Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 7 “Black Friday” Comments

lie-to-me-black-fridayjpg-af34194a465489a6_largewhite-spaceIn addition to how I abhor the bastardization of the science, I think I figured out another reason why this show has been viscerally difficult for me.

Has anyone ever noticed how the Lightman Group is not really a group of scientists who aid law enforcement, but is a private group of individuals who take the law into their own hands and conduct their own investigations, detain individuals and interview and interrogate them, and in some ways act directly in opposition to law enforcement?

To me, this violates many of the ethics and common sense of being a scientist and even a concerned citizen in this country.

In many other shows that feature individuals with special skills, those individuals work together with law enforcement, but never (or not as much as) the vigilante Lightman Group. I couldn’t even begin to think of going out to conduct my own investigation, bring someone back to my office to interrogate them, and to accuse them of criminal activities.

So not only is the science minimized and spun for the purpose of drama; the whole nature of the Lightman Group is totally unrealistic.

Speaking of the science, do you notice that much of the science that is quoted – most notably the stuff about how people answer questions (“classic evasion,” “buying time,” “distancing,” etc.) have nothing to do with the science of nonverbal behavior?

Indeed, there is an entire field of scientific endeavor, developed originally in Europe, around what is known as the “Undeutsch hypothesis,” which states that descriptions of real experiences are qualitatively and quantitatively different from invented ones.

Research and application based on this hypothesis has led in recent years to what is known as statement analysis, a technique that attempts to assess the credibility (i.e., the truthfulness or deception) in verbal statements. Techniques based on statement analysis produce a number of different criteria by which verbal statements can be analyzed for deception. Statement analysis is a useful and worthwhile technique not only to analyze statements for deception, but also to understand the mental state and memory retrievability of individual.

These criteria and the general enterprise of statement analysis play a prominent role in the show, along with the nonverbal behavior. Indeed, one of the ethical principles of all scientists includes not claiming credit when it is not due, and given that my expertise lies in nonverbal behavior and facial expressions of emotion, credit should be granted where credit is due.

We scientists whose work touches on this show should openly give such credit to statement analysis and those scientists who brought that work to where it is today.

10 responses to “Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 7 “Black Friday” Comments”

  1. Richard says:

    Mmmm, it’s a T.V. show. A good one at that I must say. Very entertaining. Like wise House is also very entertaining but I’m not likely to follow his practice of medicine anymore than I’m thinking that Cal is really a Doctor.

    Might I suggest more Non-fiction for you and leave the Fiction to those who get it.

  2. Ian Trudel says:

    The show clearly plays with the good and bad side of Cal Lightman. The second season puts more emphasis on his past as a criminal or unsound activities. Lightman seems to be a man who believes in the ends justify the means. For example, he goes as far as deleting a video segment with Reynolds confessing a murder in an attempt to gain his trust. Reynolds would have to arrest Lightman at this point or otherwise failing to his duties as far as I understand. People cannot talk their way out once a felony is known, no matter how skillful smooth talker slash liar (such as Cal Lightman) they are.

    There is an Internet video entitled “Don’t Talk to Cops” [1] with James Duane, a former criminal attorney, and officer George Bruch, an experienced detective. At 8:32 in part 1, “Why Not Talk to the Police? 1. There is no way it can help. You can’t talk your way out of getting arrested […]” It is confirmed by officer Bruch in the video. This corroborates what Dr. Matsumoto wrote : “the nature of Lightman Group is unrealistic”.

    Did anyone here come across the work of Jeff Hancock from Cornell University? In the documentary “The Truth About Liars” [2], he speaks about his work on online deception where written statements are analyzed. This is also very interesting.

    There is another ethical problem not mentioned in the blog post. Loker investigated the riot in the “Black Friday” but he has stopped his investigation when there was enough evidence to support a big pay day rather than the complete factual events. Lightman, Foster and Loker are all scientists. It took Torres’ stubbornness and Loker’s discovery to move forward. Loker did struggle with himself when it was time to announce the full facts. As both a scientist and businessman, Dr. Matsumoto, how do you feel about this ethical dilemma?


    [1] Don’t Talk to Cops
    Part 1:
    Part 2:


  3. Hi Richard,

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, I remember that this is indeed a drama and fictional show. Being in the field it is sometimes difficult to remember this fact, especially when the exact work you do is being depicted in a way you normally wouldn’t portray it, but I empathize with your comment.


  4. Hi Ian,

    In my opinion, there is no dilemma. Being in this field, both as a scientist and a businessman, there is really only one option and that is to do the right thing and find the full findings. The idea of holding back information or not uncovering the full findings is not even an option.


