As the 2012 Presidential campaign picks up steam, it is fair to say that the confidence level of most Americans in politicians and our overall political system is at an all-time low. One of the key drivers that undermine our confidence in our political leaders is a belief that most politicians will lie to us and do so frequently and without shame. Yesterday, a behavioral assessment by QVerity experts suggested that Presidential candidate Herman Cain went a long way to confirm our assumptions when he addressed recent allegations that he had sexually harassed two women while he was running the National Restaurant Association.
While the deceptive behavioral clues are numerous in this case, there are a few that are particularly revealing. The first clue that Cain might be dissembling on this issue was his inconsistent statements on the matter. While speaking to the National Press Club, Cain said he was “unaware of any settlement” made as a result of his sexual harassment of two unidentified women. Just hours later, in a Fox TV interview, Cain admitted that he was aware of a settlement and that the settlement involved giving the complainants “maybe three month’s salary, something like that.”
When allegations are levied against someone and the facts are not their ally, so to speak, because all or part of those allegations has merit, the individual targeted by those allegations will often go on the offensive. We saw this happen before our very eyes yesterday when Cain said he was “falsely accused” of sexual harassment and that the allegations are “totally baseless.” The clear message here is that the individuals levying these allegations are lying. Really? Then why does Cain specifically fail to deny that he sexually harassed the two women at the heart of these allegations. It is true that Cain has made what behavioralists term as non-specific denials, such as “I never sexually harassed anyone.” Such denials seem compelling and on the surface appear to adequately cover the allegations in question, however, in reality, such non-specific comments are often a reflection of a psychological reluctance to verbalize the lie in very specific terms. In short the issue is the two women not “anyone.”
Finally, and perhaps most revealing, is an unintended message, identified by QVerity experts, that is tantamount to an acknowledgement by Cain that the allegations levied against him are most likely true. When speaking on Fox, Cain made the following statement “I’ve never sexually harassed anyone and yes, I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association. I say falsely because it turned out after the investigation to be baseless. Never have I committed any sort of sexual harassment.”
When Cain says, “I say falsely because it turned out after the investigation to be baseless,” it appears to reflect his underlying knowledge and belief that prior to the investigation those allegations had plenty of merit. His statement is the equivalent of a person being asked directly if they had robbed a bank and responding by saying “I’m innocent, because the jury says I’m innocent.”
While we know that the truthful person has no problem making the direct denial - “I didn’t rob the bank,” Cain’s failure to directly deny sexually harassing the two women, coupled with his unintended revelation that prior to the investigation the allegations had merit are behaviorally damning.
Perhaps the real moral of this story is that, when given the chance, Cain has done nothing to either bolster our confidence and instead has miserably failed to dispel our assumptions that our politicians are willing to lie frequently and without shame.