2014-03-25 – We now learn that putting your hand over your heart tends to make you more honest and that folks witnessing this act perceive this act as indicating honesty. This is the result of research published this month in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior by Michal Parzuchowski and Bogdan Wojciszke.
Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.
Of course it is nice to have the blessing of science. According to Parzuchowski and Wojciszke, the hand over the heart is not foolproof, but it is an indicator. Better than a coin toss.
Indicators of lying are an unwillingness to look you in the eye. A heh-heh-heh laugh. Sweaty palms. Increased or slowed breathing and increased pulse. The CIA evaluates body language of foreign leaders. Lie detecting machines are big business. Poker players look for “tells.”
But none of these methods are strong indicators. If folks want to lie to you, they will find a way.
The interesting thing about the hand-over-the-heart tell is not that there is a correlation to honesty, it’s that mental and emotional states are commonly connected to movements of the body. We may not be able to reliably interpret those motions, but there is a connection.
We all lie. Not very much, but sometimes. We couldn’t get along in the world if we lied all the time. Sometimes we lie to spare someone’s feelings. Sometime we lie—just a little bit. Rarely, but sometimes we lie to gain an advantage over someone. But we always want people to believe us. So we put our hand over our heart.
A great book on the subject is The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely.
Which brings me to my periodic reminder about Diogenes Day. I first wrote about Diogenes Day on April Fools Day last year. The idea was that, if we have a day devoted to tricking people, shouldn’t we have a day devoted to the truth? I proposed October 1 for the celebration. If you think this is a cool idea, let people know.
Here are some other links for those of you curious about Diogenes Day (I’m assuming you are new around here):
90 More Shopping Days (July 3)
Diogenes Day Is Coming (Sept. 15)
Truth About Diogenes Day (Sept. 26)
Diogenes Day Is October 1 (Sept. 29)
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[UPDATE: Go to my Diogenes Day page to see these and other DD posts.]