effect of the illusion. If a magician is caught in the act of a bumbled illusion, the experienced will have some sort of out, usually a witty line such as “I just washed my hands and can’t do a thing with them.” Humor is a good way to distract. A good magician will also practice for hours to learn various sleight of hand moves so that s/he can perform them naturally even in the most trying conditions.
A magician may also use sensory overload to achieve the goal of well performed effect. This could be done by moving the volunteer’s arm with one hand while asking a question; leaving the free hand to carry out a sleight. Because of the stimuli, the volunteer will either have to answer the question or look at the arm, but not both at the same time. As a result, s/he is unable to comprehend what else is happening around them. The brain can only consciously process one thing at a time. A good example of this is in the film “Sneakers” where Robert Redford’s character needs to get to a secure room of a mathematician. He has an accomplice dress up as a delivery person and create a high stress situation for the front desk employee. With the stress level high, Robert Redford takes advantage, by creating another stimulus. He pretends to be a party goer that is running late and intimidates the employee. Unable to process both events at the same time, the employee lets Redford’s character through while dealing with the delivery person’s problem.
There is much more to explore in regards to lying and deception. This is just a very cursory overview of the basics of of the topic. I find this subject matter very interesting. For those that are very knowledgeable of lying and deception, please direct me to more resources. I am also interested in how NLP (neuro linguistic programming), perception and other psychologically related topics work in regards to social engineering, so please join in the conversation.
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See you next post.