It has been revealed this week that fake election news stories on Facebook were looked at more than true stories from major news outlets in the final three months of the US presidential campaign. Barack Obama has expressed his concern. “If we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems”, he said.
But the lies and fakeries don’t just exist in social media – we all kept an eye out for signs of insincerity, hostility and discomfort when Donald Trump met with President Obama at the White House for the first time. And we’re paying close attention to Theresa May when she discusses the transition of the UK out of the EU, to see what clues can be given away that could tell us what she’s really thinking.
“How can you tell if a politician is lying?”, goes the old joke, “because their lips are moving!”. But can we discriminate between what’s true and what’s not?
While Facebook seeks to find a way to manage fake news on its site, there are some signals we can look for when we’re watching people as well. These and many more tips are provided in the book ‘The Definitive Book of Body Language’ by Allan and Barbara Pease. They can help us ‘read’ politicians, and also make us super savvy when it comes to stakeholder management!
Hand over the mouth: This is the brain’s way of trying to supress the words coming from the liar’s mouth. Look out to for fake coughs, with a hand over the mouth as well.
Hand to nose: Due to the release of chemicals called catecholamines when a lie is told, the nose does actually swell because of an increase in blood pressure which can cause it to tingle! This is known as the Pinocchio Effect.
Neck scratch: Look out for a scratch (usually with the index finger of the person’s writing hand) just below their earlobe. This signals uncertainty – they might not believe what they’re telling you.
Collar pull: Rising blood pressure when a person is lying causes them to heat up – they’re literally getting hot under the collar
Non-verbal cues give insights into peoples’ intentions, and meanings. Reading them is a skill to practice. It’s worth noting that context and other patterns are important too – the person you’re watching might just have an itchy nose or neck!
Super tips. And the last word goes to Arthur Weasley, Ron’s dad from the Harry Potter Books. It seems particularly appropriate at the moment. “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain”.
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