Tag Archives: lying

Truth or lie?

In my previous two posts, here and here, I discussed the issue of lying and the suggestions that:

  • lying may be a part of human nature
  • it is difficult to tell whether someone, even a child, is lying or not.

This morning when I parked my car at work, the young man in the car in the next parking bay called out, “I’m stuck.”

I asked him what the problem was, and he explained that he had parked too close to the car beside him and couldn’t get out.

I walked around his car and saw that there was a gap of about 15 centimetres between the two cars, not enough to open a door.

As I glanced along between them, I noticed that the side mirror of the other car, which had reversed into the park, was broken. I said nothing, and, so far as I am aware my facial expression didn’t change. However, the young man immediately protested, “I didn’t do that. I promise you, I didn’t do that!

I didn’t respond to his remark but thought, “Yeah right!” I then proceeded to guide him out of his car park by suggesting he tuck in his side mirror and straighten his wheels. He was then able to reverse out without hitting the car beside him, and drive back in giving himself enough room to get out of his car.

Although he stated his innocence, I didn’t know if he had caused the damage to the mirror on the other car.

  • Why did he protest immediately when I’d hardly had time to notice it, let alone mention it? Wouldn’t he have done better to say nothing?
  • Was it too much of a coincidence that the car should be damaged in a way that may have been caused by this young man trying to reverse out?
  • Why would he have even noticed the damage to the mirror or think it worthy of mention? Did his protests not imply his guilt?

What was I to do?

If he was guilty he should leave a note for the driver, apologizing and giving his details. If he was guilty and didn’t do that, should I leave a note telling the driver his licence number and explaining what I suspected? What if I supplied that information and he was innocent?

What then? I’d be telling a lie.

Call me gullible but I do prefer to take people at face value and believe in their honesty. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a suspicious mind. However, I had no way of ascertaining, without access to transdermal optical imaging, as mentioned by Kang Lee whether this young man was telling the truth or a lie. So I wished him a good day and left it at that.

When I returned to my car in the afternoon, both cars were still there. I checked the young man’s side mirror to see if it was damaged. I thought that if he had damaged the other car’s mirror with his, then his mirror would likely be damaged too. But it was not.

Was he telling the truth? Was it just a coincidence? I’ll never know. But it did give me something to think about.

What do you think?

PS The characters in this story are real, as are the incidents. It was a young male driver, and not me, who was having difficulty parking! And me who helped him!

Thank you

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

If not you, then who?

Earlier this week in my post Smile! It’s contagious I mentioned the commonly held misconception that adults usually know when children are lying. I say ‘misconception’ because it’s been shown that adults have no idea whether children are lying or not, and it appears that children, also, have no idea if others, even their siblings, are lying.

This inability to distinguish the liar from the truth-teller is portrayed clearly in an incident in the book Ugly, a memoir, by Robert Hoge. We’ll call it The Chocolate Incident.

Ugly cover

Robert is the youngest of five siblings. One day the five of them were called to a family meeting in the lounge room. When they were all standing up straight in a line from oldest to youngest Robert knew that something was up. Their mother soon informed them that chocolates had been taken from a box on top of the fridge, and not just a couple that wouldn’t be missed, but more than that.

Both parents were involved in the interrogation. Their mother said, “We’re going to ask who took the chocolates. We’re going to look you in the eye and ask you, and you’d better come clean or there’ll be real trouble.

Robert explains that in turn she approached each child, starting with the oldest. She stared at each for a few seconds, then asked, “Did you take any chocolates?” In turn each child replied in the negative and, as they did so, turned to look at the next in line.

As the parents moved from child to child Robert, knowing he was innocent, observed the responses of his siblings. Who took the chocolates? The looks of dread, panic and fear that were so obvious on each face convinced him of their guilt. But no, each sibling denied it.

When the fourth child denied taking chocolates and turned to face Robert, he realised that he was the last in line, “there was no one there for me to look at. Not even Sally, our dog.

He continues, “I started crying before Mum got to me. One by one the others turned to look at me. Dad glared ominously over Mum’s shoulder and I tried to say, “It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me.” But everything was lost to my sobbing and I got the blame. I still don’t know who took those chocolates.

I wonder if there’ll ever be a confession! Or if the culprit ever felt remorse for Robert, the youngest, having to take the blame.

There is more to Robert than this one incident portrays. His is a remarkable story. I have heard it many times and am yet to tire of hearing it. I first heard him speak at a writers’ seminar, the seminar that was the final impetus to set me on my blogging journey. I heard him speak again at a Writers’ festival at which I purchased his memoir. I have also seen him tell his story on television more than once.

My signed copy from the writers' festival!

My signed copy from the writers’ festival!

I own three versions of Robert’s memoir: paperback, audiobook and the Kindle version for younger readers. Robert reads the audiobook, which is a special treat. It gives authenticity to the listening experience, particularly since I was already familiar with his voice. It also means when I read his books to myself, that I hear his voice telling me his story. All versions are written in a pleasant, easily readable and conversational tone, as if we are sitting together, chatting over a cup of tea and a Tim Tam.

tim tam and tea

When I handed my Mum a copy of the book, I wasn’t sure whether she’d enjoy it or not. However, after 70+ years of adult reading (she was 90), she informed me that it was the best book she had ever read.

I’m not sure why this story makes such a strong impression on us. Maybe it’s because we think it could have happened to either of our families. Robert is only two years older than my Robert, and six years younger than Mum’s youngest of ten.

Houghton Highway

Maybe it’s because the family’s culture, growing up in another Brisbane bay-side suburb just across the bridge, was similar to ours.

Maybe it’s because it’s a story of resilience, of survival against the odds, and of making hard decisions. Maybe it’s a bit of all of these, and more, including the raw honesty with which Robert writes.

Ugly for kids.PNG

There are many opportunities for learning in Robert’s book, many different topics I could choose to write about; so many that I haven’t known where to start. After the previous discussion about lying, this seemed an appropriate introduction.

I haven’t told you much of Robert’s story. It is better to have him tell you himself. He introduces himself in this TED talk.

Links to other interviews, and to connect with Robert online, can be found here

I recommend Robert’s story to you. It is definitely a story worth sharing.

Thank you

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

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.