Thursday, February 14, 2008

Clemens, McNamee and the Pinocchio Effect

Kids lie early, often,
and for all sorts of reasons—
to avoid punishment,
to bond with friends,
to gain a sense of control.

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about?

I'm wondering about American idols… no, not those American idols. I'm wondering about baseball players…the ones children around the world idolize. This morning that includes Roger Clemens.

After watching hours of testimony of a Congressional Hearing yesterday I'm no more able than anyone else probably is to declare Clemens or McNamee the liar about the alleged illegal steroid and Human Growth Hormone use.

I can say if there is anything to what I call the Pinocchio Effect, then Clemens could prove to be the champion of lies for the day. The name Pinocchio Effect is probably not original with me, but it did pop into my head one day and has stuck with me ever since. Seems research suggests the only consistent body language of people when lying is touching the nose.

Now, this makes sense to me because whether we want to admit it or not, the roots of what we are and do are shown frequently to lie in our childhoods. (No pun intended…maybe.) And who among us didn't identify with poor Pinocchio whose nose grew longer with every lie he told?

Anyone who watches hearings or trials must notice the tightly clasped hands of the participants. I used to thing they were praying…you know…asking for help to tell the truth…as in so help me, God. But that was before I learned about the research on lies and nose touching. Now I think they know about the Pinocchio Affect, by whatever name anyone calls it.

So what about the child abuse in all this? I'm not going where everyone else is this morning about the higher moral calling of athletes because children are watching...and imitating. These days it is difficult to point in any direction without finding the opposite is true. Higher moral calling seems a lost art in all fields so there is little reason to expect any difference in baseball. The fact is children learn by imitation and they imitate most those they idolize.

So, no, this post isn't about the hearing. This post is about lying. And the child abuse as I see it concerning lying isn't in the lying to or about children, although that is certainly included as abuse. No. This is about adults teaching children to lie. And then, even more abusive in my opinion… after the children learn to lie… as they all do…they are condemned and punished for lying. Finally to make matters worse, we inflict the greatest abuse of all… the hypocritical, holier-than-thou, finger wagging denial of our own lying. Remember Bonds, to name just one?

One thing is certain about the hearing I watched on CSpan yesterday... people lied. McName admitted to his lies. Clemens insisted to the end he didn't lie. Personally I appreciate McName's truth telling. It was refreshing. He confessed, owned, apologized and claimed to feel shame about his lies. I think that sets a better example for children to learn from and follow than that provided by those who piously spout about the importance of our precious children. They point fingers, swear they never lie, lecture others on the importance of setting good examples, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… itchy noses not withstanding.

Those behaviors are imitated and learned by children, too. Just watch older children with younger children suspected of lying. In one recent study with teenagers, 98% admitted to lying to their parents. That's a whole lotta lying! The kids in that same study also admitted they "saw for the first time how much they were lying and how many of the family’s rules they had broken…" Apparently the denial is learned early, but isn't impenetrable. I wonder if other research involved parents how many would admit to lying to, about, and in the presence of their children?

You might find these articles interesting reading:

Are Kids Copying Their Parents When They Lie?

Say Thank You: Learning How to Lie

Phone Fibbing is The Most Common Method for Untruths

Umass Researcher Finds Most People Lie in Everyday Conversation

Touch Your Nose

Are They Lying to You?

Lie Detection

8 of the Most Common Lying Gestures

How to Tell If Someone Lies To You

How to Tell if Someone's Lying Just from Looking at Their Hands

Natural Born Liars

And this one is really fun!

Robots Evolve and Learn to Lie

Oops! During this research I've found several others do refer to the Pinocchio Effect... the hundred monkeys strike again!

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

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