The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'lies'


Budget airline Ryanair, known for flying to cheap airports hours away from the cities they nominally serve, has outdone itself. The airline ran ads in Norway offering flights to "London Prestwick" airport. Prestwick, on the outskirts of Glasgow, is 400 miles (and some 5 hours by train) from London, and technically not even in the same country; chances are that, if you're already at said airport, the quickest and cheapest way of getting to London would be to catch another flight.

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It turns out that habitual and pathological liars' brains have more white matter than those of normal people. It could be that the extra white matter gives them the ability to keep track of different versions of stories or the mental states of those being lied to, or, indeed, that telling a lie a day will help to bulk up one's brain. In contrast, people suffering from autism, a condition which impairs the ability to lie (and, indeed, awareness of others' mental states), have less white matter.

Also in neurological news, a new study looks at how the brain sleeps:

When we're awake, different parts of the brain use chemicals and nerve cells to communicate constantly across the entire network, similar to the perpetual flow of data between all the different computers, routers and servers that make up the Internet.
In the deepest part of sleep, however, the various nodes of your cranial Internet all lose their connections.
"The brain breaks down into little islands that can't talk to one another," said study leader Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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According to psychological studies, common folk wisdom about spotting liars is little more than superstition. Liars do not habitually avert their gaze, touch their noses or fidget any more than truth tellers do. Which is not to say that there might not be patterns of behaviour suggestive of lying:

Fibbers tend to move their arms, hands, and fingers less and blink less than people telling the truth do, and liars' voices can become more tense or high-pitched. The extra effort needed to remember what they've already said and to keep their stories consistent may cause liars to restrain their movements and fill their speech with pauses. People shading the truth tend to make fewer speech errors than truth tellers do, and they rarely backtrack to fill in forgotten or incorrect details.
Liars may also feel fear and guilt or delight at fooling people. Such emotions can trigger a change in facial expression so brief that most observers never notice. Paul Ekman, a retired psychologist from the University of California, San Francisco, terms these split-second phenomena "microexpressions." He says these emotional clues are as important as gestures, voice, and speech patterns in uncovering deceitfulness.

Also, it emerges that most people are poor at identifying liars, scoring little better than chance. Though one study, which included a group of US Secret Service officials, showed that they were considerably better at detecting liars than the average person.

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