After my friend told me that I “needed” to watch BBC series ‘Sherlock’ (I think him and I have very different understandings of the word ‘need’), I decided I would watch the first episode ‘A study in pink’, a critically well acclaimed take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘A study in scarlet’. I rarely find myself commenting on things in this way, but there were a few things I felt I should say.
All in all, ‘A study in pink’ was a fast paced and expertly written episode, with great references and actual quotes from the original story. Sherlock is, albeit a little unrealistic, well portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch and John Watson (coincidentally the name of my father) even more fantastically portrayed by the master of being a normal brit, Martin Freeman.
The haze which the episode creates does make for some quite implausible moments, and (as a deductionist) some things that aren’t quite doable, but make for fantastic television.
One thing I noticed, that I have yet to see put up as a theory. Sherlock tells the serial killer that he can’t have successfully outwitted all 5 victims, it HAD to be chance; and he might not be wrong. What if, instead of actually outwitting people, the murderer actually showed two ‘bad’ pills, both containing the fatal toxin, but kept an antidote on his person. This would mean that as both took the pill together, he would be able to administer the antidote and save his own life, while the other suffocated and died, with their insides burning. Just a thought.
Apologies for the break in investigation posts, but this was something I needed to get on the internet.
This is something I generally tend to avoid teaching people to do, but as so many have requested it, I shall.
Lying has become almost inherrent to the human condition, and most people lie several times a day. Often you may find yourself in a situation where you feel that someone is deceiving you, and there are several ways to determine the truthfulness of their claims:
- Listen carefully: When people are lying to you, particularly if they haven’t thought their story through, they are likely to make mistakes both in consistency and sentence structure. The most common of the latter is a misuse of tenses, If someone starts talking in one tense, and abruptly switches to another, then it can be a sign that they are lying (ie. “I was in the kitchen to begin with, then I find something that’s making me uncomfortable”). Also pay attention to see if their story makes actual sense, if there are discrepancies between details, it could well be hocum.
- Be assertive: Call them out on their story, ask them about specific details and see if the responses they give seem truthful. If they answer immediately, the chances are that they have been thinking this lie over for some time. If they deflect the question, or take particularly long to respond, you can bet there’s a chance they’re decieving you.
- Watch them carefully: Where language lies, body language does not. Only highly trained individuals can actually alter their body language to appear truthful, and there are a few ‘tells’ that can give someone away if they aren’t being honest. The most common of these are: hands covering parts of the face or chest, touching of the ears, nose or mouth are often good indicators. Another good thing to check is how open their hands are, people with their hands in their pockets or with their arms folded are more likely to be lying than those with their hands on display. A good rule of thumb is to check how visible the palms are, as it has been observed that people tend to have open palms when being truthful.
In any case, it is extremely important to remember to read gestures in clusters, as one individual detail may not lead you effectively to the truth (or untruth, as it were), someone with folded arms could just be cold, or someone touching their nose could have an itch. The more concordant information you have, the more likely it is that the conclusion that evidence supports is true.
If, for whatever reason, you find yourself needing to work out whether someone is telling the truth, remember to use these steps and remain as vigilant and attentive as possible, but also try to keep in mind that these methods are not 100% accurate, and all depend on circumstantial variables, and the skill of the reader.
Have you ever experienced the feeling of labouring over a particular puzzle for hours all to no avail, infuriating, isn’t it? Luckily for you, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have the answer hidden deep in your mind somewhere; and there are a few ways that you can try and unblock yourself, so to speak.
- Do something else: it is often the case that you have become too focused on a particular detail and your brain isn’t using all the available areas. Have you ever tried to remember a word, but you always come back to the same false word, wondering each time why you haven’t learned to not try that one?, that awful sensation you get where it’s almost as if your brain is a vinyl stuck on loop. Fortunately, there is a very simple method for getting past this: go and do something completely different, read a book, watch a film, take photos of turnips, whatever takes your fancy; periodically check back on the puzzle and see if your brain can cast any new light on it, you might be surprised at the results.
