Saturday, February 18, 2012

13. Wishful Thinking (I)

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Surely there are quite a few things we wish they changed for the better, but maybe the time is not ripe to see them come true, or – if truth be told – perhaps it is part of the human nature to expect a lot more from the others, when in fact we should begin by remodelling our inner selves.

We all expect to be told the truth – always definite, always ‘the one and only’ (while we could tell a lie, or lies), even more so from the media. We do want to be well informed, even if the ebb and flow of our existence prevents us more often than not form streaming facts and becoming aware of events in all their development; if this were systematic, we would easily be entitled to draw conclusions which clearly separate fact from fiction, or fiction (=lies) from non-fiction.

A journalist’s job is therefore, by definition, to inform; indeed, tens of thousands of reporters worldwide testify to this challenging profession and strive to keep the public updated on the developments of issues that may have just emerged, or other, older conflicts that have gathered momentum.

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Something along these lines must have happened to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two reporters who, while relying heavily on anonymous sources, uncovered information suggesting knowledge of the break-in at the headquarters of the Watergate office complex, and of the attempts on behalf of the president’s men to cover-up the latter’s implication: the reporters’ dedication led deep into the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and the White House and finally to the president’s compliance to step down.

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One of the photos that went round the world some thirty years ago, it’s true: but then again it is no simple matter, for he was the only US president to resign in almost two hundred and fifty years of history.

Here is a first set of questions for reflection:

What expressions, or gestures, tell you what the people are thinking?
Can you think of a situation when it might not be a good idea to say exactly what you think?
What kind of people could be described as dishonest?
Does Honesty Always Pay?
[adapted from Success at First Certificate, by Robert O’Neill, Michael Duckworth & Kathy Gude]

What exactly is a lie? Is it anything we say which we know is untrue? Or is it something more than that? For example, suppose a friend wants to borrow some money from you. You say, 'I wish I could help you but I'm short of money myself.' In fact, you are not short of money but your friend is in the habit of not paying his debts and you don't want to hurt his feelings by reminding him of this. Is this really a lie?

Professor Jerald Jellison of the University of Southern California has made a scientific study of lying. According to him, women are better liars than men, particularly when telling a 'white lie', such as when a woman at a party tells another woman that she likes her dress when she really thinks it looks awful. However, this is only one side of the story. Other researchers say that men are more likely to tell more serious lies, such as making a promise which they have no intention of fulfilling. This is the kind of lie politicians and businessmen are supposed to be particularly skilled at: the lie from which the liar hopes to profit or gain in some way.
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Research has also been done into the way people's behaviour changes in a number of small, apparently unimportant ways when they lie. It has been found that if they are sitting down at the time, they tend to move about in their chairs more than usual. To the trained observer, they are saying, 'I wish I were somewhere else now.' They also tend to touch certain parts of the face more often, in particular the nose. One explanation of this may be that lying causes a slight increase in blood pressure. The tip of the nose is very sensitive to such changes and the increased pressure makes it itch.

Another gesture which gives liars away is what the writer Desmond Morris in his book Manwatching calls ‘the mouth cover’. He says there are several typical forms of this, such as covering part of the mouth with the fingers, touching the upper-lip or putting a finger of the hand at one side of the mouth. Such a gesture can be interpreted as an unconscious attempt on the part of the liar to stop him or herself from lying.

Of course, such gestures as rubbing the nose or covering the mouth, or squirming about in a chair cannot be taken as proof that the speaker is lying. They simply tend to occur more frequently in this situation. It is not one gesture alone that gives the liar away but a whole number of things, and in particular the context in which the lie is told.

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Choose the best answer.
(1)According to the passage, a 'white lie' seems to be a lie
A that other people believe.
B that other people don't believe.
C told in order to avoid offending someone.
D told in order to gain some advantage.

(2)Research suggests that women
A are better at telling less serious lies than men are.
B generally lie far more than men do.
C make promises they intend to break more often than men do.      
D lie at parties more often than men do.

