||Gerald R. Miller and James B. Stiff
||Publisher: Sage Publications, Inc., ©
2455 Teller Rd.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
This short but clear book of 130 pages is a competent review of the
theories and research on deception and its detection. There is a
significant body of research that is sufficient to reach some
conclusions. The book presents a somewhat alarming overview of the
prevalence of deception in our society and its functions in politics,
business, and advertising. The authors take the position that there are
some circumstances in which deception is desirable and maintain that an
absolute moral standard that only truth is permissible is too rigid. This conflict between morality and expedience, which has a long history
in human discourse, is not resolved but the authors allow for deception
to have some utility.
The theories of deception and moderating variables are summarized in a clear,
understandable manner that a nonpsychologist can read and grasp. The chapters on
[he research findings are not needlessly technical but are concise summaries of
complex material. There may be some researchers in the area who may wish to
raise additional points but a general read will not find anything that is not
supported by research evidence.
The authors very carefully point to the "file drawer" problem as a serious
blemish in the research. Their treatment of this important problem can be
readily understood by those not trained in research. Simply put, the "file
drawer" problem is that studies which fail to
produce interesting findings or which support the null hypothesis (that there
are no differences between the groups or variables studied) do not get
published. The few nonverbal and verbal behaviors that may be suggestive of
deception are described. This makes it clear that what many people, including
some mental health professionals, advance as way of ascertaining truthfulness
does not work. For example, there is no support for the belief that truth
tellers look you in the eye while deceivers are shifty eyed.
The conclusion is that, while deception is commonplace, people do not have
the ability to detect it reliably. Although providing base line information
improves the ability to do it accurately, here, too, the situation is complex
and not simple. There is a brief discussion of Criterion Based Content Analysis
and the possible benefit it may have in the courtroom for more accurately
assessing deception by both children and adults. The suggested directions for
future research are cogent and appear to outline the most promising avenues for
the future efforts to understand deception and its detection.
In the justice system there is a heavy emphasis upon demeanor and the ability
of the finders of fact, judges or juries, to read demeanor correctly and thus be
able to tell who is deceiving and who is not. This book is a sober corrective to
that commonly held belief. At the same time the listings of those nonverbal and
verbal behaviors that seem to be of some value in detecting deception may be
useful to attorneys and others. This book is important for those in the justice
system who are in any position where detection of deception may be a concern. It
can be read quickly. It is understandable. It provides solid and reliable
information and does not deceive.
Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for