This book's authors have many years of experience interviewing CIA assets, CIA employees, and a variety of ordinary people in non-CIA settings. Their specialty is in determining when someone is lying. And they are good at it. This skill in detecting deception has done a lot of good, helping their clients make better decisions about hiring the right new employee, trusting the right baby sitter, and prosecuting the person who really "did it." Sometimes the skills bring pain, making clear that the waiting doctor's politeness covers bad news or that a spouse isn't really joking about "her boyfriend." Still, it's better to know, isn't it?
Detecting deception isn't magic and it isn't infallible. But it is possible to become better at it than most of us are now. The book identifies several barriers to accurately detecting deception. We expect most people to tell the truth, we ask the wrong questions, and we look for the wrong "tells" in other people's behavior. And we try to watch everything they do instead of focusing on a small number of reliable indicators.
Such reliable indicators of deception include certain kinds of verbal hesitations and evasions as well as specific body movements of which a deceiver is largely unaware. Readers learn to ask questions that require different mental processing from guilty versus innocent suspects. One technique is to ask questions a good guy will answer with an immediate--and perhaps angry--"No!" while the bad guy will need to give a longer, more carefully worded response. We watch for deception indicators that begin in the first five seconds after a question. And we look for clusters of indicators rather than for single actions. There is more to it, of course, but this is the core methodology the book presents. It's good stuff. And it's learnable.
I attended a training session conducted by the authors' company (QVerity, in partnership with hemsleyfraser) this week. I had listened to roughly three-quarters of the audiobook during a long car ride the day before. Based on what I learned from the book I was able to do well in the video pre-test, successfully distinguishing a lying suspect from the four who told the truth. Almost everyone was also able to do this after two hours of training. So it seems to me that the book is nearly as valuable as being taught these skills by the authors themselves. It is a well-written, fascinating book on a very useful topic. I highly recommend it.
A final comment. The book closes with a warning to use these skills only for good. And to not practice them on our significant others. Apparently catching your spouse in all of those little white lies can put unnecessary stress on the relationship. I may have made a variation of this error by giving my wife a copy of the book and inviting her along to the training. Not sure that was such a good idea. We'll see.