This week's required reading: three books on lying. What do we really mean by a lie, why do we tell them and why do some of us do tell them much more than others?
Google’s Motorola division has just filed a patent within the US for a mobile-device microphone that is tattooed on the user’s throat. You read right: this imagined gadget is a flexible film that would be imprinted on the throat of the user: the idea being to remove the need for an external microphone and capture the voice better in noisy environments.
But a second detail makes this patent filing an even more terrifying glimpse of the future. The throat-microphone would also contain a lie detector. Yes, it seems that the people shaping our technological future are not content with handing over half our communications to the National Security Agency: they want to hand them over with lie-detection bundled in.
But will your phone ever really be able to tell when you’re lying? What do we really mean by a lie, why do we tell them and why do some of us tell them much more (and so much better) than others?
• For answers, turn to Liar: The Truth About Lying by Robert Feldman. In the average 10-minute conversation we tell two or three lies, says Feldman, an American psychologist who is one of the world’s leading experts on lying. And lying isn’t all bad: lies play a crucial role in social success.
• Those kinds of lies are usually called white lies and in Lying, the neuroscientist Sam Harris builds a contemplative essay around them. White lies are the only lies, he says, that good people tell while thinking themselves to be doing good: “Yes, you look great in that dress.” But Harris argues that lying is always wrong and our lives would be far simpler without white lies. But you still look great in that dress, honest.
• Meanwhile, are you dealing with a liar in your life? Turn to The Truth About Lying: Everyday Techniques for Dealing with Deception by Stan Walters. Walters lays out the techniques used by US law enforcement professionals to detect liars. Just remember, you don’t get to handcuff them afterwards.