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on January 24, 2005
Dr Eckman may disappoint his readers by not giving them what they want: A simple protocol for determining whether or not someone is lying. There is a simple reason: There isn't one.

Other books will defraud the reader by giving them techniques that in reality don't work. Dr Eckman pounds in one central point - that there is no one single way to detect dishonesty. He calls any belief to the contrary "the Brokaw Hazard," named after Tom Brokaw, who believes that circumlocution is the omnipresent sentinel of a lie. He also develops the concept of the "Othello Error," that cautions the reader against actually causing lie signals by accident (named after the literary Othello, who assumed that his wife's sobbing was for her lover, but in reality she was sobbing because of her husband's rage over the incorrectly presumed affair.). He gives many tips, including a checklist in an appendix that might help the reader to detect lies, but most of the material is embedded deep within the text. He helps the reader to develop a dynamic approach to detecting lies; approaches that are developed as detection begins. He exhorts the reader to use NUMEROUS well-defined clues to develop the case for the conclusion that someone is lying.

The biggest flaw in the book is on its cover. The cover suggests that this is a practical book. It is more of a research paper. This is what makes it reliable - the fact that such a complete study is contained within. But the average reader will look for a standard protocol for detecting lies - but the Brokaw Hazard tells us there is none.
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on May 21, 2001
The title of this book suggests a practical approach: "Clues to deceit in the marketplace, politics and marriage". However the actual content is very different. Thorough the whole book the author mainly explains the results of some experiments he has done at the university. The results are interesting but non practical at all. Actually, it seems to me that the main conclusion of the book is that there are no reliable methods or tests to find out if someone is lying. The references to marriage, politics and the marketplace are just anecdotical and non substantial to the book.
I am not saying that the book is not interesting. What I'm saying is that the title is deceiving and seems to be only a marketing strategy to make it attractive to more people. That is not exactly honest, specially for a book dealing with lies and deceit.
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on March 25, 2009
As I've said in my other reviews, I am not Susan Gill, I'm her son.

Dr. Ekman's work on lie detection has been getting a lot of attention lately, due to the fact his science is regularly practiced on Fox's new show Lie to me. The producers even asked him to be their scientific consultant and have put on a quite impressive display of how effective Ekman's study really is.
Alright, first off, the problems. Dr. Ekman has a notorious habit in the entire book for stating that his science is, "inconclusive" and "still has a lot of faults" and that he`s not sure about this, or that. In other words, he tries to come off like there is no real way of knowing if his science works or not, and if it`s a real practical way of catching deciet. This is mostly because he focuses on "deception clues" instead of "deception leakage" which are two entirely different things to look for in a person when looking for deceit (don't worry he describes both in detail, although deception clues in more detail). But the truth is, it does work, and it works very effectively when used correctly. The reason he keeps saying it's inconclusive is because he wrote well over half of this book in `85, way back when he didn't have funds for research on his study. However, if you get the updated version to `01 or even better `08, then he begins to write that his work is much more conclusive than before, and that using facial reading with body language, you are well over 90 % accurate in your lie detection (and concealed emotions reading) ability.
One more complaint that I have is that it seems he shouldn't have written the book himself. It can be a very tough read at points, sometimes having so many technical terms it's hard to keep up, so if you're looking for really easy reading, this book isn't for you. Also, he seems to neglect certain findings that he makes and doesn't give them as much detail as he should sometimes (i.e. mouth shrugs and one sided shoulder shrugs). Another thing he doesn't give enough attention to is (oddly enough) his main point of research, the face. He gives great detail on the body, voice, and words for lying, but when it came to the face, he didn't give hardly any detail on the seven universal emotions. Instead, he gives greater detail to different smiles a person can make, and what each of them could mean (valuable, of course, but that won't tell you if they're lying). For the most part, though, he gives great detail on most of the important things.

Now, for the positive aspects.

