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Wednesday, May 21, 2014 Permalink

Radiolab: Deception

Charlotte McKnight / flickr

Charlotte McKnight / flickr

We consult a cast of characters, from pathological liars to lying snakes to drunken psychiatrists, to try and understand the strange power of lying to yourself and others.

Catching Liars

In this segment, Gordon Burghardt introduces us to a snake that plays dead. Then, from a highway median at John F. Kennedy Airport, Paul Ekman tries to teach Jad how to catch a liar the old-fashioned way: by reading their facial expressions. Because if you know where to look, he says, the truth leaks out. We learn more about this truth "leakage" from CIA interrogatorBarry L. McManus and Steve Silberman, reporter from Wired magazine. We then return to Ekman for a peek into his personal effort to walk the path of the honest man.

People Who Lie

What's going on in the mind of a liar? Producer Ellen Horne tells the story of a con woman and the trail of mistrust she leaves in her wake. Then we delve into the brains of pathological liars with Yaling Yang, a psychologist at the University of Southern California. She tells us that pathological liars have a surprising advantage over normal people: they are better at making connections between ideas in different parts of their brain.

Lying to Ourselves

Can we lie to ourselves? If you are the liar, wouldn't you know the truth? In this segment, we explore the confusing and contradictory idea of self-deception. We go back to the early 70s, when psychiatrists Harold Sackeim and Ruben Gurcame up with a set of embarrassing questions that they say reveal the lies we tell ourselves. Psychologist Joanna Starektells us that swimmers who lie to themselves swim faster than those who do not. And we explore the power of self-deception to make us more successful, and happier, people.