UTEP professor explains how to identify a liar

    UTEP professor explains how to identify a liar <p>{/p}

    Perhaps the most famous liar in American culture is the beloved fictional character Pinocchio.

    But liars are not generally adorable like Pinocchio.

    This week Michael Cohen is testifying before Congress.

    The former personal attorney to the president was recently sentenced to prison for lying to Congress.

    Another case was a scandal that has consumed national headlines for weeks in which "Empire" star Jussie Smollett is accused of lying to police and the public about an attack he claims was driven by racism and homophobia.

    All this month we've asked UTEP psychologist and research Adam Fettermen to help viewers identify a liar.

    During Valentine's Day he gave us tips on how to know if someone you met online is being truthful when you meet in person.

    He also dissected an interview of a spectacular story of heroism a Fort Bliss soldier who made national headlines. His story discovered to be a lie.

    Fetterman says there are three basic kinds of liars.

    There are narcissists, who are driven by ego.

    Pathological liars who just want attention and to avoid conflict and go along with the crowd.

    And the sociopathic liar who has no remorse and lies compulsively.

    But Fetterman says there is another kind of liar and that's a liar that has become convinced fiction has become fact.

    “Every time you rehearse something, you're making changes and those changes become part of the memory which weren't there to begin with,” said Fetterman.

    KFOX14 Investigates discovered Luke Westerman, former head of the El Paso Humane Society was untruthful about his background when he took over as executive director of the El Paso Humane Society.

    “They can be good storytellers especially if they are starting to believe the lie,” said Fetterman.

    Fetterman isn't trying to psychoanalyze the Westerman situation, but the case could illustrate a form of lying many people tend to do sometimes unconsciously -- implant memories.

    “Memory is shockingly and scarily malleable; you can get people to remember things that's impossible for them to remember,” said Fetterman.

    Westerman is now in Ohio facing 19 counts of fraud-related charges.

    In the end, Fetterman says a good way to detect a liar is to have them tell their story again -- especially backward.

    “If you to say the details again or say the story again some of the details start to change ... and also if you have them tell the story backward,” said Fetterman.

    The best way to be in the presence of honest people is to be honest -- don't necessarily look for a liar but trust your instinct.

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