Smile! It’s contagious

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that changes with a smile. It reminded me of the old television program I used to watch when growing up: Candid Camera.

Like the situation set-up in Car without a motor, people were presented with an improbable situation, a misrepresentation of reality, a lie. We laughed at their responses; and they laughed when told to “Smile, you’re on candid camera.”

The situations were all meant to be fun and the majority of the people, those we were shown anyway, responded in good humour. However, we don’t always respond with such good humour when we feel we have been lied to intentionally, or mislead for whatever reason.

The story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf is a good example what happens when one habitually lies. Nobody likes to be made a fool of, and generally people try to take what they are told at face value, rather than question the veracity of the speaker’s tale.

Nobody likes to be caught out telling lies either. However, it seems that, no matter how much we protest against or attempt to excuse our own lies, lying may be a part of human nature.  Not only that, there may be many different reasons for lying. If you can, recall the last time you told a fib and your reason for doing so. But please don’t share. I’m not interested in true, or false, confessions.

I recently watched this fascinating Ted talk by Kang Lee who asked Can you really tell if a kid is lying?

Lee states that there are three commonly held misconceptions about children and lying:

  • Children only start to lie when they are of school age
  • Children are not good at lying and adults can easily detect their lies
  • If children lie at a young age they will become pathological liars for life

Lee then goes on to disprove these misconceptions, citing studies that show that “lying is really a typical part of development. And some children begin to tell lies as young as two years of age.”

He goes on to suggest that children who lie at a younger age than others are advanced in development of the two key ingredients for successful lying:

Mind reading: I know something that you don’t, and I know that you don’t, therefore I can lie to you; and

Self-control: “the ability to control your speech, your facial expression and your body language, so that you can tell a convincing lie”.

He explains that both mind reading and self-control are essential to function well in society, and that

In fact, deficits in mind-reading and self-control abilities are associated with serious developmental problems, such as ADHD and autism. So if you discover your two-year-old is telling his or her first lie, instead of being alarmed, you should celebrate –

I dare say that the typical Candid Camera scenarios relied upon these two ingredients also.

Lee also demonstrates that most adults, including parents, social workers, child-protection workers and police, cannot detect when children are lying. However, he explains that, hidden behind the neutral facial expressions, there are a variety of fleeting emotions including fear, shame, guilt, and possibly “liar’s delight”. These emotions, too subtle to be perceived by the naked eye, can be detected by “transdermal optical imaging” which detects changes in blood flow.

The benefits of the imaging go beyond just lie detection but can be used in assessing people’s health, including pulse, stress levels, mood and pain levels.

While teachers weren’t listed among those tested for detection of children’s lies, it stands to reason that they would be no better than those included. It makes me wonder about those times when a child may have been punished, not through evidence, but through someone’s conviction that he was lying, or that he was telling the truth. Maybe you were one of those innocents who wasn’t believed and suffered punishment as a result; or was believed when lying to protect another and suffered the punishment anyway.

I know I was never able to convince my mother. She always knew when I was lying (Who me? Never!) Maybe, like Emily in my flash fiction story, I should have been more careful to hide the incriminating evidence! But, as Lee says, Sally should celebrate that Emily is displaying developmentally appropriate, or even advanced, behaviour.

Gotcha!

Investigating the suspicious quiet, Sally found Emily perched on a stool in the bathroom, smiling at her reflection. Sensing Sally’s arrival, Emily turned on her “innocent” face and hid her hands behind her back.

Suppressing a smile, Sally asked, “What’re you doing?”

“Nuthin’.”

“I think you’re doing something.”

Protests belied guilt smeared on the face.

Sally enveloped Emily, and turned her lipstick-painted face towards the mirror.

“How did that get there? ” she asked, feigning seriousness.

“Don’t know. ”

Sally pointed to the brush in Emily’s hand.

“Oh.”

Their eyes met in the mirror, and smiles turned to laughter.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

40 thoughts on “Smile! It’s contagious

  1. Bec

    I love the FF – it’s adorable. I also find the discussion on children lying very interesting! It does make sense that learning the ‘boundaries’ of lying is important for children learning how to navigate through society.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash.
      Attitudes to lying are interesting. I think much of them may have more to do with “do what I say” rather than what I do. It’s always easy to find excuses (reasons) for oneself. Actually it’s interesting, after posting this, how many people have proclaimed they don’t lie then, on reflection, realise they do; but only in certain, forgivable circumstances! 🙂

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  2. katespencer17

    A post that had me smiling, right from the start! I remember Candid Camera. I believe why it worked so wonderfully was that none of the stunts were truly malicious – even the gold fish one that was really a carrot. I remember reading a recent article in the New York Times where they suggested that in the current ‘age of authenticity’, being your ‘authentic self’ at all times may not be good advice; they suggest going for sincerity instead. They aptly pointed out that there were times to be tactful, and times where we need to show confidence even if we felt vulnerable and scared. Refined social graces know when a situation requires the truth or a little white lie.

