Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Anonymous Lies

Dubious messages written by anonymous authors are a common problem on many blogs including mine. Examining publicly the reply messages on my own blog has proven to be ineffective and the continuous harassment lead me to turn moderation on once again.

A curious message written by an anonymous author, Liar Liar, appeared on Eyes For Lies. The self-confessed pathological liar writes an arguably honest message on his or her perspective about himself or herself. I will examine that message in this blog post and share my appreciation along the way.

Misspells, mistakes and typographic errors are marked in red.
Peculiarities and any other out of ordinary words are marked in blue.
Some text bridges are marked in green.

The first noticeable element is the huge block of text composing the message. Deceptive people can talk fast or write a huge message without any paragraph or breaking paragraphs in an unnatural form to confuse people. There are few noticeable misspells that can be sign of emotions (arousal) or deception/manipulation (intentional typo). The likelihood of deception reduces considerably when a word is consistently misspelled throughout a text.

”I will be comlpetely honest (for once).”

This is an anticipatory statement and it attempts to create anticipation in two manners: (1) the following story is the truth and (2) it is a secret. The anticipation brings the reader's attention to be focused on the story and only to that story, and possibly away from the facts. However, “(for once)” enclosed within the statement reminds its true purpose: to convince us that the author is honest. Honest people convey a message rather than convince.

The word completely is misspelled and brings an additional attention to itself. A person may fear, or may not have any intentions, to be completely honest. Subsequent questioning could unveil further information or otherwise prove there is nothing into this typographic error.

”I am a liar. A Pathological liar.”

A person who wants to be upfront and honest, even in a one-time effort, would most likely confess first and then express how his or her upcoming statements will be moderated. The contrary may be caused by fear to be disbelieved, an early attempt to rationalize or to deceive us.

In statement analysis, we believe only what is written. Liar Liar tells us he or she is a liar. When Liar Liar will be honest is not specified exactly: it might be right now, in the text, later or never. The degree of probability given to the auxiliary verb will is in the range of certainty but not an absolute certainty (see gramdex). The former statement could be entirely truthful provided that the author would have used “will” to express his or her willingness and, that, even when the rest of the message is untruthful.

The author attempts to make us presume he or she is a pathological liar. The only admission he or she has made is “I am a liar.” Having two sentences rather than one to express a single idea may be a deceptive. The upper case in “pathological” may be an additional attempt to convince us by making this word more important with a capital letter. A more convincing statement would have been “I am a pathological liar.”

A person admitting that he or she is a pathological liar should make anyone reconsider the words “I will be honest.” There is no on/off switch on a pathological liar. Those three (3) sentences are an early indication of a “mise en scène” (staging).

”Some of you out there asume that we are scum and that we are evil, and that is a little too harsh to say.”

Misspells and typographic errors can be anything from a keyboard problem, arousal of emotions while writing the specific words or caused by thoughts running on, deception and so on. As any other red flags, it should be noted but investigated before concluding whether or not it is deceptive.

The words “out there” are extraneous information, that is, unnecessary to have a complete statement. The combination of “some of you”, “out there” and “assume” is out of ordinary. “Some of you” is a general statement to include a wide range of individuals described by the specified discriminatory factors. The discriminatory factor is not explicitly specified and should be restrained to “not me” (e.g. not the author). “Some of you assume” describes a probable possibility that some people, except the author, assume the following part of the statement. The probability is reduced to uncertainty or unknown by the second discriminatory factor “out there”. Out there, where? Another planet perhaps.

The rhythmic in this statement is particular in such manner that it forces a repetitive pattern similar or equivalent to its counterpart in spoken statements (see example). “That we are”, “that we are”, “that is” in one single statement jumps out of the lot. Deceptive people tend to use such emphasis to convince an untruthful message. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” — Bill Clinton (spoken statement)

A “little too harsh” but not too much. =)

“You must understand, when it says we have no morals...WE CANT.”

This is a suggestive statement and it attempts to push an idea: a pathological liar can't have moral. Why must we understand? The words can and can't are interesting because they refer to an ability while have and don't have/haven't instead refers to a trait (of character). The change in the verbs may be a sign of deception. My immediate reaction would be to ask “Why can't you have moral?”

This is an early indication that the author misunderstands what a pathological liar is. A psychopath with damages on the frontal lobe will have reduced or no ability for inhibitions and limited judgmental abilities, therefore, cannot have moral (it is a physical limitation).