  5. Diana says:

    While I enjoy Lie to Me, I have been interested to read your judgement of its relative reality. When an academic area becomes popular or is dramatized for entertainment, the exciting and glamorous aspects are emphasized and the repetitive and ‘daily grind’ aspects are brushed over or ignored, for the very good reason that no one wants to watch people scan journal articles and plot data. I am working on a doctorate in archaeology, so I have some experience with the collision of reality and entertainment.

    The positive aspects are there, though- more people aware of the discipline, more outreach opportunities, a few who come into it because of tv/movies will stick it out even though there is more washing of ceramic shards and less grabbing of golden statues than they had thought. I know academic criticism can be annoying to others (my family lets me know when I’m being more nit picking than usual), but it is needed to keep things at least close to what’s going on in the field. I think this heightens the quality of the shows, as fiction based in real world work.

    Having unloaded that, I just wanted to say I find the training interesting and helpful. I work as administrator in an academic department in an urban university and it helps to be able to get the emotional cues in faculty meetings as well as on public transportation. I’m not naturally good at this but I’m getting a bit better. Thanks!

  6. I agree with @Diana. I watch Lie to me regularly (although I tend to be behind 2 – 3 episodes). While I understand that it does not show the science well, I like reading a review from a known expert — it gives me a baseline from which to judge how I interpret scenes in the show and compare, which enhances my learning — totally selfish I know (sorry).

    Personally, I kind of expected this when the show aired. Just the ‘CSI Effect’? –


  7. Dear Diana and Mike,

    Thank you for your comments. Although it is sometimes hard to watch the show since it is so dramatized, it is helpful to know that my comments and review is appreciated on some level!


  8. Tyler says:

    I find it very strange how you react to the show. Obviously, the way you speak, it’s as if you feel humiliated by the show.

    As far as I have heard, Dr. Paul Ekman himself works tightly with the show.

    But I can sort of recognize that you, Dr. Matsumoto, and Dr. Ekman are quite opposites. You seem to be what is called an “indoors” scientist. Dr. Cal Lightman is sort of the romantic hero, the active, in-the-field scientist; the kind of scientist that gets his hands dirty. Now, I have no intention to criticize you on any unreasonable grounds. But do you not think it is strange of you to go on an ongoing rant about the “bastardization of science” that the show supposedly goes about doing (which is perfectly acceptable, if you have explained and proven your point well), THEN, (made apparent in the last article) you decide to focus on the good in the reality of the science, which is FANTASTIC. We need more of that focus in this world, to focus on the good and work towards it. But you THEN proceed to going back to your ongoing rant, which you continue in this article and the next.

    I KNOW that you are a fantastic scientist. You’ve gone through the work needed to become what you are today, and you rightly deserve it. I love that you’ve taken such an interest into proofing the show and how you are trying to reveal the reality of the science to the people that watch it! But I think that if you were to focus more on helping people and on teaching people the greatness of what you have to teach, you might have more impact, and for the greater good.

  9. Kurt says:

    Commenting on Tyler 30 November. Tyler you took the words out of my mouth. That is exactly the thought process I was developing from reading this blog page. Great stuff!

    Dr Matsumoto,
    It is a great science, I am a huge fan. Like many others, thank’s to the show “Lie to me”, I have begun to look at your research and study it, knowing full well the show is dramatising the science. It’s a story! I think we all need a bit of escapism. The good thing about this story is the link to your science. Great for your business side of things, wouldn’t you agree?

    The show has got people talking, and here in Australia it has caused law enforcement academics like me to look at your science as real and achievable.

  10. Tyler and Kurt,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I agree that it is great that Lie to Me has sparked interest on the topics of microexpressions, nonverbal behavior, etc. However, I would be weary of saying the I am “humiliated” by the show.

    I CAN say that being a scientist in this field, it is often times frustrating to see the science being skewed a certain way for the sake of drama.

    This is the point I have been trying to make in previous blog posts.

    What I am trying to emphasize through my posts is that what Cal Lightman does and says in the show is NOT how normal scientists in this field operate, and certainly not how my team and I conduct research.

    We don’t go into the field and act as law enforcement officials, conduct our own interrogations without consent, try to intimidate people, etc. My company and I stand for values such as building rapport with others and working WITH law enforcement officials, not taking over the case ourselves.

    Of course, again, this is all for the sake of drama, but I think my point should be clearly emphasized here.

    As you can see in my subsequent posts on Lie to Me, I have not focused on ranting about the show, but have switched gears and have tried to promote discussion on what kinds of discussions can be had because of the show.

    Hope this information helps and I appreciate your comments.


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