everybody lies

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medical drama House M.D. and how these strategies are elucidated to the viewers. ... quantitative and qualitative analysis; finally, the Conclusion section draws on ... psychology with a history tracing back to the 1900s. .... Since 'lie' can carry the meaning of 'to deceive' as well as a .... HOUSE: Yeah, that's Grandpa House.

Manuscript submitted to journal © Locky LAW 2017. Please do not copy or quote without permission.

EVERYBODY LIES: A discourse analysis of deceptions in TV drama House M.D.

Locky LAW

[email protected] 852-95729200 Manuscript submitted to journal © Locky LAW 2017. Please do not copy or quote without permission.


Abstract This paper is an attempt to demonstrate the application of Galasinski’s (2000) typology of deceptive strategies on popular TV drama House M.D.. Firstly, it contrasts the long-term interest in the practical study of deception detections with the paucity of theoretical description of deception. Secondly, it introduces some of the key theoretical issues with existing theories on deceptions. Thirdly, it connects the notion of deceptions with popular TV drama and illustrates the application of Galasinski’s (2000) typology of deceptive strategies on a selection of scenes from House M.D.. Finally, the paper concludes that studies in deceptive communication would be beneficial to education.

Keywords: Deception, deceptive communication, TV drama, House M.D., corpus




“It's a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only variable is about what.”

– House M.D.

Deceptions, and most commonly lies, are part of our everyday life (Nyberg, 1993; Barnes, 1994; DePaulo, Kashy, Kirkendol, Wyer, & Epstein, 1996; DePaulo, et al., 2003). They play a fundamental role in many communicative exchanges serving personal psychological and emotional purposes and more (DePaulo, 2009). Research in lie detection have been a popular topic throughout the 20th century, but linguistic descriptions of deception has been scarce and even fewer have been put into practical tests (Galasinski, 2000). TV drama is among the most economical, widespread and popular form of entertainment and is arguably, to a certain extent, a medium of ‘public knowledge’ transfer (Corner, 2009; Richardson, 2010). It is a genre that is immensely rich semiotic resources. Yet few have attempted to perform studies on TV dramas (Bednarek, 2010), and even scarcer on the studies of deceptions (Coupland, 2004). This study aims to foreground the various types of deceptive strategies employed in American medical drama House M.D. and how these strategies are elucidated to the viewers. It consists of four sections: the Literature Review section outlines the research on deceptions from 1900s 2


till present day and includes a brief overview of the key typologies in deceptive communications; the Method section describes the data, approaches and frameworks used with diagram and tables to assist understanding; the Analysis and Findings section presents results from both quantitative and qualitative analysis; finally, the Conclusion section draws on results from this study and discusses the social and sociolinguistic impact TV dramas have on society.

Literature Review

Deceptions, or lies in particular, have been a popular research area in psychology and military psychology with a history tracing back to the 1900s. Much of the research focus was placed on the detection of lies with emphasis on physiological changes such as blood pressure and pulse fluctuation (Marston, 1935). Results from polygraphs/lie detectors, were presented in US courts as evidence for prosecutions (Forkosch, 1937) and was made an official investigation aid in the 1940s (War Department of the United States, 1941). Study of deception soon began as part of the study of psychopathic personality by American psychiatrists (Cleckley, 1941) and in the early 1950s in the form of personality misrepresentations (Ichheiser, 1949); however, it was not only till the late 1970s that the study of typology of deceptions gained traction through the study of deceptiveness in television advertising (Kuehl & Dyer, 1977; Dyer & Kuehl, 1978; Shimp, 1979). Having established as a social psychological phenomenon, the study of deception in the 1980s and 90s expanded to fields such as psychology (Siegman & Reynolds, 1983; Metts, 1989), military studies (Whaley, 1982), medicine (Lovell, 1980; Cochran & Mays, 1990; Burgoon, Callister, & Hunsaker, 1994), education (Vasek, 1986), behavioral sciences (Whiten & Byrne, 3


