Lie to Me-Season 2 Episode 3 “Control Factor” Comments

lie-to-me-fox-2009white-spaceOnce again the venerable Cal Lightman saves the day by saving a mom who has put herself in danger in a scam for egg donors in Mexico, while back home the Lightman Group and Gillian solve a case of people dying after blood transfusions. In typical American TV drama fashion, all’s well that ends well, despite the offensive, ethically and morally questionable and probably illegal activities of Dr. Lightman and his group.

I really hope that viewers don’t get the idea that the real-life groups that do this work, like ours at Humintell, LLC, actually go and take on cases on our own outside of the police. This would never happen. Our duties and responsibilities are to aid law enforcement in doing their jobs, not to do the jobs of law enforcement.

Sometimes I think it is a slap in the face to all of the good people in law enforcement if they think that scientists who are trained and study observational skills can do the job of law enforcement. There is absolutely no way. They are trained in so many other skills, strategies, and tactics. They put their lives on the line every day for our protection and safety. They have years of practical, real-world experience dealing with all kinds of people – good and bad – and that experience can never be substituted by any scientific findings (although they can certainly be complemented!).

Watching Cal Lightman and his company at times bypass, befuddle, and often ridicule law enforcement is upsetting to me, and I truly hope that those of you in law enforcement watching don’t believe that this is what we do. Our company, in any case, does not. We have an immense respect for the training you have undergone, and the work you do every day. I hope the viewing public also feels the same way and sees the show for what it is – fictional dramatic entertainment.

In some of my future blogs I will write about how some of “science” that is depicted in the show is not really science, either. In this last show, Ria called Cal jealous, while another scene depicted shame.

Did you know there is no scientific evidence for the universal, reliable signals of jealousy and shame?

Viewers beware!

3 responses to “Lie to Me-Season 2 Episode 3 “Control Factor” Comments”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Matsumoto and Cole Bitting. Cole Bitting said: Awesome! RT @Humintell: What did you think of last night's episode of Lie to Me? See Dr. Matsumoto's thoughts! […]

  2. Jeff Yoak says:

    Another aspect I don’t like that seems to be becoming standard this season is dramatic zoom in on expressions and then highlighting them in such a way as to make them hard to see with these alphanumeric codes, that I’m guessing are from FACS. That’s so far outside of the experience of the audience as to be like the voodoo generally surrounding computers on television.

    The part that bugs you doesn’t particularly bug me. Good heroic stories have individuals doing, well, heroic things. They put themselves in danger and are contrasted not only with evil things done near them, but also with the stupidity and inaction of lessor mortals nearby. This makes for good television, and only an incredibly naive audience would take this as some demonstration that either real scientists would behave this way or that real law enforcement professionals are limited in this way. I don’t think you have to work too hard to disavow the notion that if you were in Mexico with a teenage daughter that you’d be out wrangling with drug cartels and dirty Mexican cops. 🙂

  3. Russ Conte says:

    In reply, “In this last show, Ria called Cal jealous, while another scene depicted shame.

    Did you know there is no scientific evidence for the universal, reliable signals of jealousy and shame?”

    Obviously there are no universal signals for jealousy and shame. Also, this is just a TV show (and I did not see the episode, FYI). However, detecting emotions for which there are no universal signs CAN be done, by means other than detecting the universal facial signals which are well known and documented. Obviously those can not be used in this type of a setting.

    If two people are in close proximity (work, school, home, etc) over time, then they will learn each other’s signals. These signals are NOT necessarily universal, but they are very readable. So the way one person depicts shame will be quite different than the way another does, but someone who is very highly sensitive and aware can pick up on that emotion. When this awareness is combined with the techniques that Dr. O’Sullivan and Dr. Ekman describes being used by naturals (the probing, constructing hypotheses, etc) to discern the truth, then picking up on such emotions becomes very feasible and reliable in those smaller contexts. It is not universal, but it does work with an incredibly high degree of reliability.

    So even though it’s just a TV show, and Ria and Cal are not real people, the events as described in the OP seem very feasible to me, but not based on universal facial signals or FACS, but more on the techniques described above.

    In my view, learning to read non-universal signals is at least as important as reading universals, and in many cases, more important than being able to read universals. This opens the door to understanding the entire range of human emotions in those close to me, not just the universals.

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