    Norah, you captured Sally’s innocent guilt beautifully! Great little flash – that had us all smiling at the end. 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m so pleased the post had you smiling, Kate. It is a wonderful thing to be able to share the smiles around. I think that’s right about Candid Camera. They weren’t malicious.
      I’m not sure that I see the difference between authenticity and sincerity, but I agree that there are times to be tactful, and times to “pretend” to have confidence. Sometimes creating that lie, helps to develop the confidence, so that can be a good thing. So can encouraging others. Refined social graces certainly do require the telling of some “little white lies” at times.
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash.
      Thanks for joining in the conversation. 🙂

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  3. Sherri

    Well, your flash certainly brought a smile to my face Norah, and a thousand scenarios flashed through my mind in the reading of it..but I’m not telling, lol 😀 Of course, you know how I was caught with the sweet stealing episode…but enough of that! Fascinating information here. It’s always been of great interest to me that lying is one of the ways those with a lot of ‘street smarts’ get by…certain social skills in other words! Good to know that not all kids who lie from an early age don’t grow up to be pathological liars. What really grabbed me though was this as quoted from the TED talk:

    ‘In fact, deficits in mind-reading and self-control abilities are associated with serious developmental problems, such as ADHD and autism. So if you discover your two-year-old is telling his or her first lie, instead of being alarmed, you should celebrate –“’

    My daughter will be the first to admit that from a very early age, she lied and without compunction, to get what she wanted, thinking that she knew what she had to do to protect herself (and mind control was a huge part of that). I was not aware of this until many years later when she told me, as it was to other children, not so much to adults that she felt the need to lie. She was extremely self-aware from a very young age. Yet, she has Asperger’s as you know. Now this is high functioning on the autisic spectrum but she is the master of self-control because the thought of embarrasing herself or giving herself away in front of others terrifies her – hence her 24/7 anxiety and mental/physical exhaustion as a result of that. And yet…she is one of the most honest people I know. I hope this makes sense. It would seem to contradict what Lee says doesn’t it? I would love to delve further into this, if time allowed…

    As always Norah, you get me thinking way outside the box, and I love it! And of course, I also loved Candid Camera…this clip is funny. So you see, you’ve given me a smile, a laugh and great food for thought…thank you so much! 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Ah, thank you for your lovely comment, Sherri. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the post for its entertainment as well as intellectual value.
      I’m pleased you mentioned the quote including the words “serious developmental problems”. I hoped someone would pick up on it. I hesitated writing the words because I had serious problems with them. I wasn’t comfortable with that description of people with ADHD and Austism. You have shown, with your anecdotes about your daughter, that he’s not got it quite right. I know it is difficult sometimes to get the words right. I struggle to do so myself. But I thought he could have chosen some a little less demeaning, and provocative perhaps. I would love to delve into it a little further myself. One day . . .
      I do remember your telling the sweet story, though I remember little of the details. I think we may have swapped a few “lie” stories at the time. Now if only I was writing prompts I could get people to tell about times they lied. Wouldn’t that be fun!
      It’s lovely to have you visit again, Sherri. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

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  4. Sarah Brentyn

    Haha! Candid Camera. 😄 I used to watch that, too. So goofy. What an interesting post. Though I’m not at all convinced about this: “if you discover your two-year-old is telling his or her first lie, instead of being alarmed, you should celebrate…” 😜 Not in this house.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m inclined to agree with you, Sarah. But I also think there are few people who are always totally honest. Sometimes we need to be more tactful than honesty allows. Thanks for your comment, and adding to the conversation. 🙂

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      1. Sarah Brentyn

        This is true. I detest lying. But, if I’m honest (har), I lie all the time. I white lie about someone’s unflattering haircut or weight gain or whatever if it’s something that will upset them and isn’t a big deal. (Unless it’s a really close friend. Then all bets are off.) 😉

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        1. Norah Post author