- Segment it: In case taking a time out doesn’t work for you, there are practical methods for effective puzzle solving. The most commonly used being segmentation, the breaking up of a larger puzzle into smaller pieces and tackling each one individually. Doing this will allow you to direct your attention to individual points, each one being easier to solve on its own than as a part of a whole problem. Just imagine, if you had to dispose of a large cardboard box, but the bin was too small to hold it, then the obvious way would be to rip the cardboard box up and bin the individual pieces. That’s pretty much how this works, but with pieces of a problem, rather than pieces of cardboard. When given the opportunity to focus on just one thing, the brain functions better, seriously, Google it.
- Use logic: Many of you will already be doing this, but sometimes, a simple failure to apply logic properly is all that’s going wrong. Think about your problem and everything that absolutely cannot be the answer to it; or try listing all your hunches, and removing the answers by process of elimination. Another thing you can try is is working though your problem in steps. ie. What things can I actually determine from this, and what details am I assuming? What else do I know that I can apply to this?
If you’re fretting about something you need to do, take a step back, see the bigger picture and you may just find the answer you’re looking for.
Alongside the obvious biological advantages to having hands. There are also innumerable details which can be obtained simply by observing them. Due to the fact that we use our hands to interact with our environment more than any other body part, they quickly change in appearance and flexibility in order to facilitate our everyday actions. For example, a piano player will have long, thin fingers (The playing forces extra length, it sounds ridiculous, but trust me, it’s true!) so that they can achieve the necessary stretches and articulation to hit the keys with the required precision and control.
Callouses can also tell you plenty about one’s habits, as they form in order to strengthen the skin against constant irritation. This means that wherever they are, the skin is in need of some basic protection. It is then relatively simple to work out why that area would need such coverage. For example, callouses will be present on the fingertips of guitar players or lighting engineers, on the lower digits and the base of the palm for golfers and hockey players, and over the knuckles for people who fight or punch things a lot (scars or cuts are also a good indicator of this).
There are also more obvious things to be seen. Presence or absence of a wedding ring will determine whether someone is married or not. Occasionally a lighter patch of skin where a ring once was will show, which could suggest recent divorce or a willingness to hide a married state. General cleanliness of the hands can give you an idea of how clean someone is, even the state of their nails, if the nails look bitten, this could suggest someone prone to frequent feelings of nervousness. If they are painted, it shows that they have put effort into their appearance, or are intending to flirt. Manicured nails, when done properly, show a commitment to appearance that one is prepared to pay for. When the nails have been filed at home, it could suggest a will to be neat, but a low income.
The constant use of our hands moulds them into a painted picture for the skilled observer. Pay more attention the hands of the next person you meet, you never know what little trinkets of personal information you might uncover.
I have come across a great many people, clearly inspired by modern detective shows, who attempt to ‘read’ things from specific details, I use the word attempt not to insult or doubt, but to suggest that the right path is being taken, but not all the correct steps are being met. These people are engaging in a process known as deductive reasoning, and I watch it done most commonly with regard to physical gestures. “you didn’t avert your gaze therefore you are lying”, “Her palms were open, she’s innocent”, “when I mentioned my lost phone he reached for his pocket, he has it!”. Whilst these are all claims which draw evidence to a possibly correct conclusion, they display a disheartening amount of certainty from such a small pool of data.
When trying to read your surroundings, especially people, always read gestures in groups. This helps to minimise the misreading of individual points; things which could well be a personal mannerism, or a situational variable. For example, a person could fold their arms not because they are lying or uninterested, but because they are cold. Or an individual’s tendency to stroke their chin whilst talking may not denote judgement, but could just be a habit of theirs.
With each piece of concordant evidence you find, the chance of the conclusion being true increases. For truly accurate deduction, always remember to search for other variables which would affect your theory. Please do not fall into the trap which so many have, of reaching general conclusions from one piece of specific data.