“I really do wish that I could feel guilt, so that I might stop lying so much.”

The weak statements result in a distancing language. A stronger statement would have been “I want to feel guilt, that I stop lying.” The auxiliary verb “could” correlates with “can” as in “We can't have morals”. The auxiliary verb “might” however jumps out in the statement. Might express a degree of probability in the range of somewhat probable. The author tells us that he or she has doubts about the outcome of feeling guilt, it might or might not stop him or her to lie. The first “so” is a known text bridge and may be sign of deception. “So much” is another attempt to convince us that this person lies more than another and that he or she must be a pathological liar.

“I don't.”

Don't you what? “I don't wish”, “I don't feel guilt”, “I don't stop lying”

Deceptive people tend to let others presume the meaning what they are saying to avoid direct denials, deceptions and lies. Most often they will rationalize that the person who presumed what was meant are responsible for the lie and will shift blame onto others when confronted (e.g. “That's not what I meant!”, “You're the one who believed that!”).

“I never have felt guilty for anything that I have done, I dont think that I ever will.”

This statement casts further doubts over the possibility, or lack thereof, to feel guilty. The emphasis on the past and then the future is intriguing. A person who cannot feel guilt has no doubt about the future but the author tells us here “I don't think”. The negation in the statement is weak (never, not ever). A stronger statement would have been an unceremonious “I don't feel guilt”.

Apperently, some people have it so bad that they don't feel other emotions as well.”

This statement is vague at best. Apparently? Some people? It is also unclear what “it” means. The reference to other emotions is another indication that the author misunderstands what a pathological liar is. The most particular segment in this statement is that the author does not write “some of us” but “some people”, which is a rather generic and detached manner to talk about a group of people he or she is supposedly part of.

“Which makes since, saying that me and my friend (yet another liar, there are a lot of us you know) did not cry at our friend's funeral.”

The mistake (since, sense) in this specific case is most likely to denote a change of thoughts. Some foreigners may confuse words that have a close enough pronunciation (to them) but there is no corroborating facts in the entire message supporting this idea.

The author mentions his or her friend without any introduction and this is often a sign of deception. The friend comes in second (e.g. “me and my friend”). What is the purpose to write about his or her friend in this message? The author now wants us to believe there are many of them and he or she is part of a group (e.g. “lot of us”), which he or she previously failed to accomplish (e.g. “some people” rather than “some of us”).

“You know” might be a suggestive statement and a sign of deception because there is no indication that the author use it as an habit. “No, we don't know. Where did you get your statistics?”

Some pathological liars have lack of empathy and it's one step closer to psychopathy.

We lack the emotions for us to properly restrain ourselves from lying to ones we love. Emotionally though, we can feel pain.”

The author has switched from “I” to “we” and it systematically raises suspicions. The statement only tells that “We, as a group, have the ability to feel pain.” The author may or may not feel it and says nothing about him or her as an individual. The message is less convincing since the author distances himself or herself from the statements and increase doubts as this person is really part of this group.

Don't think that there are some pathological liars out there that feel horrible when they hear the comments that you are writing about them.”

Another suggestive statement with the words “Don't think.” The author attempts to deny us the possibility to objectively think on what he or she writes about and the only valid reasoning is what is written. The most striking words in this statement are “they” and “them”. There is no more “I”, “we” and “us”!

“(I for one think that its funny, and i dont really care)”

It may be funny at first but not necessarily afterwards? The author thinks about more than “it's funny” but, unfortunately, he or she doesn't elaborate. The author attempts to make us believe that he or she doesn't care. “I don't care” is a stronger statement than one using really. “I don't really care” means that the author somehow cares and possibly more than he or she will admit. The lower case “I” makes me think that the author subconsciously wants to make himself or herself as small as possible in the written statement, further supporting the idea that he or she actually cares.

And yes, I belive that I will probably burn in hell for this.”

The word “and” is another text bridge. This statement seems to answer the author's own question: “Will I go to hell? Yes, I will.” The author nevertheless casts doubt over the possibility to go to hell, “I believe [..] probably” makes hell no longer a certain destination. It shows lack of remorse. Perhaps, this person is really a pathological liar? Or, merely someone who pretends to be one and doesn't deserve to go to hell...

“But until then, I shall be smiling my evil little grin and crying my fake tears...lying my way easily through life.”