If the hard reading doesn't bother you, and you're as committed as I was when it comes to lie detection, then this book is completely worth your time. Dr. Ekman may have a hard time writing out what he means, but you always seem to understand the important things when he does write about them. He includes many things that are not in the show Lie to Me like the difference between "manipulators" and "illustrators". He also gives the three reasons why people can fail in their lies, and even has an entire (long) chapter on the use of the polygraph and his science. This chapter can be useful, because it gives you ideas on where to start with your questions for the liars. Using the "Guilty Knowledge Test" is an example of something you can use to your advantage when questioning a liar. These questions may be meant for use with the polygraph, but as Ekman's science proposes, a person using his techniques (I believe) are much more accurate at lie detection than the polygraph.
One thing I should mention is the fact that Ekman states in his book that people look in the wrong places for lie detection, and that those places are the face and words. Although words are obviously the wrong place to look for deception leakage, the face however, is not. A person's face may be able to lie about certain things (and I realize that certain people get the wrong clues from the face), but he tells you the signs to look for in the face that reveals a false expression, and later goes on to state that looking for micro-expressions alone for lie detection is 70 % accurate on it's own, so the face is actually the first place you should look (hence why he reprinted this book so many times).
Ekman also gives the right impression by saying "there is no actual sign of lying itself". The truth is, there isn't. You may wonder how his science works then, but really all you're looking for is signs of emotion that are out of place, or contradictions between the face and body that don't match the words. Most of the time, you need to investigate certain emotions a person gives, because, if you don't, you could commit the "Othello Error" or even the "Brokaw Hazard" (which are in detail in his book).
All in all, this book is very good at describing his lie detection science. As long as you pick out what is conclusive from his books, then you should have no problem figuring out his lie detection techniques. Watching Lie to Me is a great way at spotting his more conclusive stuff, and figuring out what's what in his book. Not only that, but it's a great excuse for watching the show. My only advice is to get two other books if you're interested in lie detection. Ekman's other book Emotions Revealed is totally focused on the face, and even has an extra chapter on lying that can be quite useful. The third book is actually a book totally devoted to body language called The Definitive Book on Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease. It gives you some bases for negative body language and also has a chapter on body language and lying, but it's mostly a bunch of different manipulators. However, the book is good, nevertheless, because the information on those manipulators is valuable to most lie detecting, and that's something Ekman never really focused on. Of course, it gives much more information than that, and all of it is useful.
So if you're interested in being thorough for lie detection, buy this book, and the two other books I listed. You can't go wrong between these three amazing books. Just make sure you get the most updated version of this book (And to be sure and watch Lie to Me for better distinguishing Ekman's conclusive work! you can watch episodes on [...]


Just so you all know, I have a new reccomended Body language book for you all. If you've been looking into this I'm sure you've heard of it. "What Every Body Says", is written by an ex FBI agent.. while I was shyed away from the book because of that reason, this guy REALLY knows his stuff! I was shocked at how much and how deep his knowledge of body language went! I HIGHLY reccomend this book! In fact I'd be so bold as to get it instead of "The Definitive Book on Body Language" ! While that book is still excellent, I'd have to say that "What Every Body Says" is a bit better.. happy hunting!
55 comments164 of 179 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Paul Ekman's classic book on how to tell when someone is lying has been issued in a third edition which includes his more recent research. Made popular by the Fox TV show "Lie to Me," this book documents the line of research used, not only by the show, but by Secret Service, police, jealous spouses and a host of others who want to be better at detecting lies. New material includes how to identify the facial expressions indicating that someone is likely to become violent.

Ekman points out that we often look for the wrong things when trying to detect deception. Even much of the information he has reviewed in training materials for job interviewers, jury selection, and other deception detection professionals is just plain wrong. The hard part about lying effectively is not concealing information, it is concealing the emotions the liar feels while lying. Guilt, fear and even the "duping delight" a clever liar feels when getting away with a falsehood can provide clues obvious to a trained observer. While Ekman acknowledges the value of verbal slips and body language cues, his research reveals the greater value of focusing on facial expressions, particularly "microexpressions" that are displayed and quickly concealed. He teaches readers to identify and interpret them.

