Have you ever known someone who was just a constant liar? I mean, someone who lies so regularly and so convincingly that you just can’t tell they’re lying at all?
For those of us who value honesty and integrity, it makes us wonder: “How can someone lie like that all the time?”
And, if you’re like me, you might have also wondered, “How does he lie so convincingly?”
Of course, some people really are bad liars. You can spot them instantly. It’s usually the cognitive load that gives them away: in the moment they lie, their brain is overwhelmed. They’re having to make up stuff, invent details that don’t exist, etc.
Their body usually gives them away. They start blinking faster. Their voice goes up in pitch. Longer pauses. They draw out words or stumble over their sentences.
And some people actually go into “over-control” mode: they blink less, use no hand gestures and their voice becomes very flat.
In fact, answer this question; true or false: “Liars will usually not look you in the eye.”
It’s a common myth. Studies show that most people WILL look you in the eye when they’re lying. This is why “lie experts” say that there’s no one definite thing that signals that you’re being lied to. Just like with a polygraph machine, you have to study a person’s regular behavior first to see what becomes different when they’re lying.
But, here’s the question: is it a lie if the person telling it actually believes it to be true?
Imagine a murder suspect who says, “I didn’t kill John Doe”. If that person really believed they were innocent, none of their usual lying signals would appear.
Self-deception is far more common than most of us realize. We lie to ourselves all the time. And sometimes we’ve been doing it so successfully that we no longer know we’re doing it. And that means that — when we make that same statement to someone else — we’re actually lying to them without any signs of it.
Particularly interesting to psychologists is how large these lies become and how often other people are willing to believe them.
And you know this. Think back to the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide. When one hears these stories, you have to wonder: how did all these people really convince themselves that a spaceship was following the Hale-Bopp coment? And that they needed to buy alien-abduction insurance? And that the only way to meet the spaceship was to commit suicide? Neuroscientists are still studying those types of questions.
Here’s a less tragic but sadly ridiculous example that you may have seen before. Yanagi Ryuken is a master in aikido who lives in Japan. He holds a 10th degree black belt in several different martial arts. His own system is based on Qigong (pronounced tsee-gong) which is allegedly about harnessing your “life energy” or “chi”.
Master Ryuken believed that he was capable of defeating multiple attackers without even touching them. Rather, he overcame them through the magic power of chi.
Here’s a video of him demonstrating his powers:
It’s hard to watch. The sheer amount of self-deception that’s being displayed is one thing but you also have to wonder what these opponents are doing. Did they really believe that they were being defeated by a magic power? Were they simply so devoted to the old man that they were willing to go along with the charade? It’s hard to say. But clearly, there’s a lot of complicit behavior going on.
So, what happens when Master Ryuken becomes so convinced of his own delusion that he’s willing to fight with others who aren’t interested in buying into his story?
According to the author of the video below, you need 500,000 yen (about $5,000 USD) in order to get a chance to fight with Yanagi Ryuken. However, if you win the fight, Yanagi Ryuken will pay you back double: 1,000,000 yen ($10,000 USD)
Here’s what happens when self-delusion meets reality:
Whatever one thinks about this particular video, I think the most obvious thing to observe is this:
Human beings are very susceptible to deception, including self-deception.
The New Age notion that “your beliefs control your reality” is a popular one but cannot be applied universally. If you believe that you can fly, the law of gravity will still kill you if you step off the top of the Empire State Building. If you think that you can heal yourself by only thinking positive thoughts (instead of consulting a qualified medical expert), you are risking your life. And, as in the case above, if you believe that you can defend yourself against a violent attacker by relying on your magical, mystical power of chi……you will get your nose broken.
Although this was likely very humiliating for the good Master Ryuken, it’s better to have learned this in front of a couple hundred people with an attacker who was polite enough to stop and ask him if he was okay. That’s better than learning it on the street while being confronted with some angry thugs who would not have been so polite.
Ignorance is dangerous.
I just found this video online. What similarities or comparisons can be made between a delusional aikdo master (and his students) with the behavior of a famous televangelist and his audience?