(3)One reason people sometimes rub their noses when they lie is that
A they wish they were somewhere else.
B the nose is sensitive to physical changes caused by lying.
C they want to cover their mouths.
D they are trying to stop themselves from telling lies.

(4)It would appear from the passage that
A there is no simple way of finding out if someone is lying.
B certain gestures are proof that the speaker is lying.
C certain gestures are proof of lying only if they are repeated frequently.
D people lie in some situations more often than in others.
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[1C – 2A – 3B – 4A


  1. Very interesting article!! My answers are: 1C, 2D, 3D and 4A. Am I right? A question: when people are used to lie, do these typical gestures of lying disappear?

  2. I've the same answers but the number 2. I think that it's the A, women are better at telling less serious lies than men, because men are better telling more serious lies.
    Regarding to the last question that merche does, I think that if someone believes in the lie that is telling, the typical gestures of lying dissapear because this person really thinks that it's true.

    1. Yes, but there are people who are expert of lying... like actor, for example. They know that what they are saying it not true, however, people can't notice it. If people can, the actors are not very good... I don't know if this is a stupid idea ;-)

  3. My answers are 1C, 2 A, 3 B, 4 A.
    There are people, the most dangerous , that tell lies and they believe that what they´re saying is true.I think that a lie always hurts someone.
    Ana A

    1. I couldn´t agree more with you. They are the most dangerous because they seem to be credible!!!. They believe in their own lies!!!

  4. This wasn't supposed to be a place for the key to the multiple choice test, you're somehow overriding the rules of the game: you're perfectly able to post comments without giving your answers, really

    1. What about the three questions that appear before the article? I know, I asked them myself, and now I wonder whether there are cases in which it might be a bad idea to say what we think. But do we really have to say something in every situation? I mean, are white lies indispensable?

  5. It's a difficult question... I think it's better to say always what you think, but it's imposible!!! Sometimes we have to tell a lie lie ir order not to hurt someone... or in others situations, like at work.

  6. To answer the right ones...
    1- The eyes is the way to know if someone is telling a lie. When they say a lie they don´t look at you straight into your eyes or maybe they do exactly the opposite, spending more time than needed staring at them.
    2- I think it´s better not to say anything or try to change the conversation than saying a white lie.
    For instance it would be difficult for me to say a mother of a newborn baby that he is lovely if he isn´t. I would say a polite sentence as " congratulations he would be the best of your life"...
    3- A dishonest person is the one who doesn´t' care to say lies in order to obtain an advantage even if he harms someone.
    Ana A

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  7. 2 - Correction- " congratulations he WILL be the best of you life"
    Ana A

  8. It's true that sometimes is not necesary to say anything, but normally white lies don't hurt people and people don't have to say them, but in the most cases it makes feel good to the other person, so why don't do it?

  9. I saw several years ago a very interesting TV program about this topic.
    I could see the movements that lots of people (including Usa American president Bush) made when they were giving a speech, that indicated if they were lying or not.

    I think sometimes it is not so bad to tell a ‘white lie’ when the consequence of that lie is not important.
    But here is a question: if a relative is very ill and he´s going to die, would you lie to him?

    1) If you tell him the truth, at the beginning he might get upset, but he could do lots of things that he has postponed.

    2) If you don´t tell him the truth, he wouldn't get upset, but he´d live the last days of his life in a lie.

    What would you do?

    Mari Carmen

  10. It's very difficult for me answer these questions, but I must try it.
    I don't like lies, but white lies are not important, but sometimes white lies are not necessary, they could be replace with silence... and so, you will not be a liar. Rita

  11. I think that all lies are important because the lie ( white or black ) is like a castle in the air and this castle will fall.
    Paz Pinilla

    1. Well, of course lies are important. I wish we could live in a world where there are no lies. But that would be Fantasia, not Earth!

      Speaking about connotations, only white lies are conceived of in English. The'castles in the air' are translated...Spanish cities!