Well, one day last week it was 60 degrees here in New England, and then a few days later it’s snowing. It must be March.

And if it’s Friday, it must be time for another Friday Flashback while I’m attending the annual SXSW conference in Austin, Texas. Yes, I’ll eat some BBQ for you. 🙂

10 Years Ago on Psych Central

  • Detecting Deception

    A decade ago, I wrote about the research to-date that demonstrated how lousy human beings are in detecting deception in others — to catch another person in a lie. “The conclusions from this research are obvious — trained professionals and untrained laypeople, in general, cannot tell when a person is lying.”

    A decade later, our ability to detect deception has increased slightly and 4 years ago, we noted Paul Ekman’s research into “micro expressions” used to detect lying.

    Late last year, however, Charles Bond (2008) published a little-noticed commentary on Ekman’s previous studies and statistics, suggesting that they were not as robust as initially reported. Ekman allegedly left out data that would have lowered his acclaimed 73 percent detection rate found amongst certain federal agents:

    The 1997 [unpublished] manuscript [by Ekman] reports results for 23 federal officers (mostly from the CIA). Here it can be learned that these individuals took three tests of lie detection, not one. Yes, the 23 federal officers achieved 73% accuracy in detecting lies about opinions. However, the officers achieved 63.4% accuracy in detecting lies about a mock theft and only 48.2% accuracy in detecting lies about emotions. Neither the theft test nor the emotion test had been mentioned in the 1999 Psychological Science article. Fifty percent accuracy would be expected on each test by chance.

    This evidence reminds us once again that alleged unethical behavior amongst researchers is likely more widespread than many have imagined and can occur in any field and on any topic. The upshot is that while training may indeed increase a person’s ability to better detect certain types of lies, other lies can still go undetected. And most of us have little better than chance in detecting someone lying to us.

5 Years Ago on Psych Central

  • Physical Beauty More Than Just Good Looks

    Even physical attractiveness can be enhanced by nonphysical traits, according to a study published five years ago. Nonphysical traits known only to people who might be familiar with a person — such as how much the person was liked, respected and contributed to shared goals — had a large effect on the perception of physical attractiveness, traits that were of course invisible to strangers who did not know the people personally. Which just goes to show that beauty is indeed more than just skin deep.

1 Year Ago on Psych Central

  • Pristiq Versus Effexor XR

    One of our most commented posts ever written was penned a year ago, when we noted the new marketing push for Pristiq to begin replacing prescriptions for Effexor XR, which is going off-patent (and therefore becomes less lucrative to the drug company that manufacturers both drugs). The entry spurred a type of instant support group, where commenters began sharing their own difficulties in coming off of Effexor, a drug long known for its discontinuation difficulties, and people’s personal experiences with the then-new Pristiq.

  • Devil or Angel? The Role of Psychotropics Put In Perspective

    Dr. Ron Pies wrote this piece a year ago calling into the question the black or white perspective some people seem to take when deciding how best to conceptualize and treat mental disorders — as either psychosocial maladies in need of psychotherapy, or neurobiological concerns in need of medications. It’s not an either/or proposition and notes that there is evidence that indicates that talk therapy and medication work synergistically well together. A year later, this remains good food for thought and a reminder of the complexity of human life and our brains.


Bond, C.F. (2008). A Few Can Catch a Liar, Sometimes: Comments on Ekman and O’Sullivan (1991), As Well As Ekman, O’Sullivan, and Frank (1999). Appl. Cognit. Psychol. 22: 1298–1300.