Some of the interesting points the book makes as it teaches us to catch liars in the act:

- We should avoid the "Brokaw Hazard" of assuming someone is lying because their speech seems evasive or convoluted. Some people just speak this way, lying or not.
- We should also avoid the "Othello Error" of branding someone a liar because of fidgety behavior, such as repeatedly touching themselves or adjusting their clothing. They may be uncomfortable, but are not necessarily lying.
- Emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, disgust, distress, happiness, contentment, excitement, surprise and contempt are conveyed by distinct facial expressions, common across all cultures.
- Deception detection is most effective by someone who is familiar with a possible liar's usual behavior and can notice deviations from it.

Paul Ekman's book is recommended for anyone interested in detecting lying. It is a rough read in some places for a popular book, but is far more readable that the journal articles we would need to read without it. Forgive the author his writing style and learn some valuable lessons about his area of expertise.
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on October 23, 2001
The book is fascinating, to say the least. I think people need to take a "realistic approach" to applying the knowledge acquired by reading the book. My one big fault with the book is that whoever actually "wrote" the book is terrible with regard to constructing sentences and expressing ideas! I had to read some things twice in order to make sure I was receiving the information as intended. Dr. Ekman needs to invest in a professional writer who can more clearly express his thoughts, intents and ideas. Hard reading and unneccesarily so!
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on April 29, 2013
I have respect for Ekman, but not for this book.

First, the title implies that we are going to learn how to detect lies, as much as possible. Since Ekman is known for the study of emotions and facial expressions, I would have imagined at least 30 pictures of faces telling us interesting things. The book contains nothing of the kind. Maybe we get five pictures of faces and they are probably no more than 2 x 3 cm in size.

Second, the book is mostly a reprint of an edition form the 1980s. Ekman states in the preface that if he were to write those chapters again, he wouldn't change a thing. Really? 20 years have passed and he wouldn't change a single thing? At least update the section on the Soviet Union.

Third, the chapters are more like essays to start with. One chapter deals with a lie detector. The perspective is not that you should do it yourself, but we get page after page of problems with the method discussed by law enforcement agencies and academics. Clearly, the chapter is lifted from somewhere else. And, wouldn't it be good with a 20 year update. Surely the science of lie detectors must have progressed to some extent?

Fourth, to really understand anything about the author's own research on microemotions, that can spot lies, you have to buy a couple of web-packages on the author's site for $100 each. I think that is acceptable, as long as he would have given a primer in the book.

Useless book. People probably rate it highly because it is written by a famous author. There are actually quite a few two-line reviews for this book. Please don't pay any attention to them.

However, I can highly recommend Ekman's general book on emotions titled Emotions Revealed, Second Edition: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life
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on May 12, 2007
This book has lots of important information, not the least of which is to correct many misconceptions about signs of deceitfulness and the distinction between signs of anxiety and signs of deceit.

Ekman does a good job of defining important categories of non-verbal behavior and correlating increases or decreases in each of the categories with different emotional states. However, the specific facial changes associated with genuine versus feigned emotional expression identified in this book offers nothing new.

I particularly liked the author's narrative style. It was reminiscent of accounts written by 19th Century scientists who were trying to discover fundamental principles by observing natural phenomena and describing them in careful, objective language. The bonus to the reader is the raw data provided with specific conditions carefully and objectively described. The studies employ ingenious designs to elicit desired emotion and, because of the detailed description, allow the reader to formulate hypotheses and draw conclusions -- some of which may differ from those of the author.

Much of the information about deceitfulness presented here is just common sense, but Ekman does a good job of categorizing this information and presents well-described objective data from which his conclusions are drawn.
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VINE VOICEon November 19, 2009
Being a big fan of the Fox TV show "Lie to Me" I had high hopes for this book. While the book does tell some interesting stories and information about deception, it fails to provide key information, such as good photos of the seven universal expressions. The book has a very few, small, poor quality photos with no baseline (expression-free) photos. This is especially disappointing given how the book reveals that some subtle expressions can only be detected by measuring slight changes in certain facial muscles.

I was also troubled by the way earlier chapters did not appear to have been edited at all - all subsequent versions offered were additional chapters. For example, there was a reference "as I write these words, the [Reagan] White House has revised its proposal about the use of polygraph and Congress will begin hearings on it next week." No further information was provided of what came of it, or subsequent polygraph usage guidelines or laws.

