Deception: Perspectives from Science, Technology and Art
Spring Quarter 2003
STS 121B (History 301Q)
Michael John Gorman and Persi Diaconis
Seminar, 5 units
Days: Tuesday, Thursday, 12.15-2.05 (bring your lunch)
Place: Wallenberg Hall (Bldg 160), Room 328
"He who has not a good memory should never take upon himself
the trade of lying" Michel de Montaigne
The truth is rarely pure and never simple Oscar Wilde
Read an article about the course, from the Stanford Report, April 23, 2003
Lying has been described as one of the most fundamental human activities. George
Steiner has argued, in After Babel, that deception was at the root of
the development of human language. This inter-disciplinary seminar will place
deception in historical context, through a series of close case studies, particularly
from the history of science, technology and the visual arts. We will consider
the history of lying and changing technologies for lie detection. We will examine
frauds, fakes and illusions in science, technology and art from the 1600s to
the present. We will explore the cultural and legal connotations of fraud and
deceit, from Descartes to the Clinton impeachment. We will consider attempts
to model deception in game theory and deception in the media.
Approach taken by the course
The purpose of this course is not to teach students how to lie and deceive. Instead, the goal is to sensitize students to deception and to encourage informed scepticism by providing a theoretical and historical analysis of mendacious behaviour. Our concepts of truth and truthfulness have only been developed, this course will suggest, against a murky background of falsehoods and lies. The course will explore the analyses of deception propounded by a number of very different fields. It will explore historical attempts to categorize, model, punish, and occasionally condone mendacious behaviour by sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, game theoreticians, philosophers and police interrogators.
Maximum enrollment for this seminar is limited to 20.
All readings should be read in advance of the date under which they
are listed. Readings will form a basis for class discussion, which is a significant
component of the grade for the class.
Shorter readings are available digitally in an online reader.
For information related to the course, please contact Michael John Gorman (email@example.com)
Books marked with a * are available from the Stanford bookstore
Strongly recommended as additional reading, available from Amazon and other online stores
1. One 10-15 page paper dealing with an aspect of deception, historical or contemporary will be required by May 8 (40%)
2. A final project will be due for class presentation on June 3 (30%)
3. A website describing each final project should be online by June 5 (10%)
4. Smaller assignments will be given throughout the course. Participation in class discussions and accomplishment of these assignments will count for a total of 30% of your final grade.
Calendar (subject to change)
Week 1: LYING
April 1: Defining lying and deception [CLASS NOTES]
April 3: Lying, trust and the social contract [CLASS NOTES]
Week 2: MAGIC
April 8: Magic as deception
April 10: Students perform magic tricks in class
Magic assignment: Read this first!
Week 3: MECHANICAL DECEPTIONS
April 15: Automata and deception
April 17: The Turing Test and Deception
Activity: Talk to a chatterbot such as the classic ELIZA, the Rogerian psychotherapist, or one of the newer ALICE bots and make notes on your conversation for class discussion (a list of bots on the web may be found at: http://home.online.no/~anlun/bots.htm)
Week 4: FORGERY
April 22: Inventing Nature, Forging Art [CLASS NOTES]
April 24: Forging history [CLASS NOTES]
Week 5: CONFIDENCE TRICKS, HOAXES AND PSYCHICS
April 29: Confidence tricks
May 1: Debunking the paranormal
Week 6: DECEIVING THE SENSES
May 6: Demons and philosophers
May 8: Trompe loeil and deception in the visual arts
Week 7: LIE DETECTION AND THE POLYGRAPH TEST
May 13: History of the polygraph test
[optional] Otniel E. Dror, "The Scientific Image of Emotion: Experience and Technologies of Inscription," Configurations 7 (September 1999): 355-401.
Links: How lie detectors work, from Howstuffworks.com
May 15: Critical discussion of polygraph test, comparison with other
technological forms of lie detection. Alternative technologies of lie detection:
facial movements, thermal imaging, truth serum.
Week 8: MODELLING DECEPTION
May 20: Statistical methods of tracking deception
May 22 Strategic Military Deception
All warfare is based on deception. Therefore, when capable, feign incapacity; when active, inactivity. When near, make it appear that you are far away; when far away that you are near. Offer the enemy a bait to lure him; feign disorder and strike him .... When he is strong, avoid him. Anger his general and confuse him... Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance
from Sun Tzu, The Art of War (c. 400-320 B.C.)
Week 9: DECEIVING THE MASSES
May 27: Deception in public office
*Ekman, Telling Lies (pp. 279-330)
May 29: PROJECT WORK
Week 10: PROJECT PRESENTATIONS
June 3: Project presentations