Audiobook Review: Spy The Lie

Spy The Lie:  Former CIA Officers Teach You How To Detect Detection, by Philip Houston, Michael Floyd, and Susan Carnicero, with Don Tennant, read by Fred Berman

I really enjoyed this particular audiobook as it was something right up my alley.  How is it that we can learn to spot deceptive behaviors and know how to investigate that further?  Being someone who is deeply interested in communication and in honesty and dishonesty, this book was right up my alley, but the authors do note that their experiences and approach are ones that could lead people to be cynical and jaded if it was not combined with a love of truth.  One wonders why it is that a trio of CIA officers involved in the polygraph division as well as who knows what other people involved in our government’s intelligence agencies wanted this sort of technique to be more widely understood in the general public.  Was there a fear that politicians (who are frequently skewered here) would engage in dishonest behavior that required an alert and vigilant populace?  Was there a belief that a wider understanding of noncoercive interrogation techniques could be of benefit to the general public?  Whatever their reason, this book is definitely a good one, if you want better ways to get at the truth through better communications skills.

In terms of its contents, the book has a lot to offer.  Having listened to this in my car over the past few days, I was not able to get a full sense of the structure and organization of the material, which took place over the course of about fourteen chapters or so and several appendices recorded on four cds in this unabridged version.  Even so, the book itself has several elements of interest.  For one, there is the story of how it is that this model came to be understood through a mixture of active listening, a close attention to body language, and an understanding of the physiological and neurological demands that deception places on the mind and body that have physical consequences one can uncover through skillful and polite questioning.  There are plenty of examples of how the model, which is what the authors call it, has been used in both the personal and professional lives of the authors, including dealing with double agents in the field as well as thieving domestic help.  The authors view the OJ Simpson trial as well as numerous political scandals to demonstrate the untruthfulness of many statements and how it can be understood through clusters of deceptive behaviors like the changing of anchor points and especially verbal ticks like convincing statements, inappropriate levels of politeness, refusing to answer the question, and attacking the questioner.

This particular work, then, sits at a particular sweet spot when it comes to books, and those are books that I love to read and get a lot out of in terms of practical material to help my own efforts at understanding others, and books that other people may not be very enthusiastic about reading.  The authors point out, repeatedly, that the techniques of paying close enough attention to behaviors in order to spot whether something deceptive is going on is a very highly taxing task–but if one is already a fairly hyperalert person when it comes to interpersonal interaction anyway, one is already undergoing that kind of strain, and one at least might get something out of it.  The authors also remind the reader (or listener, in this case) that one should not ask a question unless one really wants to hear the answer to it, and that is something that we should all keep in mind when conducting our own interrogations of those around us.  Sometimes we want to be deceived, but seeking after the truth has to be a sufficient reward to apply these techniques.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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