Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lie to Me and Westerfeld's Extras

I've recently started watching Fox's new show Lie to Me, about a small group of people whose job it is to figure out when people are lying. One of those people bases his evaluations on facial expressions (he's a huge fan of microexpressions), one bases her evaluations on linguistic analysis (using contractions or not, distancing language, etc.), and one person has no special training but is naturally good at telling when people are lying. There's also a fourth person, a guy who practices Radical Honesty. Radical Honesty is a movement in which people tell the truth all the time. Not only that, they say exactly what they are thinking. Ordinarily, when someone tries to be truthful all the time, he or she might make sure that every word was truthful and just not say anything that he or she might want to lie about. Those who practice Radical Honesty have no such loopholes (in theory, anyway - if you read the Esquire article I've linked to below, you'll see that lying is considered ok in certain specific circumstances).

My first exposure to Radical Honesty was Scott Westerfeld's book Extras, in which one of the characters actually had surgery performed on his brain that forced him to practice Radical Honesty (although Radical Honesty comes up in both Extras and Lie to Me, I haven't added Lie to Me as a watch-alike for Extras, because the two have little in common besides that). I hadn't actually thought Radical Honesty was something that real people did - I mean, lies do sometime have a purpose, they're not all bad. I could never see practicing Radical Honesty myself, and I don't really see how it can't hurt a person's relationships just as much as telling lies all the time, but it's still a fascinating idea.

More about Radical Honesty:

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