The “Amped-Up” Liar’s Law of Attraction — An Aggressive Variation Reply

By Chris Simmons

Yesterday we covered the simple beauty of the Liar’s Law of Attraction. As readers are aware, the biggest limitation of this Law is that it simply identifies that a lie of omission has occurred. In contrast, if one is willing to tell a lie to catch a liar, you can get to the truth by capitalizing on the liar’s existing paranoia and irrationality.

For example, let’s assume I’m interrogating a suspected terrorist. I begin our interaction by recounting many – if not all – of the facts we both secretly know to be true. I then add a false fact to use as a red herring. In contrast to the original’s law’s focus on the familiar, in this variation the liar immediately focuses on the unfamiliar as a potential way out of his current dilemma.

I truthfully accuse him of two bombings in Baghdad in April, May bombings in Basra and Kirkuk, and a July assassination in Ramadi. I then lie and accuse him of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack on a convoy out of the northern city of Mosul just two weeks ago.

My version of the events has caught him by surprise and provided him with an alibi. He immediately responds by claiming we’ve captured the wrong man. He was nowhere near Mosul two weeks ago and insists that he has friends and family that can verify he has been in Kirkuk for the last two months.

An honest person would have focused on the broader strategic implications of my accusations. i.e., you are a terrorist with a long history of violence against people and property. You will be tried for war crimes.

Instead, fear and paranoia manifest in the classic “freeze, fight or flight” defense. My lie appears to have offered the terrorist a way out (i.e., the ability to flee) and he fixates on the opportunity to escape. What he doesn’t realize is that by focusing on an event that never occurred, he has inadvertently admitted to the other attacks.

Want to Know What Someone Really Thinks? Reply

By Gretchen Rubin, PsychCentral

The other weekend, I was trying to remember something I’d read in Tyler Cowen’s book, Discover Your Inner Economist: Using Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist. And I looked it up — so interesting!

Sometimes when we ask a question, we know that people might be reluctant to give a true opinion. Maybe they’re worried about angering someone else, or appearing unsophisticated, or admitting what they actually think or do. Tyler Cowen made an observation that I think is absolutely fascinating, and one that provides one clever solution to this non-disclosure problem. Click through to read what it is.

He writes:

“To get a person’s real opinion, ask what she thinks everyone else believes… If people truly hold a particular belief, they are more likely to think that others agree or have had similar experiences.

For instance, if a man has had more than thirty sexual partners, he will more likely think that such behavior is common. After all, his life is one ‘data point,’ and that data point presumably weighs heavily in his mind. Furthermore the man with more than thirty partners probably knows a higher percentage of other people with thirty partners or more. This will further encourage him to make a high estimate of how many partners other people have had…

[People] tend to assume that other people have had life histories at least somewhat similar to their own. When we talk about other people, we are often talking about ourselves, whether we know it ourselves.”

So imagine that you’re considering sending your children to a particular school. Asking your friend, “What complaints do parents have about the school?” instead of asking, “How do you like the school?” might elicit a better answer.

Or maybe you’re considering going to a particular doctor. A person might not want personally to express criticism, but if you said, “How do most patients feel about that doctor’s office?” you might hear more.

This sounds surprising, but imagine how you would answer questions such as, “Do you think most people get along well with their in-laws?” “Do you think most people cheat on their taxes?” “Do you think most people love music?” “Do you think most people go to sleep after midnight?” Isn’t your inclination to respond with an answer that’s true for you? And yet the answer doesn’t feel like self-disclosure!

If this kind of thing interests you, you might also enjoy reading about why a mirror can make you behave better, and five more tips for boosting self-control.

What Al-Qaeda Taught Me About the Frailty of Loyalty 28

By Chris Simmons

The most diabolical, manipulative, and extraordinarily successful interrogation ploy I used to interrogate High-Value terrorists in Iraq was the Prisoners’ Dilemma. It LITERALLY never failed. Research the Prisoners’ Dilemma and you will find it called “game theory.” I can assure you its use is neither theoretical nor game-like. It appeals to the strongest and basest instincts in all of us – self-survival –by pitting members of a group against one another for a reward.

More was always better with this technique, but a two detainee minimum was sufficient. In our case, we always began our “theater of the mind” in the Black Room, so named as its floor, ceiling, and walls were painted matte black. We’d also found a way to give the room a slight echo-effect, which many found unsettling. Having captured several Al-Qaeda associates (all believed to have similar information) in a given raid, we would move them from their individual cells to the Black Room. While being moved, our detainees wore blacked-out goggles to increase stress and anxiety.

My guards would place the detainees against opposing walls. Once everyone was in position, they would quickly and briefly lift the detainees’ goggles so they could see their associates. In an amazing performance, one of my staff – in a very calm and confident voice – would then tell the group they needed to listen carefully as we were about to make a limited-time offer. They were told we knew who they were and that they shared similar experiences and knowledge. As a result, we explained, there was no need for us to question all of them. So, the first one (or two, or three – depending on group size) to cooperate would receive lenient treatment and be quickly released. The others would be identified as “uncooperative” and held indefinitely (Note: We were under no obligation to be truthful with our High-Value Individuals).

Pacing back and forth down the center of the room, my “choreographer” would then announce that all those ready to cooperate and be quickly processed for release should raise their right hand – NOW. Since our performance was based exclusively on auditory cues, nothing was left to chance. Regardless of whether anyone raised their hand, my “choreographer” would then loudly announce “Alright, we have one…now two..” (Note: His response was tailored based on group size).

Extra guards we had stationed in the Black Room would then noisily shuffle off, creating the illusion of cooperating detainees. The words and sounds exploited their worst fears. Within seconds, hands would go up (if they hadn’t initially). Paranoia soared as the sound of more exiting detainees echoed throughout the room.

In some cases, every detainee volunteered, creating a vicious race to see who could reveal the most information the fastest. For any that were left, we would wait until the room was again silent and as their goggles were lifted, tell them what their eyes knew to be true –several (if not all) of their colleagues had abandoned them. Invariably, the previously reluctant detainee(s) would suddenly agree to “take the deal.” The cut-throat competitiveness of the Prisoners’ Dilemma also precluded detainees from the self-defeating response of lying to one of my interrogators. It simply did not occur.

The most striking and disturbing aspect of this questioning technique was how quickly self-interest shattered not just the existing cohesiveness of the detainee group, but even their individual values, beliefs, and identities. Blood-ties and Al-Qaeda service together meant little when pitted against our appeal. On every occasion, primal self-interest trumped loyalty and collective needs, not it days or weeks, but in just a few short hours.