“Judging Honesty by Words, Not Fidgets” is a short essay written by Benedict Carey. It explores how in police interrogations, interviewers can use words to decide if people are lying more than looking at their physical movements. Traditionally, police have used lie detector tests and underhanded techniques to force suspects and witnesses to give confessions. This author cites research and experiments to show that analyzing how a witness communicates can be indicative of his/her honesty. This essay explains how different, less aggressive interrogating techniques, can be more helpful than forceful types of questioning.
It points out that sometimes suspects can learn to “cheat” on a polygraph and that liars may not have different body language than those that are being truthful. This essay has many strengths. One is the author’s use of entertaining phrases and questions at the beginning, which helps to engage the reader. Anybody that has watched Law and Order or CSI has seen the type of interrogation where the police lie to the suspects to get them to confess. The opening makes a connection with the reader in an entertaining way and that is a strength of this essay.
There are also many examples of research that have been used to tell if people are lying; this indicates that the writer is informed and makes him credible. The reader has confidence in the author’s information. This essay is short and easy to read, which is a huge positive. When essays are long, they tend to take the reader out of the mindset needed to maintain interest. The author points out how police are altering their techniques to make use of this research, so the application aspect of this research is interesting. While there are many strengths to this essay, there are a few weaknesses as well.
The biggest weakness is in the amount of time spent reading names of psychologists and researchers that have studied body language, interview techniques, and lying. While it is understood that it is a requirement that researchers’ names be cited, it takes away from the entertainment value and becomes more like reading a research paper and can be boring in those sections. Another minor weakness is the mention of the TV show Columbo at the end of the essay. While the character in that show may have used some of the techniques from the research, many contemporary readers may not be amiliar with him. “Judging Honesty by Words, Not Fidgets” is a short, easy read. It is also very interesting since most readers have seen police interviews on TV and in the movies and are familiar with some of the techniques fictitious officers use. Also, with all of the reality shows on TV today, many readers may have seen real interviews taking place. With readers having some knowledge of the topic, it is very interesting. While there are a few minor weaknesses of this essay, overall, it is entertaining and engages the audience.