Forensic Focus Fall 2014

October 2014 SCHOOL OF GRADUATE AND PROFESSIONAL STUDIES 10-1-14 Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! Dan Ariely, Ph.D., a behavioral economist and author of the excellent book “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone— Especially Ourselves,” reminds us that all of us lie and cheat a little and that sometimes we’re unaware of it. This is particularly the case when we have a conflict of interest or begin believing exaggerated versions of our own stories. Sometimes we are even aware of what we are doing, which is much more serious. CONTACT INFORMATION Thomas Coogan Chair, Forensic Studies 443-352-4075 Angela Scagliola Reynolds Director, School of Graduate and Professional Studies Recruiting & Admissions 443-352-4414 People lie a lot. There are reports that we are lied to up to 200 times a day and that on average people tell two to three lies in a 10-minute conversation, and we are not very good about catching lies. We think we are a lot better at catching lies than it turns out. Avoiding eye contact is the most presumed sign of lying around the world—even though it’s false. Research also shows that we detect lies with only 54 percent accuracy and that the overwhelming majority of lies go undetected. Our judgments of whether someone is lying or telling the truth are correct only a little more often than chance. Fortunately many lies include innocent “white lies” that are harmless. Innocent lying can sometimes be unconscious, but a forensics professional has to be scrupulous to avoid telling anything less than the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Forensics experts have to be cautious about not letting their professional ego drive them to make less-than-completely-truthful statements, such as claiming to know something that they really do not know. There is always the potential for experts who can’t admit “I don't know” to make up an answer. We call this the “advocacy effect” and in our program, students learn about this and similar pitfalls as well as how to avoid them. What about more serious lies such as lying under oath or during an interview? How do we catch those kinds of lies? How do we improve our chance of detecting whether someone is lying? In forensic studies, forensic science, and cyber forensics, we learn how to identify when people lie, why they lie, and how to detect lying. All students explore important legal topics, such as mens rea, which is Latin for “guilty mind,” to show whether a lie was intentional or merely an unintentional white lie. In cyber forensics students learn how to determine whether a suspect was at the scene of a crime by tracking the suspect’s mobile device location. In forensic science students explore how scientific techniques can identify both inculpatory (guiltproving) and exculpatory (innocence-proving) evidence to determine who is telling the truth. And in forensic studies students learn interviewing skills as well as the difference between the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination compared to the “exculpatory no doctrine” that allows a guilty person to remain silent but makes it unlawful for a guilty person to affirmatively lie about being guilty. Learn more about Stevenson’s forensics programs at