The Telegram (St. John's)

Can ‘Pinocchio Syndrome’ solve the niqab dilemma?

Doctor Game W. Gifford Jones



you tell if someone is lying if the face is covered with a niqab? It’s a current Canadian question as a law court attempts to decide whether or not a sexual assault complainan­t may be allowed to wear her niqab in court. Can the “Pinocchio Syndrome” and two former U.S presidents help attorneys decide this issue?

Several years ago, talked with Dr. Alan Hirsch, a psychiatri­st associated with the department of neurology and psychiatry at Rush Presbyteri­an St. Lukes Medical Center in Chicago. Hirsch remarked, “ The next time you believe you’re getting snow-balled by a person, think of the Pinocchio Syndrome.”

Dr. Hirsch claimed that blood rushes to the nose of people who lie. This sudden increase in blood supply makes the nose itchy. The obvious result? Liars will either start to scratch their nose or touch it more frequently.

But Hirsch reports other ways to spot liars other than by their nose. Some liars clear their throats more often, or begin to stutter and make grammatica­l errors when talking.

Body language also aids in separating fact from fiction. Those about to make the big lie usually lean forward, constantly change position or rest their elbows on the table.

If an attorney is still wondering if a defendant is leading him or her down the primrose path, he or she should take a hard look at the lips. Liars normally tighten their lips or frequently lick their lips, and they tend to swallow and drink more. Liars are also more likely to touch their hair, clench their fists or take deep breaths.

But how could former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon help to decide whether the niqab should be worn or disallowed in a court of law?

Dr. Hirsch obtained the tape of Clinton’s appearance before a grand jury on Aug. 17, 1998. Then he obtained one of Clinton’s fundraisin­g speeches. These showed that during the grand jury hearing, when he was simply providing his name and other insignific­ant details, Clinton passed the truth test. He also received good marks for the fundraisin­g speech.

But Hirsch reports that it was obvious the truth began to fade before the grand jury. Nineteen of 23 warnings of falsified facts appeared. For instance, conspicuou­s increases in sighing, shrugs, leaning forward and arms crossing could be seen. Clinton was also caught by the “ Pinocchio Syndrome.”

Courtroom lawyers might also make use of the research conducted several years ago by Dr. A Stern, chairman of the psychology department at Washington University in St. Louis. Stern is an expert on blinking, which was triggered during Nixon’s Watergate hearing.

Dr. Stern explains that we do not blink at random. Rather, we blink at times that are psychologi­cally important. For instance, you have listened to a question, you understand it, but now before answering you take time for a blink. In effect, blinks are like the punctuatio­n marks in writing. And the timing of the blink is what’s going on in your head.

So, how did former president Richard Nixon rate? Stern reported “ Nixon’s blink rate increased

Imarkedly when asked a question he was not prepared to answer.” Stern continued, “ His speech was well-controlled and he did not manifest any other symptoms of anxiety, but you could see it in his eyes. Most politician­s have learned to disguise their feelings except in ways they cannot inhibit.”

Further research shows that liars generally avoid direct eye contact. They tend to roll their eyes as they speak as if they’re looking for the next line in a script, which is precisely what they are doing. And liars also tend to look upwards to the left.

The wearing of the niqab should be an interestin­g court case. I’m sure the lawyer for the complainan­t will argue that there’s more to arriving at the truth than the wearing of a niqab. The opposing lawyer will argue that analyzing facial features is critical in cross examinatio­n and that the law should allow him every advantage to establish the truth, that the wearing of a niqab can eliminate vital evidence.

After all, how can Pinocchio’s Syndrome niqab?

Who will win? I’d be interested in your comments. you spot behind a

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