Researchers face up to liars

1 min read

Our expressions speak louder than words

What category of people do you think would be best at detecting lies? It’s not Secret Service agents, or psychiatrists, or even mothers. Investigators working at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have found that aphasics — people who, because of stroke or other forms of brain damage, have been robbed of their ability to understand language — are best able to detect lies. That skill was suspected for a long time, but the new study is the first to prove it. In the book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, neurologist-author Oliver Sacks describes a group of aphasics watching Ronald Reagan speaking on television and laughing at what they perceived as deceptive statements by him. “We compared aphasics to healthy people, to those with other types of brain damage, and even to students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” says Nancy Etcoff, a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School. “Aphasics are clearly superior at perception of deception.”