In summary, the book offers some interesting background on the science, but not much to help one detect lies.
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on April 27, 2012
This book takes a great many words to say very little. Or, what feels like very little. (Maybe since I live in a low trust society as of this writing, these things are very obvious.)

Even 91 pages into the book, the author has only gone over three case studies (and not in any great detail). The first, the study of a woman who tried to lie to get out of a mental hospital in order to kill herself and the second of some nursing students who lied about watching some gory videos. The third was about a women who was subconsciously giving an interviewer the finger. Even speaking as someone who is on the lower end of the EQ distrubtion, I don't think that much of what was said here is something that has not been figured out by a person of average intelligence who has lived through his 20s. (For example, p. 92, when people are lying they are likely to "uh uh uh" and "ah ah ah." His description of this blindingly obvious fact went on for 3 paragraphs.)

He quotes Sigumd Freud (p. 88-89). In case you didn't think anyone paid attention to him anymore, there is at least one working psychologist who still pays attention to him.

What I just really don't get is: If there is "no clue to deceit that is reliable for all human beings" (p. 97), then what is the point of any of this science? How well does it work? Can we get some quantitative idea of the value of this? Chance (i.e., the flip of a coin) is 50%. So, is a detection rate of 60% really all that much to crow about?

"Lies in Public Life" was about 25 pages long-- even though that could have been much of the whole book and an abundance of case studies. It's interesting that he made an evaluation of who could have been telling the truth in the Hill/ Thomas scandal on the strength of nothing other than their testimony (when he mentioned John Dean as an example-- p. 95-- and stated that "No clue to deceit is reliable for all human beings"-- p. 97). It's also interesting that Ekman passes over tons of cases where public figures *really were* known to lie (Clinton/ Lewinsky. OJ Simpson.)--and the book *was* updated in 2009.

"New Findings and Ideas about Lies and Lie Catching" is where the author gets into a series of experiments (and this is not written as a practical guide to someone that might want to catch someone else in a lie). Ekman waffles *on and on* about how "Experiment X did not successfully show thing Y and may have been because of limitation Z." The real icing on the cake was on p. 346 when he wrote that "I don't believe that accuracy rates will reach 100%, and it is for this reason that I don't believe that judgments about who is lying should be allowable evidence in court" thereby tearing down most all of what he spent the last few hundred pages building up (i.e. a practical, reliable, workable method for telling who is lying and who is not).

This book could have been *much* better with many more example of lies that a person encounters in real life and then principles to illustrate them after the fact (rather than the way that it was done, with lots of general statements and then a few examples after the fact).

At first I thought that it was worth the second hand purchase price (just barely), but on a reevalution, I have decided that it is not worth even that-- nor the time that it took to read it. I'd initially thought also that the book Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception, by Pamela Meyer was not all that great. But compared to this, that text is masterful.
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on December 3, 2009
We live in a world of emotions, and as much as we'd love to understand them all, Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage by Paul Ekman tells us that it's never fully possible to know, but gives us just what the title promises. The only way this book will be the magic answer to telling lies from truth is properly applying thorough science to the facts presented within it.

I honestly looked into this book due to my appreciation of the television show based on Paul Ekman's findings, but the methods for reading body language and looking for micro-expressions are just as sound in text as they are in hour-long episodes. Anyone can learn the clues to deception leakage, the difference between falsifying and concealment, and what a flash of a scowl means before a smile. What the book preaches more than the basics of the science is how to apply it carefully, and that is the most important lesson it teaches. In a way, Dr. Lightman from the television series is an extreme example of the applied methods, going big with himself to get a real reaction instead of letting natural situations over a long period of time bring about the same results.

There are very few to no situations where, from a single glance, a person can assess the situation as a whole from one shoulder shrug or micro-expression. Everything is a clue, and only piecing together the clues with logical analysis and further investigation reveal the truth behind the situation. Most of the time, one will never apply this science to daily interactions with the people in one's life, and that thought's encouraged within the book. Becoming a human lie detector and attacking all signs of deceit is not part of good investigation. The most important aspect I took from the book is knowing the science in case there's a need for it in your life, such as a major business deal or buying a used car. Don't scrutinize every aspect of life, because there's a reason lies exist.
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