My biggest concern in this statement is the use of “shall”. The auxiliary verb relates to an obligation or an intention. There is no continuation from the past and/or present. It is strange for someone who has lied for his or her entire life.

“You think that it is a bad thing to be a liar. I find it wonderful.”

These two statements might be truthful. A person can perceive (e.g. “find”) lying to be wonderful (and useful). There can be perceived advantages as an outcome of lying. It does not mean the person is a liar or can effectively lie. An honest person, and especially unskillful liar, could envy a liar for everything he or she can accomplish with lies.

“Things are so easy for me.”

The exaggeration makes the statement questionable because lying is extremely demanding over time. The author attempts to make us presume that things are easy because he or she lies. Anything implied is questionable. Things can be easy for many reasons. Perhaps, his or her daddy is rich?

“I manipulate people to think certain things of me, others, and situations. It has been 10 years in this town, no one has ever guessed that I am lying.”

The author confides to us and writes at length about lying but deflates when it is time to give details about his or her own accomplishments. The lack of details and the distancing language around the central subject makes the entire message unbelievable, as in, not to be believed.

“(most pathological liars have good enough memories to remember what they told to whom)”

Another indication that the author misunderstands what a pathological liar is. Dr. Paul Ekman gave the name of natural performer to those who are highly skillful at lying and believe their lies for at least the moment they impersonate them. In a nutshell, and considering current studies showing a correlation between pathological liars and an average to slightly below average IQ, most pathological liars are unlikely to have a good memory to remember their lies.

And Honestly, I hope that there are not too many people like me.”

The word “Honestly” jumps out of place for two reasons: (1) it is written with a upper case letter and (2) the author told us beforehand that he or she will be completely honest. Perhaps, he or she did not mean it when he or she first wrote it. Perhaps, he or she means it now. Or, yet, the entire text may be untrue. We might never know, really.

There is an emerging pattern composed of a statement enclosed in parenthesis followed by another statement beginning with “And”, this is a curiosity.

Some “people like me” are acceptable according to the author but as long as it is “not too many.” How many is too many?

“I am sinful, mean, cold hearted, maybe even souless, and I dont care at all.”

The author is limiting the meaning of sinful, by using the word “mean”, to “cold hearted”, “maybe even souless” and possibly because he or she doesn't care. Moreover, “I don't care” is a stronger statement than “I don't care at all”. Soulless is misspelled and regarded as an hardly believable possibility (e.g. “maybe even”).

Deceptive people tend to use religious references more often. They will “swear to God” and alike regardless whether or not they are religious. The reference to hell, sin[ful] and soulless are to be considered. There is still the rare possibility that the author might fear for his or her soul but it would require further investigation to prove.

“(I have tried therapy, but i ended up lying to the therapist...so yeah that didnt work out too well).”

This is an unlikely scenario. A person introducing himself or herself to a therapist by stating that he or she is a pathological liar would considerably decrease the likelihood to be able to foul the therapist. The therapist is immediately forewarned and knows what to expect. The lack of article in front of therapy makes me wonder, why not “I have tried a therapy”? Notice the lower case “I” present once again. “So yeah” may be an indication that the author answers to his or her own question: “How did it work?” It may be a sign of deception when a person has all the before-you-ask answers.

Signed, Liar Liar”

That's funny! A signed anonymous message! A signature is important because it shows commitment to what has been written. However, there is no such thing as an anonymous signature. The likelihood it is a deceptive message is extremely high provided that it would be the one and only message written by Liar Liar. The word “signed” is most likely a tentative to convince the message is honest. The author tries to convince us of his or her commitment, to his or her message, and of his or her honesty by having the lookalike of an honest message rather than actually having one.

The question to be asked once a deceptive behaviour has been identified in a normal person is about the motive behind the lies. The nature of lies in a pathological liar is completely different and lies can be told for any or no reason(s). For this reason, I would instead question the motivation behind being honest. What incentive would motivate a pathological liar to overcome his or her compulsion to lie?

There are many signs of deception in Liar Liar's message but it is more supportive of a false confession rather than an admission of being a pathological liar. Liar Liar writes what many people expect to read about a pathological liar, which is an effective manner to foul these people. There is no apparent motive behind the confession. Is Liar Liar a liar? Yes, but not a very good one. My speculation is that Liar Liar is someone who wants to challenge EyesForLies skills at detecting deception. This is limited to text only (no video/audio) and a low stake lie.

Liar Liar, shoot and publish a video on youtube next time!

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