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The Language of Lying

We hear anywhere from 10 to 200 lies a day. And we’ve spent much of our history coming up with ways to detect them, from medieval torture devices to polygraphs, blood pressure and breathing monitors, voice stress analyzers, eye trackers, infrared brain scanners, and even the 400-pound electroencephalogram.

But although such tools have worked under certain circumstances, most can be fooled with enough preparation, and none are considered reliable enough to even be admissible in court. But what if the problem is not with the techniques, but the underlying assumption that lying spurs physiological changes? What if we took a more direct approach, using communications science to analyze the lies themselves?

On a psychological level, we lie partly to paint a better picture of ourselves, connecting our fantasies to the person we wish we were rather than the person we are. But while our brain is busy dreaming, it’s letting plenty of signals slip by. Our conscious mind only controls about 5% of our cognitive function, including communication, while the other 95% occurs beyond our awareness. And according to the literature on “reality monitoring,” stories based on imagined experiences are qualitatively different from those based on real experiences. This suggests that creating a false story about a personal topic takes work and results in a different pattern of language use. A technology known as linguistic text analysis has helped to identify four such common patterns in the subconscious language of deception.

First, liars reference themselves less when making deceptive statements. They write or talk more about others, often using the third person to distance and disassociate themselves from their lie. Which sounds more false: “Absolutely no party took place at this house,” or “I didn’t host a party here”?

Second, liars tend to be more negative, because, on a subconscious level they feel guilty about lying. For example, a liar might say something like, “Sorry, my stupid phone battery died. I hate that thing.”

Third, liars typically explain events in simple terms, since our brains struggle to build a complex lie. Judgment and evaluation are complex things for our brain to compute. 

And finally, even though liars keep descriptions simple, they tend to use longer and more convoluted sentence structure, inserting unnecessary words and irrelevant but factual-sounding details in order to pad the lie. 

So how can you apply these lie-spotting techniques to your life? The lies we encounter on a daily basis vary in seriousness, and may even be harmless. But it’s still worthwhile to be aware of tell-tale clues like minimal self-references, negative language, simple explanations, and convoluted phrasing. It just might help you avoid an overvalued stock, an ineffective product… or even a terrible relationship.

From the TED-Ed Lesson The language of lying - Noah Zandan

Animation by The Moving Company Animation Studio

Meet Team Vitamin!

Vitamins are the building blocks that keep our bodies running; they help build muscle and bone, capture energy, heal wounds and more. Today, TED-Ed wants to bring you your daily value and introduce you to the members of the team!

Vitamin A helps make white blood cells, shape bones, and improves vision. 

The B Vitamins are a complex bunch - some of them make up co-enzymes, who help enzymes release energy from food. Others help the body to use that energy.

From Vitamin C, we get the ability to fight infection and make collagen, a kind of tissue that forms bones and teeth, and heals wounds.

Vitamin D gathers calcium and phosphorous so we can make bones.

Vitamin E works as an antioxidant, getting rid of elements in the body that can damage cells.

Finally, Vitamin K helps us make the proteins that clot blood.

Without this Vitamin Variety, humans face deficiencies that cause a range of problems. On the other hand, too much of any vitamin can cause toxicity in the body. In reality, it’s all about getting the balance right, and hitting that vitamin jackpot! Thanks, Team Vitamin!

From the TED-Ed Lesson How do vitamins work? - Ginnie Trinh Nguyen

Animation by The Moving Company Animation Studio

2

One of the best examples of a lever is a teeter-totter, or seesaw. Let’s say you and a friend decide to hop on. If you both weigh about the same, you can totter back and forth pretty easily. But what happens if your friend weighs more? Suddenly, you’re stuck up in the air. 

Fortunately, you probably know what to do. Just move back on the seesaw, and down you go. This may seem simple and intuitive, but what you’re actually doing is using a lever to lift a weight that would otherwise be too heavy. This lever is one type of what we call simple machines, basic devices that reduce the amount of energy required for a task by cleverly applying the basic laws of physics.

Every lever consists of three main components: the effort arm, the resistance arm, and the fulcrum. In this case, your weight is the effort force, while your friend’s weight provides the resistance force. 

From the TED-Ed Lesson The mighty mathematics of the lever - Andy Peterson and Zack Patterson

Animation by The Moving Company Animation Studio