This week on the Exploring the Mind! podcast, Michael Lovitch spends some quality time with Dr. Michael Shermer (view bio) to talk about why people believe in weird things and the reason why The Law of Attraction (ie, “The Secret”) is a “weird thing”.
Dr. Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, the host of the Skeptics Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech, and Adjunct Professor of Economics at Claremont Graduate University.
He is the author of over 10 books, including, ‘Why People Believe in Weird Things‘ and the current best seller, ‘The Mind of The Market‘– a very interesting book that compares the free market to evolutionary theory.
What You Will Learn From This Podcast
Here are some of the questions asked to Dr. Shermer.
- What are “Weird Things” that People Believe in
- Why do Smart People Believe Weird Things
- Why Believing in Weird Things Can be a Good Thing
- How to Protect Yourself from Certainty
- What is the “Free Market” and How Does it Relate to Evolutionary Theory
I have been doing some interesting reading, and I thought I would share with you some interesting information on how to spot a liar.
This should be a useful tool over this holiday weekend.
Busting the relatives is always a fun deal. Was uncle Harvey really a war hero? Did daddy really enjoy going to your brother’s piano recitals?
First, let’s dispel some myths.
How many of you believe that if someone crosses their arms or has a closed posture that this means they are lying?
What about excess blinking?
What about excessive touching of the face?
What about increased blood flow to the face?
Or incongruities between body language and speech content?
Is someone lying to you when they can’t look you in eye?
What about the NLP fans who believe that someone is lying if they look to the right?
These are just a sample of “indicators” I was able to come up with just by browsing the net.
Well, I am sorry to say that they are all misguided (in other words they are flat wrong).
So, is it impossible to tell if someone is lying to you?
According to the research, it really is impossible if you are focusing on visual cues.
Looking for visual cues, it turns out, is absolutely the most unreliable way to spot a liar.
This was demonstrated by research done across the globe by a psychologist from TCU, Dr. Charles Bond. Turns out that it was the myths above that actually prevented subjects from spotting a lie.*
However, there is hope. It turns out the best way to spot a lie is to use your ears.
It is all about what a person says and how they say it.**
In fact, it has been demonstrated by Richard Wiseman Ph.D. (a pretty famous researcher and author of a book you simply have to read “Quirkology”) that people without deception training are much better at detecting deception when listening to a tape recording of a liar than when watching a video.
So even without training, your unconscious mind is able to do a half way decent job of detecting a lie if you don’t focus on visual cues.
However, with training, your odds are going to go way up.
Here are the four easy ways to spot a lie:***
1. Liars tend to say less. The more someone says, the more likely it is that some of those words are going to haunt them. Lies will have far less detail (in other words, they will be more general).
2. Liars also tend to distance themselves from their lies. They will include fewer references to themselves and won’t use a lot of words indicating feelings. The use of the word, “I” will be less prevalent.
3. Liars never forget. For some reason liars forget that most people forget things so they will never admit they don’t remember a certain aspect of their story. Somehow the lie creates a super human memory – which of course they are inventing.
4. A person will also have more pauses and hesitation when they are lying. It takes energy and thought to lie, this leads to little “thinking” pauses.
A disclaimer, BE CAREFUL! Nothing is perfect, these just make it far more likely that you can spot a lie. So please – no family feuds over this stuff!
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday… Really.
*The Global Deception Research Team, “A World of Lies,”Journal of of Cross-Cultural Psychology 37, no.1 (2006):60-74
**DePaulo, Bella M. and Wendy L. Morris (2004), “Discerning lies from truth: behavioral cues to deception and the indirect pathway of intuition,” in The Detection of Deception in Forensic Contexts, Pär Anders Granhag and Leif A. Strömwall, eds. New York: Cambridge University Press, 15-40.
***Wiseman, R. (2007). Quirkology. London, UK: Pan Macmillan, 58-60.
You have probably heard about the Placebo effect. We know new drugs are measured against the placebo effect because a good percentage of people get better just by taking sugar pills.
I think a lot of us don’t take the time to consider how crazy this is. Some pretty major health conditions are “cured” by basically the belief that the pill or injection will work.
This is obviously power of the mind stuff, but until recently scientists had never been able to actually “see” the placebo effect actually working in the brain.
Thanks to Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (f MRI) and PET scans, researchers can now see the brain work in real time.
The Placebo Research
A researcher named Jon-Kar Zubieta, a neurologist at the University of Michigan, used some amazing trickery in order to discover that the driver of placebo effect in the brain is an area called the nucleus accumbens (NAcc).
What is interesting, (and actually makes sense) is that this area of the brain is responsible for our expectancy of reward.
I won’t go into too much detail about the actual study (it involved researchers sticking subjects in the jaw with a needle to cause pain – OUCH!!!), and then giving them an intravenous pain cure.
The cure of course was just plain old saline solution (a placebo).
The PET scans revealed that the placebo caused an actual dopamine boost with highest dopamine release coming from the nucleus accumbens (NAcc).
All the subjects experienced some relief, but some more than others.
So the researchers used fMRI on the same subjects to see if there was a correlation between those who got the best placebo effect with those who potentially had the mostactive nucleus accumbens (NAcc).
Scientists are tricky! Here is how they pulled it off.
