Draft 1, Can an Individual Honestly Lie?

This research topic submitted by Julie Makowski (MAKOWSJA@miamioh.edu) on 2/26/98.

Can an Individual Honestly Lie?

I) Thesis section:
Is it possible for humans to lie without revealment? We do it (lie) on a daily basis, but are there specific cues of concealment that go unnoticed? It is my belief that there are facial cues that can reveal concealment and that, we as humans just merely fail to recognize them.

II) Theorectical Content:
I would expect to find that cues of concealment are given by facial expression based on biological data. The sole facial nerve, the seventh cranial nerve, is connected to both very old, and newer parts of the brain (Ekman, 225). Thus, some facial expression is voluntary, while other, is not. Furthermore, there is the documented phenonmenon, facial leakage. Facial leakage is the traces of felt facial expressions that a person is attempting to conceal (Ekman, 225).

In 1872, Charles Darwin said that human facial expressions have evolved from the expressions of other animals and they are therefore universal (Ekman, 223). Yet, others disagree. Many believe that facial expression, like language is a product of culture (Ekman, 223). It is also widely believed by evolutionists that facial expression can provide accurate information (Ekman, 223).

However, some psychologists would agrue that expression by any manner, is controlable. Take for instance, the self-presentation theory, which introduces the idea of both the inner and outer self's emergence (Robinson, 76). People desire a likeable and pleasant personality, thus they present this to others (Robinson, 76). This theory also encompasses, dominant, dependant, competant and other various characteristics (Robinson, 76).

Although, it is also noted that too many people are happy with the way they perceive things to be (Robinson, 82). The ever-popular metaphor, "rose-colored glasses, depicts this this notion explicitly. While wearing a pair of "rose-colored glasses, the world appears perfect-like, and one is happy. People grow to like this perception all to much.

Thus, although people may (unconsciously) present certain characteristics to others, the "rose-colored glasses" theory is all to prevelant at times.

Evolutionists believe that deception is a perennial instument of survival (Myslobodsky, 1). In studying the role of deception in our human ancestry, sociobiologists and ethologists are turning from using prehistoric time human ancestors (Barnes, 147). Instead, they are using evidence from contemporary animals, particularly, non-human primate species to inference our past (Barnes, 147).

Robert Mitchell has proposed a typology, in which he illustrates four levels of deception (Barnes, 148). The lowest observes plants and butterflies that deceive by appearance (Barnes, 148). The second examines how some birds will deceive with actions by feigning injury (Barnes, 148). At the next level, animals are learning to deceive (Barnes, 148). Dogs will fake an injured leg, because his human master with treat him sympathetically (Barnes, 148). The fourth and final level presents planned deception, which is designed to deal with novel circumstances (Barnes, 149). Present at this level are chimpanzees, baboons, and innumerable humans (Barnes, 149).

It is at the fourth level in which Machiavellian skill is needed (Barnes, 149). Machiavellian skill is the ability to take account in deciding how to act, of likely responses of others (Barnes, 151). Along with Machiavellian skill, its relative theories, and the ability to indulge in fantasy, lying becomes a feasible option (Barnes, 152).

III) Empirical Study:
To support my thesis, I will conduct a psychological study. This study will include a facilitator, thirty volunteer subjects, and two controls. The study will examine the facial expressions of the volunteers by means of a videocamera. The facilitator and the videocamera will be staged in a private room, though the subjects will be unaware of the camera. Each subject will go into the study individually. The subjects will be previously directed to state two different statements, and honest statement, then a false statement, during an immidiate pre-study session. Their goal will be convince the facilitator that both of these statements are true. Meanwhile, the camera will be focused upon each of the subjects faces while making their statements.

This study will be conducted (hopefully) through the psychology department, with intended usage of a two-way mirrored room.

IV) Analysis:
To document and analyze this information, the videos will be viewed, by myself. I will then chart the differentiating facial expressions between the true and false statements. This data will be charted and thoroughly examined, the findings may possibly be graphed, based upon results.


Barnes, J. A. A Pack of Lies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Ekman, Paul, and Wallace V. Friesen. "Nonverbal Behavior." Ethology and Nonverbal Communication in Mental Health. Ed. Samuel A. Corson and
Elizabeth O'Leary Corson. New York: Pergamon Press Ltd., 1980. 221- 231.

Myslobodsky, Michael S., ed. The Mythomanias - The Nature of Deception and
Self-Deception. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc., 1997.

Robinson, W. Peter. Deceit, Delusion, and Detection. 6 vols. California: Sage
Publishing, 1996.

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