People sometimes ask me what I think about real-life (i.e., non-game and non-poker) behavior. Generally, I don’t weigh in on such things, because most real-world behavior has a lot of ambiguity due to there being so many unknown factors. (For example, is someone nervous because they’re deceiving? Or nervous because they’re on the spot? Did someone mis-speak because of some sort of subconscious Freudian slip? Or did they just slip up in a normal way like we all do every day?)
Unlike the highly formalized, highly repetitive environment of poker and other competitive-gaming environments, the real world is messy and complex and hard to read. And it’s even more difficult if you’re trying to read smart, savvy, aware people who are at all skilled at lying and deception.
So I think it’s generally very difficult to say that a person’s behavior or speech is a reliable indicator of one thing or another. I think the opinions of most “behavior experts” are bullshit, especially when they try to apply those ideas to media-savvy people like leaders/politicians.
But sometimes there are situations when someone does or says something very likely to indicate deception or a hidden meaning. It does happen. And this recent Sean Hannity interview of Roy Moore was, in my opinion, one of those situations. And as is usually the case for the most meaningful/reliable situations, there was not just a single indicator, but several indicators pointing to the same idea: that Roy Moore was being deceptive about denying he’d dated underage girls in his thirties.
And obviously, if you’re paying attention to the news, you know that many other people immediately recognized the weirdness of Moore’s most egregiously evasive statement. The most obvious examples of these kinds of deception don’t take a lot of special expertise to spot.
A Twitter thread I wrote is below, with an analysis of what I think are the most interesting, likely-to-be-reliable moments from that interview, along with some thoughts on similar kinds of ambiguous but deceptive statements from abusers/assaulters. Here’s the link to the tweet where you can scroll down and see the full thread: twitter.com/apokerplayer/status/930841226126925824
Roy Moore’s responses to Hannity’s questions are good example of how meaningful and reliable verbal tells can be. pic.twitter.com/3PG1n7eSgg
— Zachary Elwood (@apokerplayer) November 15, 2017
Five years or so before starting work on my book Verbal Poker Tells, I read a book called I Know You Are Lying, by Mark McClish, a former U.S. Marshal. It’s a book about statement analysis: the attempt to parse people’s written or verbal statements for hidden meaning. It’s an interesting book that delves into analyzing writing/speaking from real-life criminal cases, including the MLK Jr. assassination, and the Jon Benet Ramsay murder. I highly recommend it. It was partly the inspiration for Verbal Poker Tells, which tried to apply a similar methodology for those common phrases/statements you hear from players during a hand.
Here’s the Amazon link: I Know You Are Lying
Here’s the video from Hannity’s interview below. The statements focused on start around 13:00. And if you haven’t seen it, I recommend watching to the end to see the reactions of Hannity’s panel of guests; they all seem aware of what Roy Moore’s deceptive/ambiguous phrasing indicates.