While using f MRI to monitor brain activity, they had the subjects play a game where they could receive monetary rewards. The anticipation of reward intensified the activity in the nucleus accumbens.
The cool part is that the people who had the highest activity in the NAcc during the game are the same people who had the most profound placebo effect in the pain part of the study.
The Take Home
So it seems that it pays to have an NAcc that hums if you want to get cured by a sugar pill.
I have been thinking about this study a lot and it begs this question.
Could we actually train ourselves to enhance our expectancy of reward, thus strengthening the NA? If so, this might mean we could develop some ability for self healing. Or it just might be genetic – nobody knows right now
Here is the citation for the study I just summarized.
Scott et al.: Individual Differences in Reward Responding
Explain Placebo-Induced Expectations and Effects
Publishing in Neuron 55, 325–336, July 19, 2007. DOI
The research is still in its early stages and I would curious if any of you have any other real research on the subject (not new age mumbo jumbo, but real peer reviewedresearch).
If you do, just post it below.
Here are some other cool facts about the placebo effect:
- Orange, Red and other hot colored tablets work better as stimulants.
- Cool colored ones (blue, green, purple) work better as depressants.
- Big pills generally work better than small pills!
- Higher priced pills work better than lower priced pills.
- Injections work better than tablets
- And “branded” tablets work better than unbranded tablets!
Some interesting news came out last night. The attorney general of Connecticut, Richard Blumethal, announced an investigation into the business practices and questionable science associated with Acai berry products — primarily pitched by Internet-based companies as a wonder treatment for weight-loss.
Personally, I think this is great news and it is about time.
If you spend any time online, you have surely seen ads with the headlines, “Oprah’s Diet Secret”, “Seven Rules to a Flat Stomach, or (the worst) “Amy’s weight loss blog”, “Karen’s weight loss blog”, etc… on almost every page online.
If you actually clicked on one of these ads, you probably ended up on what looked like a blog with a before and after picture of some woman who has lost weight. She then tells a story about how she saw Dr. Mehmet OZ and Oprah say that acai is a miracle diet food. It might also mention Rachael Ray.
The woman then says she tried it herself and the pounds just came flying off. It is kind of believable as it looks like a real person and there are even comments on her blog. There then is a link to one of the many companies selling acai berry on a free trial basis.
Problem 1: The Blogs are Phonies
The problem here (one among many) is that these blogs are all phonies.
The woman depicted on Tara’s Diet Blog, Olivia’s Weight Loss blog, Alicia’s Diet Blog, Becky’s Weight Loss blog, and at least 75 other blogs is a German model named Julia who has nothing to do with acai or any weight-loss product. The German photographer who made the original photos of her available on Istockphoto.com said the pill companies manipulated some of the “after” images to give the impression of weight loss.
Most likely the sites are actually run by men. (That is just my guess).
Anyway, the people running the blogs are definitely a part of the problem – but they are not the cause. These are just opportunist people who saw an easy way to make a buck by promoting the biggest diet pill hoax of the 21st century.
They are not “associated” with the folks who market the pills; they just get an ungodly amount of money every time they send these people a free trial through one of these blogs.
I could go on and on about this. One consequence of these fake blogs making so much money is it squeezes out ethical marketers because the price for buying ad space simply becomes too high.
Problem 2: Acai Berry Will Not Help You Lose Weight
In truth, açai has less antixodants than concord grapes, blueberries, and black cherries. But more importantly, no credible evidence suggests antioxidants promote weight loss.
The attorney general from Connecticut says it more strongly,
“There is no competent scientific research that demonstrates any of the claimed effects of Acai berry, including weight loss, detoxification and increased energy and vitality”
Problem 3: Oprah Did NOT Endorse Acai Berry
And the truth about the Oprah show with Dr. Oz is that they never mentioned Acai as a weight loss aide, just as one of many fruits that were healthy (like tomatoes). In fact, on Oprah’s website they have a statement out that says,
“Consumers should be aware that Oprah Winfrey is not associated with nor does she endorse any açaí berry product or online solicitation of such products.”
Just to be clear, there is no acai berry supplement endorsed by Oprah, Dr. Perricone, Rachel Ray or Dr. Oz.
Problem 4: There is no Miracle Diet Pill that Works
There simply is no magic pill that is going to allow you to lose weight if you don’t eat right and exercise. There are pills that can help you lose water weight in the short term, and there are supplements that may help you control your appetite (usually stimulants) but even they are not that dramatic.
If you have a thyroid issue, hormonal issues or have a tendency towards insulin resistance, there are certain supplements that can help you move towards attaining the metabolism of a normal person your age. However, these will not help you if you already have a normal metabolism. For example, I lean hypothyroid and am helped by a very inexpensive iodine supplement recommended by Dr. Hyman.
I am as guilty as anyone in that I am always looking for the miracle pill! I take quite a few supplements, (mainly for vitality and longevity) but have pretty much given up on the weight loss benefits. I do see promise in resveratrol, not as a miracle, but as something that can help keep insulin levels in check. But again, if you don’t have your diet under control it will do you no good.
In short, if you want to get to and maintain a healthy weight – there is no magic pill that is going to do it for you!
I would love to read your comments on the acai berry scam as well as any other feedback you have. Just comment below.