          That’s funny, but so true. We can be blatantly honest with friends (while they are friends!) but tiptoe around strangers. 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      I think denying is lying. If you did something and you say you didn’t, isn’t that lying? But I’m no expert. I was just sharing someone’s else ideas.
      Thanks for you comment, and sharing yours! 🙂

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  5. Joe Owens

    This is so cute Norah, I could just imagine the little girl smiling and acting so innocent. I am excited to find Carrot Ranch and anxiously and not so patiently awaiting this week’s prompt, which will be my first.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you so much for visiting, Joe, and for you kind comment. Welcome to the flash fiction writing at the Carrot Ranch. It is great fun. I have been responding to Charli’s prompts from the start. I look forward to reading your responses. 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Irene. I’m pleased it gave you a smile. That was the intention. I’m not aware of Beadle’s About. Was it similar? More recently (though not so recently to younger ones) there were shows like Trigger Happy TV, which followed the same premise too. I’m always in for a laugh. 🙂

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  6. robinettercleave

    Oh, I just love your post, Norah! I always used to watch Candid Camera when I was a kid. (Many, many, many years ago!!) 🙂 It’s interesting that you should write about lying this week, as I’ve just watched the TED video you spoke about and played Two Truths and a Lie with my ESL students this week.

    I love your flash – it was gorgeous – I can just see Emily’s little guilty face!! Thanks for putting a smile on my dial to start off the day!

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Robin. You’re so sweet. Seems like Candid Camera was popular all over! It’s not that many years ago since you were a kid, though. Believe me!
      Two Truths and a Lie sounds like fun. I’m sure your students would have loved it. You always make learning fun for them. I was trying to think of a game like that for my next post, continuing the theme of lying, but couldn’t quite get it. I think there may have even been a TV show where contestants were told a few stories and from them had to pick the one that was truthful. (Perhaps there was segment on QI?)
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the story and started the day with a smile! 🙂

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  7. Hugh's Views and News

    I was always caught out when I told a lie because, being fair skinned, my face seemed to turn red whenever I told a lie. Thank goodness I grew out of it. 😀

    Candid Camera was such a popular show here in the UK. Always had me in tears of laughter.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for joining in the conversation, Hugh. My skin is quite red anyway, so any embarrassment or strong emotion turns my face (and most of me) the colour of a beetroot! I had no chance.
      I agree. Candid Camera always brought lots of laughs.

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  8. thecontentedcrafter

    I have such difficulty when very young children are accused of lying. Imagination plays a large part in what taciturn adults might consider ‘telling untruths’. I once had a class of six year olds who gathered in awe about two of their classmates who were reliving their break-time adventure. With much excitement and flailing of arms they recounted how they had tracked and captured their prey and saved us all from certain doom…… It was so great to see the way they lived into this imaginative play. One little fellow, recently arrived in the class from a state school, accused them of lying and with much indignation another classmate turned to him and said ‘While they were there it was true!’ I remember laughing out loud and clapping my hands in delight at her response. Young children deny doing something when they intuit [from tone or past experience] that they could be about to get into trouble. This tendency can be found in many adults in positions of power [‘I never had sex with that woman’ springs to mind immediately, but we see it constantly in politics and big business]. Just a little tip of the iceberg opinion today Norah 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for adding to the conversation with so much wisdom, Pauline. I think imaginative storytelling to entertain is a bit different from telling lies to deceive. How sad it is that a six-year old would confuse the two. It makes me wonder what he had experienced to develop that point of view. I love the response that “While they were there it was true”. It was true in their imaginations, and they weren’t intending to deceive anyone or convince anyone it was true (unlike the boy who cried wolf). They were entertaining with an imaginative story. It makes me feel sad for the little chap. Maybe he had difficulty imagining, and took everything literally, at face value. Some do have problems in that area.
      I think children (and adults) lie for many different reasons, not just for protection of self or to avoid punishment. Sometimes it’s to save face or to avoid embarrassment, either of self or others. Sometimes it’s out of respect for someone else’s feelings. As you say it’s just the tip of the iceberg! Thanks for throwing your tip into the hat! Much appreciated. 🙂

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  9. Book Club Mom

    Fascinating. I can tell you, as the mother of four boys, the minute I’d declare who was telling the truth and who was pulling the wool over my eyes – that’s when I would surely get it wrong!

