//
you're reading...
Health, Science, The Mind

Mind Reading: Secrets and The Science!

One of these people is trying to deceive you – can you tell who?

Today’s blog is all about whether it really is possible and whether you can tell what someone is really thinking. Many believe that there is a science behind ‘reading minds’. Read on to find out more about the secrets and the science.

 I wish I were like one of those secret agents who can always tell what the bad guy is really thinking. We pick up the story in its closing chapters:

Our hero has finally caught the villain…

“Just tell me the truth!”

Salter slammed his fist on the table and stared at the man opposite him. Despite all his training, the special agent was starting to lose his nerve. The man he was interrogating stared blankly back at him, his eyes were dark and gave nothing away.

“Just admit you were there!” Salter shouted.

“As I already said, I don’t know what you’re talking about” the unnamed man replied in a monotone voice.

The lie detector results had been inconclusive, but Salter knew he was lying. He just had to work out how he could prove it…

Intuition – when things just don’t seem quite right.

There are times when you just know something isn’t right: You’re probably not able to put your finger on exactly how you can tell. Perhaps it’s a combination of the facial expression, the body language and the tone of voice? Your intuition may be pretty good and you may have worked out from the pictures above that the person on the right is acting and the person on the left is showing true emotion.

Intuition – how it can save lives

In the 1990/1 Gulf War a radar operator saved many lives through using his intuition. His job was to monitor the radar screens of bombers returning back to base. One night he saw on his screen what looked to everyone else exactly like an American jet returning to base: it was on the normal flight path and the right speed. But he sensed something was wrong and ordered it be shot down.

 He shot down an iraqi long range missile – one that would have hit the military base, possibly at the cost of many lives. For months, no one could work out how he had managed to spot it. To everyone else it looked exactly the same as the friendly jets did. The soldier couldn’t explain it either: he said he just ‘knew’.

It was several months later that experts looked back over the original radar footage. Theyfinally worked out that there was a barely perceptable difference in the time that the missile dot appeared on the radar screen compared to a friendly aircraft dot.The soldier had spent countless nights of watching the same screen and had developed an incredible intuition to be able to detect when things weren’t quite right.

Meet the Human Lie Detector

This is Paul Ekman: He knows what your thinking by looking at your face! He looks nice and friendly doesn’t he? Dn’t be deceived – this man is a living breathing lie detector!

Now I bet that goes down well at parties…

He has worked for the FBI and the CIA and trains operatives how to find out if people are telling the truth or not. The emotional parts of the brain (deep inside our brain called the ‘limbic system’) is intrinsically linked by nerves to our faces. There are So, like it or not, tiny facial movements (‘micro-expressions’) will betray our true thoughts and feelings:

There are 44 separate facial muscle and Dr Ekman spent years cataloguing over 1,000 or more different facial movements and what they mean. By the way we move our lips or furrow our brow, he can teach you how to tell the diference between genuine suprise, happiness, disgust, sadness and when someone is faking it. Can you tell?

Which of the follwoing is a genuine smile and which is faked?

Can you tell?

The smile of the left is false but the smile on the right is real. If you want to become a super-sleuth like James Bond, then you can find out more on Paul Ekman’s website (and if you’re really keen – you can even pay for an online training course)! It’s worth checking it out just to have a look at a video clip on the main page of him anaysing a witness (who appears to be lying) in the 1995 OJ Simpson trial.

Mind Reading Secrets

I love watching Derren Brown‘s TV programmes shown on Channel 4 (if you live in the UK you should be able to watch them on Youtube). He does some extra-ordinary feats of apparent mind reading (try watching ‘Tricks of the Mind‘). I’ll teach you some of the tricks he uses.

Look straight ahead.

Now try to vividly think about what your bedroom looks like at home. Think about all the details (colours, furniture, etc).

Chances are, without realising it your eyes wandered up to the left hand side.

Now: imagine what your bedroom if you were to give it a room ‘make-over’. Think about changing the wall paper and the furniture. Vividly imagine how it might look.

I’d be willing to bet that your eyes are looking to the right as you do this.

The way your eyes look tell what you are thinking about:

Look at the diagram above: now try it on your friends! Ask them something personal and see if you can work out what they’re really thinking…

Links:

http://www.nlp-practitioners.com/interactive/nlp-eye-access-cues-game.php – Play the eye direction game!

http://www.howstuffworks.com/lie-detector.htm – What is a lie detector and do they really work?

http://www.paulekman.com/micros/ – Dr Ekman’s site all about facial ‘micro-expressions’

http://geiscollection.com/bulletin/pdf/faces.pdf – All about a new computer system that reads facial ‘micro-expressions’

References:

Brown, D (2007) Tricks of the Mind. London: Channel 4 Publishing

Advertisements

About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Mind Reading: Secrets and The Science!

  1. Correction! I completely forgot… Left handed people may well have REVERSE eye movements. So your left-handed friends aren’t really deceiving you!!

    Posted by Stuart Farrimond | September 13, 2010, 3:40 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Open Laboratory 2010 – submissions now closed – see all the entries | A Blog Around The Clock - December 1, 2010

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

About Dr Stu

Hospital doctor turned lecturer and science communicator, I love trying to answer life's questions - whether it is how our body works or the best way to dunk a biscuit.... Read more...

See Dr Stu's LinkedIn Profile Follow realdoctorstu on Twitter

Click to subscribe to Dr Stu's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email (and zero spam).

Join 705 other followers

Brag Tags

SPARKies finalist
Wellcome Trust 2011

My site was nominated for Best Education Blog!

ResearchBlogging.org

Science Mag from Dr Stu:

New Crowdsourced Magazine from Dr Stu

Latest Tweets (@realdoctorstu)

Got a Question?

. Get it Answered Here!
See the website terms and conditions here.
%d bloggers like this: