How to fake a thank you

So, the 25th of December has finally arrived. It’s Christmas day, and your entire family are sat around opening the presents you’ve all carefully chosen for one another. The next box under the tree has your name on it, and you eagerly tear it open to find… a Barbie Doll. It seems that Nana has forgotten you’re 20. Bad gifts are a common feature of the festive period, but it’s the thought that counts, right? So with granny sat in the corner eagerly awaiting your reaction, just how do you fake that all important thank you?

According to Robert Feldman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, lying is a basic skill that we all learn early on in life. Over time we perfect this skill and use it to our own advantage, a trait thought to stem from our drive to survive and evade harm. Lying is thought to keep elaborate social structures running smoothly, which subsequently maintains the benefits of living in large groups such as protection and increased reproductive rates, and it’s not just humans that do it.

In the 1970s, as part of a research project exploring interspecies communication, Dr Francine Patterson attempted to teach two gorillas (Michael and Koko) a basic version of American Sign Language. Later on in the study, Koko ripped a sink out of the wall of her enclosure, and when asked who did it signed that her pet kitten had. So if everyone’s at it, how can you tell if you’re being deceived?

There are many telltale signs that give away a liar. These are often physical cues which occur as a result of the deception, something which you need to avoid doing if your mum is going to believe that the yellow cardigan she just gave you is what you’ve always wanted. Leaning forward, fidgeting and handling objects have all been reported as signs of someone who is not telling the truth. However, the real clues to deceit are in what we say as oppose to how we act.

Liars often use formal language when attempting to deceive, and try to distance themselves from the situation, using fewer personal references. However, have no fear as we are apparently appalling at detecting lies, achieving only 54% accuracy at lie detection. The chances are if you smile, thank the gift bearer and quickly move onto a different present no one will pick up on your deception.

Louise White

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