Deciphering the science and art of questioning: is lying natural in humans?

Is lying natural in humans?

An interrogatee – whether a captive of war, a terrorist apprehended in a counter-terrorism operation, or a petty criminal – will use deception as their primary interface with the controlled environment to which he will be submitted.

Interrogation room. Image courtesy of Noh Mun Duek/Wikimedia Commons

Interrogation is based on the premise that lying is a a priori condition in the universe of discourse in which the procedural mechanics of science acquire meaning. It presupposes the need to lie as an inherent quality of humanity. Therefore, a subject to be interrogated – whether he happens to be a captive of war, a terrorist apprehended during a counter-terrorism operation or a petty criminal – will resort to deception as his first interface with the controlled environment in which he is going to be. submitted. at. Indeed, it is the baseline or initial set of assumptions that must be assumed for a study of interrogation to be undertaken.

Lying is clearly different from deception: the former is a behavior typical of only human beings, whereas deception could and would in fact extend to other forms of living beings that fall under entropy and decay. . Although game theory appears to have modeled the possibility of deception in a stable intra-species communication system, the jury is still out on the intentionality factor. In other words, if a chameleon adjusts its colors to camouflage itself from a predator (or when some creatures release ink to distract themselves, others feign death!), the displayed deception does not necessarily imply a conscious act. But a person who resorts to lying is aware of his conduct! Interrogation—in the classic sense (and not neuropathologically manipulated)—only becomes relevant when the subject is aware that he is hiding a theoretically revealable fact.

Indeed, the need to lie is determined and bound by a wide range of nuances. In conventional type interrogation, the primary reason is to deceive and preserve. While the scope and scope by which deception is designed may vary, the need to preserve is normally driven by a cause. The cause could be simple: to escape punishment. Or, it can be complicated: Preserving others, even a cause superior even to self-preservation or the preservation of others: the preservation of an ideal! The fine distinction between the two can be difficult to understand in the early stages of an interrogation process, but comes to the fore during prolonged interrogation.

It is important to identify the “inner fortress” that the subject tries to preserve. Interrogation – even of the most extensive variety (where extreme discomfort is inflicted on the subject of the interrogation) – would fall apart if this was not acknowledged. The focus, therefore, should be on digging up both the method by which the deception is constructed and the reason for the preservation. Uncovering the methodology used for deception will determine and navigate the line of interrogation and – if used innovatively – break down the superstructure a subject strives to preserve. In most cases, the possibility of entering the “inner fortress” would be equivalent to arriving at the truth.

But is preservation the only reason to lie? Are there motivations beyond such a defense mechanism that cause humans to lie? Is it possible that the instinct to erect imaginary walls of truth around oneself leads to statements of untruth? An exploration of such behavior winds up in the realm of psycho-pathology where classical questioning can be rendered ineffective.

A major school of thought – both in literature and in science – holds the view that human nature (in the way it is distinguished from other natures) resorts to lying itself as a method of self-glorification. Hellenic tradition informs that it is the unusual gift of the muses to “say many things that are untrue as if they were true”. The Greek philosopher Aristotle exemplifies honesty as a purely self-presenting virtue. Another philosopher of almost the same genre, Plato does not list honesty as a virtue in his reference to “noble lies”. He forbade poetry in his Republic, considering it an abomination to true philosophy. The Malmesbury philosopher Hobbes condemns the metaphor as an illusion, saying that true statements are constructed from exact definitions and “clear words”. But in life, surreal or not, daydreams and metaphors cannot be suppressed – life will cease to be what it is without the “little luxuries” of lies.

Scientific findings do not quite contradict what a superior product (literature) of the same brain seeks to explain, albeit in a more elegant, less complicated way. The skillful manipulation of an area of ​​the brain – the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a region at the front of the brain – by methods that may not yet have left the laboratory seems to demonstrate that the brain activates d ‘a way that could cause a subject to play ambiguous roles, causing the person to show dishonesty in situations where they would otherwise have told the truth, especially if it was to their advantage. This is despite the fact that lying drains more “neural resources” than when a subject is telling the truth. The lies, deception, and motivation for exhibiting deviant behavior that encompasses both may therefore not be so neat and orderly after all!

But can we say that “lying” comes naturally to man? Or is there both resistance and horror towards it in an extra-ethical sense. In other words, would it be correct to say that a person hides the truth only when he has a motivation to do so? The impulse to lie could (as explained above) even outweigh immense physical distress, for example, when a subject is confronted with the awareness that lying is mandated by a cause that is greater than continuation as a physical entity, an existence she sacrificed on the altar of the cause she swore to herself long before she found herself in a controlled setting. But there are variants as was the case with a character such as Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi’s control over his insides was so complete that he was able to place truth outside his system and examine it as if it were an object of evaluation. The author of My experiences with the truth wouldn’t tolerate lies even in jest. This was confirmed by a number of examples from his extraordinary life. However, despite Gandhi’s impressive life, it would have been important for historians, psychologists and observers of the “truth-lie dichotomy” to know how the Mahatma viewed Yudhisthira’s half-lie: Aswathama Hatha (Aswathama is dead)… Kunjaraha (elephant).

The author is a conflict analyst and author of several best-selling books on security and strategy. The opinions expressed are personal.

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