Free Public Event: To Tell the Truth!

Truth and Lying.jpg

Image: Shutterstock

Truth and lying are complicated neurological behaviors. Although the role of the visual cortex and other areas of the brain are being identified, and their functions clarified, it is not likely that there is a “truth” center in the brain or a “lying” center. Scientists try to identify neurological correlates of truth-telling and lying in the laboratory, but it is not known if any findings of this type are operative in real life. This program will examine three important real-life aspects of truth and lying.

First, are we born with the ability to understand the concept of truth and lying? Victoria Talwar will discuss the childhood development of a sense of lying and truth-telling. Second, do our “minds” know what is true and what is false? Elizabeth Loftus will describe the phenomenon of so-called repressed memories and how it is possible for someone to be convinced they are telling the truth when they are not. Finally, what do we know about people who are consistent liars? Charles Dike will explore the nature of pathological lying and why some people lie seemingly without purpose.

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Memory, Documentary Photography and—Hopefully— Enlightenment

Mary Ellen Mark is one of America’s most renowned photographers. Her work centers on emotional proximity exposure of individuals on the fringes of society, similar to iconic Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange. Her usage of film is irresistible—I am a real pushover for the dramatic effects and monumental appearance of silver gelatin prints (a method of black and white development) in comparison to standard digital prints.

Mark and DABI member and neuroscientist Daniel L. Schacter, Ph.D., recently discussed photography, documentation, and illusion during “The Photographer,” part of the Rubin Museum of Art’s 2013 ongoing Brainwave series. I was delighted to return to the museum where I gave tours during college to K-12 school groups and mentored a teen group as an Apprentice Museum Educator.

Michael palma for rma mary ellen mark-1-5(Credit: Michael Palma for The Rubin Museum of Art)

At the beginning of their conversation, Schacter  asked Mark if a photograph differs from the memory of the events and details surrounding its creation and of the people involved. Following her answer—that she lucidly remembers the circumstances and the people in her photographs—Schacter playfully engaged the audience in an experiment that challenged the faculties of human memory. He read a group of words that were closely associated with one another (and hunger inducing): “cookie,” “moist,” “cake,” etc. Asking the audience whether they heard the word “sweet,” almost everyone raised their hands. Needless to say, most of us were wrong (sigh). We had experienced a false memory, creating the memory of hearing the word because logically it seemed that Schacter should have said it. Mark called the exercise “a trick,” while the rest of us got a lesson in how easy it can be to manipulate the human mind. (To read more about false memory and a similar experience at a Brainwave event, read “The Impact of Memory on Filmaking” by Bill Glovin.)

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