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  10. Annecdotist

    I found this really interesting, Norah. I had come across some research that debunked all the stuff about being able to tell if people were lying, but this takes it further. I like the idea of parents celebrating when their children learn to successfully lie because, of course, as it points out it requires some pretty sophisticated mental processing. And of course it must be adaptive – don’t we lie to protect ourselves? I wasn’t sure about the stuff towards the end of the TED talk about being able to monitor people’s physiological responses from a distance – even if used benignly, it seems too much like Big Brother.
    I enjoyed your flash which seems to exemplify these points beautifully.
    I also enjoyed the clip from Candid Camera. I remember one sketch where they convinced people slices of carrot were dead goldfish (I don’t think I’m making that up). I wonder if we had different versions in different countries as I thought the one I remembered was English (yeah, I could look it up, I suppose). But the clip you chose is really interesting as I wonder if people would have reacted differently if the driver were a man.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Anne. I was wondering what you’d think about lying. Most of us think we’re pretty good at knowing when someone else is lying, and pretty good at covering our own tracks. Seems like that’s a lie in itself. I know what you mean about the Big Brother issue. But it seems like nothing is private any more. We are filmed everywhere we go. I do like the health benefits of this imaging. Especially for those living in remote areas. It could give access to diagnoses which may prevent premature deaths. I would like to think that people need to agree to it though. I have heard of some remote medical testing in Australia but at the moment can’t think just what it is.
      I did try to combine the lying and the humour in my flash, so I’m pleased it worked.
      Also pleased that you enjoyed the Candid Camera clip. I think this might be the one you are referring to.
      Your final question about the gender of the motor-less driver is interesting coming from a fiction writer/ psychologist. I wonder indeed! 🙂

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      1. Annecdotist

        I’m sure you’re right about the advantages of remote monitoring outweighing the disadvantages, which certainly makes sense in countries like Australia where people in rural areas might be a great distance from healthcare centres. I know that even just with access to video and computers it’s become possible to make diagnoses remotely.
        Thanks for rooting out that goldfish clip, I did enjoy seeing it again. And confirms what I thought that we had our own version with English accents.

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        1. Norah Post author

          I hope we don’t lose too much when gaining the advantages from the technology, but the possibility of a diagnosis without the need to travel long distances is a great advantage.
          It was my pleasure to find the goldfish clip. It was a great laugh. Some clips loose their lustre over time, but that one certainly didn’t! I’m pleased you mentioned it. 🙂

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  11. julespaige

    Your post reminds me of politics and statistics. And that saying that goes something like; There are lies, darn lies and statistics….

    And also here in the states there is a cartoonist who draws “Family Circle” – and when one of the four children do a mis-step and are asked ‘Who done it” either one of two little ghouls/ghosts are put to blame. “Ida know” and “Not Me”.

    Thinking about ‘fibbing’ – Are humans the only earthlings to do so? Other animals steel and destroy. But I guess without actual speech it would be difficult to lie?

    I enjoyed your flash. I’ve had similar experiences with the grands. Live and learn and learn to live!

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    1. Steven

      I seem to recall reading something a few years ago that was able to find evidence to suggest that the studied animal was capable of lying. I don’t remember what type of animal was studied.

      Liked by 2 people

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      1. Norah Post author

        Well you’ve both spurred me on, and I’ve googled “Do animals lie”. There are many articles which discuss ways in which different animals lie – too many articles for me to list here. It does make for some interesting reading though, and perhaps a different way of thinking about lying.

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    2. Norah Post author

      Statistics can usually be manipulated to tell any truth we want, can’t they? 🙂
      I used to read the “Family Circle” in the paper when I was growing up. I loved it, but I haven’t seen it for years. How I recognise those “not me” comments!
      It’s an interesting question whether humans are the only earth animals to fib. I’ve never owned pets so am not sure. Perhaps dog or cat owners would be able to enlighten us on that one.
      I don’t think I’ve experienced the exact situation portrayed in my flash, but definitely others like it. I think the children feel more embarrassed at being discovered doing something they thought to be private, rather than guilty or naughty. Though my two grandkids gleefully told me about some naughty stuff they got up to at home last week. They definitely didn’t lie about it. Fortunately they have very patient parents!

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  12. TanGental

    Ah me, like you I felt as if I could be detected in a lie so usually was. The Lawyer, meanwhile is genius and was from a baby when it comes to lying. Some might say good career choice… Enjoyed the flash too,

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Trouble is, I thought I’d get away with it and never did. I think I must have been the opposite of advanced! Yeah, I guess it’s the stereotype for a lawyer. I’m pleased you like the flash.
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

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