Wednesday, July 20, 2011

TCT - Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

When I was a child, my mother would ask: "Radha, did you break this?"

I'd promptly reply with: "No Mommy! Radha did!" and then I'd point to the evil, invisible twin that was standing next to me, now better known as Just Air.  


I was a terrible liar as a child, and that, unfortunately, has stuck with me through the years.  Not that I endorse lying or anything; it's just a useful skill to have at times.  Especially when you're trying to pull off a prank.

I love to act. I really do.  I enjoy the feel of stepping into someone's skin and prancing about a stage as him or her.  It's so much more fun than getting up in front of an audience as myself - something I really can't do without feeling the need to sprint to Timbuktu.  I've been told that I am a decent actress (even won a couple of awards in college and whatnot, if I may brag!), and I've also been told that I'm a lousy liar.

So, I get "You're such a good actress, why can't you just lie well?" when someone wants me to tell a friendly fib for them, which happens, surprisingly, quite often.  The thing is, the two don't really feel the same for me.  I'm still 'me' when I lie so it's hard to put on an act.  I also tend to giggle at inconvenient moments when the fib is particularly amusing.  I just have to come to terms with the fact that the p-poker face is something I will never be able to do.

When an article in Scientific American Mind popped up about 18 things that make a good liar, I was intrigued.

 Most of their points seem obvious when you read them, but I doubt that if we thought about it ourselves we'd come up with more than 5.  And so, here they are:

(1) manipulativeness. "Machiavellians" are pragmatic liars who aren’t fearful or anxious. They are "scheming but not stupid," explain the authors. "In conversations, they tend to dominate, but they also seem relaxed, talented and confident."
(2) acting. Good actors make good liars; receptive audiences encourage confidence.
(3) expressiveness. Animated people create favorable first impressions, making liars seductive and their expressions distracting.
(4) physical attractiveness. Fair or unfair, pretty people are judged as being more honest than unattractive people.
(5) natural performers. These people can adapt to abrupt changes in the discourse with a convincing spontaneity.
(6) experience. Prior lying helps people manage familiar emotions, such as guilt and fear, which can “leak” behaviorally and tip off observers.
(7) confidence. Like anything else, believing in yourself is half the battle; you’ve got to believe in your ability to deceive others.
(8) emotional camouflage. Liars "mask their stark inclination to show the emotional expressions they truly feel" by feigning the opposite affect.
(9) eloquence. Eloquent speakers confound listeners with word play and buy extra time to ponder a plausible answer by giving long-winded responses.
(10) well-preparedness. This minimizes fabrication on the spot, which is vulnerable to detection.
(11) unverifiable responding. Concealing information ("I honestly don’t remember") is preferable to a constructed lie because it cannot be disconfirmed.
(12) information frugality. Saying as little as possible in response to pointed questions makes it all the more difficult to confirm or disconfirm details.
(13) original thinking. Even meticulous liars can be thrown by the unexpected, so the ability to give original, convincing, non-scripted responses comes in handy.
(14) rapid thinking. Delays and verbal fillers ("ums" and "ahs") signal deception, so good liars are quick-witted, thinking fast on their feet.
(15) intelligence. Intelligence enables an efficient shouldering of the “cognitive load” imposed by lying, since there are many complex, simultaneously occurring demands associated with monitoring one’s own deceptiveness.
(16) good memory. Interrogators’ ears will prick at inconsistencies. A good memory allows a liar to remember details without tripping in their own fibs.
(17) truth adherence. Lies that "bend the truth" are generally more convincing, and require less cognitive effort, than those that involve fabricating an entire story.
(18) decoding. The ability to detect suspicion in the listener allows the liar to make the necessary adjustments, borrowing from strategies in the preceding skill set.
I definitely fail at a couple of these points; a fact that should satisfy the people who continue to insist that I should be a good liar just because I'm a good actress.

One thing I really enjoy doing and like to think I'm decently good at is improv.  I like to hold nonsensical conversations on just about anything and steer them in interesting directions depending on the responses I get. But lying outright?  I still suck at it.

...or maybe this whole post was a lie.

Don't look at me like that!  Radha wrote it.


  1. The ending made me laugh :p

    Maybe you should be a musical star instead of a writer, Rads... :p

  2. What a fun and interesting post! Thank you.

  3. You can fool the world........ but you can't fool me. :)

  4. Haha, Manon. :P <3

    @Piper Glad you liked it. Thanks for stopping by!

    @Prateet And here I try so hard. D:

  5. I know a couple of excellent liars. The only way you know they're lying is that they're talking. Otherwise, you just can not tell.

    And your final line cracked me up. Thanks for a fun post!

  6. Yeah, isn't it enviable how they can keep a straight face no matter *what* they're saying? :s Thanks for the comment, Texanne!

  7. Fascintating. A fiction writer should definitely be a good liar...though we have to be careful it doesn't bleed over into our real lives. Chuck Wendig says that's impossible to prevent though. We're just lying liars who lie. LOL. I do make up stories for my kids...and see how long it takes for them to catch on it's a story. They're pretty quick though. I guess I need to be a better liar. :D

  8. hehehe good luck becoming a better liar! :P It really *is* hard to separate real life and stories, at times.

    Thanks for stopping by!