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Publisher's Summary

From the advent of fake news to climate-science denial and Bernie Madoff’s appeal to investors, people can be astonishingly gullible. Some people appear authentic and sincere even when the facts discredit them, and many people fall victim to conspiracy theories and economic scams that should be dismissed as obviously ludicrous. This happens because of a near-universal human tendency to operate within a mindset that can be characterized as a “truth-default”. We uncritically accept most of the messages we receive as “honest”. We all are perceptually blind to deception. We are hardwired to be duped. The question is, can anything be done to militate against our vulnerability to deception without further eroding the trust in people and social institutions that we so desperately need in civil society?

Timothy R. Levine’s Duped: Truth-Default Theory and the Social Science of Lying and Deception recounts a decades-long program of empirical research that culminates in a new theory of deception - truth-default theory. This theory holds that the content of incoming communication is typically and uncritically accepted as true, and most of the time, this is good. Truth-default allows humans to function socially. Further, because most deception is enacted by a few prolific liars, the so called “truth-bias” is not really a bias after all. Passive belief makes us right most of the time, but the catch is that it also makes us vulnerable to occasional deceit.

Levine’s research on lie detection and truth-bias has produced many provocative new findings over the years. He has uncovered what makes some people more believable than others and has discovered several ways to improve lie-detection accuracy. In Duped, Levine details where these ideas came from, how they were tested, and how the findings combine to produce a coherent new understanding of human deception and deception detection. 

Duped is skillfully narrated by Scott Pollak.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 University of Alabama Press (P)2020 Echo Point Books & Media, LLC

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A Modern Allegory of the Cave

This book enfolds two stories into one. One story is an explanation and defense of TDT — “truth-default theory” — whose starting point is that in everyday discourse we assume our fellow interlocutors are telling the truth. It is only under the pressure of evidence to the contrary that we suspect we are being told a lie. Research into lie detection based on this premise has led Levine to a number of corollaries, including that the prevailing sociological approach to lie-detection, “cue-theory,” has been barking up the wrong tree for a very long time. In short, as Levine puts it, lie detection is less like Freud (trying to read hidden thoughts off of involuntary cues) and more like Sherlock Holmes (collecting evidence from a variety of sources, including well-framed questions). The second story is just as, if not more, interesting. It is a modern day re-telling of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The sociological sub-discipline of deception theory has for decades been trapped in a cave of its own making: that we are awash in a sea of liars, that lie-detection is a matter of interpreting cues, and that at best we can achieve accuracy in lie detection at a rate only slightly higher than chance. In spite of, or because of, the discipline’s inability to reach anything of a consensus, researchers only dug the cave deeper trying to justify their own shadows. Levine, assisted in great part by a once student now fellow scholar, plays the role of the philosopher who discovers the light and now wants to free his fellow scholars from their self-imposed imprisonment. What I find most intriguing, and disconcerting, about the book is how much time, dedication and sheer intellectual effort it took to make what in the end turns out to be rather common-sensical observations: we have to assume truth-telling to function as a society, and humans are not mind-readers — we need to exercise our rational powers in light of evidence to detect deception. It is rather unsettling to see how an entire field of scholarship so enveloped itself in a labyrinthian set of false assumptions that it requires this amount of research and effort to escape. I am not a sociologist, and never even knew that this sub-discipline existed until I listened to this book, but Levine’s conclusions by and large resonate with lived experience. I think I disagree, however, with his argument that most people are truth-tellers most of time. I also don’t think that proposition is necessary for his theory. However, I want to purchase the print edition to review his arguments more carefully before committing myself to this objection. My sense is that Levine’s anthropology (his understanding of human nature) is too superficial to give a full account of how, when and why people lie. He is correct though, and students of Thomas Aquinas have known this for centuries, that when people lie they do so because they believe it will achieve something they perceive as good.

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fascinating book and great narration

I came to this book by way of Malcolm Gladwell's "Talking to Strangers" and I'm so glad I did! Dr. Levine's approach is incredibly thorough but still very accessible to a layperson like me. I was given this audiobook for free in exchange for an honest review. Speaking candidly, this is a must-listen for anyone interested in the science of deception. Also, special shout out to the narrator-- he carries you through a lot of very complex concepts, relayed in great detail, in a way that is dynamic and compelling enough to maintain rapt interest. Very well read and well done all together.

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not as expected

I think this book should been labeled a textbook for how to conduct a statistical experiment. it was like death trying to get through the first three chapters. I think I was duped in buying it

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Good book - really bad narrator

I could only listen to the first chapter, the narrator sounded like a bored substitute teacher.

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  • Divan
  • 12-15-20

Deception explained!

This book provides a eye-opening tour through deception research and theory. It then proceeds to unpack true things default theory in a way to makes sense of our experiences with deception. Not satisfied to stay in the lab, Timothy Levine has put forward a theory that stands up in the real world. It was a fascinating book that has changed the way I think about deception.