Deception in a Small Town

by Janice Maddox

One good thing about living in a rural environment is many sociopaths prefer to operate in a city. In a rural community, you only get to
sell somebody a vehicle without a motor, once.  In a city, word about your endeavor is not going to spread to every resident the way it does in small towns or in a very tiny county like Sierra County.

Of course, things still happen in rural communities, just not as often. The person selling the car without a motor in the small town has to work a little harder. They have to insist the car did have a motor when they sold it, and some people will believe them. They may convince some they are an actual victim of an unfair misperception. If they are witty, friendly, and help shovel snow, we may know not to buy a car from them, but may still share a beer. When people mention our friendly, witty, neighborhood sociopath can’t be trusted we may shrug our shoulders and say, “Ah, that’s just Charlie.”

Maybe the issue was drug addiction or alcoholism, and the person has redeemed themselves through the path of recovery. Certainly some people can look like sociopaths while in the throes of an addiction and many who seemed like hopeless career criminals have turned their lives around through actively working the steps of a twelve-step program. Sierra County is largely a Christian community and people are pretty forgiving, over-all.

It would be interesting to do a study on optimism and positive illusions among Sierra County residents. A positive illusion is when we have an unrealistic view of potential risks. Maintaining positive illusions helps keep us happy and can be good for mental health. When it comes to protecting ourselves, positive illusions can cause us to become careless. 

I’m not sure if in Sierra County we are more trusting of people, or more wary of people. We seem pretty friendly, but sometimes antisocial tendencies are what draw people to rural mountain communities.

My point, you ask? I’ve spent a week researching how sociopaths and sex offenders operate for a project. Nobody wants to read about sex offenders. Positive illusions help keep people happy and mentally healthy, and I don’t want to be anybody’s downer or “harsh anyone’s mellow.” 

But, some of the information is interesting and possibly important. I hope here in Sierra County we are so grounded in reality and small town living that we are better than anybody in the world at spotting a lie. The research shows otherwise. Research shows the more confident somebody is about their ability at spotting a lie, the worse their performance at detecting when somebody is lying and when they aren’t.

Sociopaths can be some of the most friendly, witty, charming, likeable people around. I know if you make me laugh I will follow you anywhere. 

There is a lot of very good information I could share. I’m going to focus on only a few things that don’t work and might work in detecting a lie. Keep in mind people are easier to fool if they have a stake in believing the liar. We are biased towards believing what we want to be true.

Note certain types of liars, such as pedophiles, often deliberately establish themselves as the kind of person who people wouldn’t believe would do that type of thing by being extra good, always there to lend a hand, active in their church, etc. Of course, some people are just that good, but we can’t automatically trust somebody based on their presentation..

A proficient liar knows to maintain eye contact when lying, so relying on lack of eye contact isn’t useful with a practiced liar. Practiced liars have practiced enough that they aren’t nervous and so signs such as fidgeting are not there. In the case of a sociopath or psychopath without a conscience, the anxiety wasn’t there to begin with.

Not everybody has the ability to spot micro-expressions, but micro-expressions are one “tell” for a liar. Emotion hits the face for a micro-second before the person actually feels the emotion. Until somebody is consciously aware they have an emotion, they can’t suppress it. For a micro-second (as little as 1/25 of a second) the mask isn’t in place. A careful observer may spot the flash of contradiction, although some simply can’t process the information that quickly.  

Squelched emotion lasts longer than a micro expression. So somebody who is hiding anger may still show traces of the emotion they are hiding. The eyebrows may lower in anger even while their face shows a broad smile.

When people genuinely feel an emotion facial muscles we can’t consciously control are involved. We can make ourselves frown to look sad, but can’t make just the inner corners of our eyebrows rise, which happens automatically when somebody is genuinely sad. 

Be leery of adults that ask if they can take your child on an overnight trip to Disneyland while your child is sitting there. People who have ulterior motives with your child know it will be harder for you to say no to something when the child is there and really wants to go.

The proper thing would be for the person to contact you and have a side conversation with you to see if it would be okay. Then, if it were okay with you, the safe thing to do would be to go along on the trip as a chaperone. Unfortunately, people with ulterior motives gravitate towards positions and situations that give them access to children so it is good to be an active participant in your child’s activities. 

Be leery of the gabby stranger. Some sex offenders throw a lot of talk out as a form of distraction to keep you from analyzing the situation and noticing your vulnerability or anything suspicious. The talk and charm can confuse you enough to where you let your guard down.

If you are dating, be very wary of the suitor who appears to be perfect and pushes for quick involvement. Men who are abusive or cons come on fast and strong, know all the right things to say and very often are too good to be true. Take time to get to know somebody before making an emotional or financial commitment. Say no to them sometimes to see how they handle it and pay attention to how they handle frustration in general. Find out their history.

While women can be predators, be wary of men who present as exceptionally young for their age, have few adult friends, and have an interest in child-like activities and children. This presentation is common to a certain type of pedophile.  

A very good, informative, although difficult to read book for parents who want to protect their children and themselves is Predators, by Anna C. Salter. A popular book on sociopaths or psychopaths is Robert D. Hare’s book Without Conscience. 






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