1988), politics (Jamieson, 1992; Leistyna, 1998), mass media (Balkin, 1998; Cotterrell, 1999) and linguistics (Bok, Lying: Moral choice in public and private life, 1978; Hopper & Bell, 1984). Popularity in research of lie detection continued into the new millennium (Park, Levine, McCornack, Morrison, & Ferrara, 2002). Thanks to the advancement in technology, researches from medical science using fMRI have shed lights on how the human brain relates to deception at the neurological level (Ganis, Kosslyn, Stose, Thompson, & Yurgelun-Todd, 2003). Increase in speed in transportation has shortened the time of travelling/commuting, which has facilitated workplace diversity as well as social mobility, and therefore an increasing interest in research into deception at workplace settings (Bryant & Sias, 2011; Rosaz & Villeval, 2012; Stefanidis & Banai, 2014). The rise of social networks has also changed interpersonal communication from face-to-face interaction to increasingly popular online communication. This has attracted research in deception in both conventional (Horan & Booth-Butterfield, 2013; Guthrie & Kunkel, 2013) and wireless cyber communication (Toma & Hancock, 2010). Deception has also emerged in the computing world and effort has been made in the detection of automated deception in computer-mediated communication (Hancock, Curry, Goorha, & Woodworth, 2007; Rubin & Conroy, 2011; Xiao & Benbasat, 2011). Despite not lacking of interest in the topic of deception, prominent theorists of deceptive language such as McCornack (1992) , Ng and Bradac (1993), Buller and Burgoon (1994) and Galasinski (2000) have seen the paucity of research in theoretical description of deception. Galasinski (2000) argues that such niche is a result of overwhelming popularity in detection and leakage of deception. Among a handful of linguistic typologies of deceptions ever proposed, most of them have made reference to Grice’s (1975) influential Cooperative Principle, despite the fact that the Principle 4


itself does not directly relate to the concept of deception. The Gricean theory of conversation describes the Cooperative Principle, which governs that one should “make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.” (p. 45) It posits that human communications are generally based on ‘truth bias’ (Robinson, 1996), “an assumption that language users will normally tell and expect to the told the truth” (Galasinski, 2000, p. ix). McCornack (1992) builds on the Gricean theory of Cooperative Principle and proposed the Information Manipulation Theory (IMT). The theory assumes that the four conversational maxims: Quantity, Quality, Relation and Manner “serves as guidelines for the effective and efficient use of language in conversation” (p. 2) and therefore, deceptiveness can be achieved through the flouting/violation of the Principle by manipulating information, either intentionally or unintentionally failing to fulfil any of the four conversational maxims. However, IMT has been criticized by many scholars including McCornack himself (1997). One major criticism is the over-simplification of the interrelation between deception and violation of conversational maxims (Galasinski, 2000). A revised version named Information Manipulation Theory 2 is proposed in 2014 (McCornack, Morrison, Paik, Wisner, & Zhu, 2014). Buller and Burgoon (1996) attempt to dissociate from the Gricean theory and propose Interpersonal Deception Theory (IDT), which focuses on face-to-face deception at a conscious and subconscious level between the sender and the receiver. Despite its comprehensiveness and multidimensionality, IDT has failed to differentiate from Grice’s theory of Cooperative



Principle. The most critical comments come from Galasinski (2000) who argues that IDT is essentially Grice’s Theory replaced by newer terms, “By removing Grice's theory of cooperative principle, the IDT approach undermines its very existence, and the authors do not offer any justification for the approach they are taking. Criticizing Grice (and McCornack, 1992), as well as introducing a new maxim, pulls the conceptual construction down, while nothing is offered in its lieu.” (p. 28) Galasinski (2000) addresses the common issue of studying deception in its natural context by basing his study on naturally occurring data from political debates, which allows access to both the deceptive messages and the reality that is pertained to. His typology of deceptive actions will be outlined in the next section.




House M.D. is selected as data for this study because it is an American drama which is based primarily on the concept that “Everybody lies” – a proposition which has been widely studied and very much agreed on (Nyberg, 1993; Barnes, 1994; DePaulo, Kashy, Kirkendol, Wyer, & Epstein, 1996; DePaulo, et al., 2003). Despite being a scripted television drama program, the show does portray the reality of some societies to a certain degree, more precisely of the deceptive communications at the doctor-patient discourse level. Burgoon, Callister and Hunsaker (1994, p. 463) have shown that patients might “lie, withhold, equivocate, exaggerate or provide less than complete information” which could lead to the doctor’s likelihood of under- or overprescribing medication. They show that patients would conceal the truth to doctors either to secure benefits which they otherwise would not be entitled to, or to avoid shame, embarrassment and fear. Sokol (2014) suggests possible reasons for patients to deceive their doctors, such as for disability, legal and social benefits, avoidance of imprisonment and mandatory military services. Deceptions are not the sole privilege of patients however, as doctors to deceive their patients. Bok (1978) posits that in some situations, not revealing the truth could benefit the patient in the long run. One possible explanation is that not every patient has “sufficient knowledge or understanding to appreciate the truth” or the mental capacities to comprehend the necessary information, as Robinson, Shepherd and Heywood suggest (1998, p. 156). This study employs both quantitative (corpus linguistics) and qualitative (discourse analysis) methods. A quantitative method is used to demonstrate how frequent the viewers are exposed 7


to the notion of deception in House M.D.. A simple frequency count investigation was performed to look into one of the most popular forms of deception – lying. First, a corpus is compiled using fan scripts from the TV drama of a total of 8 seasons and 177 episodes. Spelling was then checked manually and with the help of spell-checking computer programs. WordSmith Tools 6.0 was then used to search for lemmas of ‘lie’, consisting of ‘lie’, ‘lies’, ‘lied’, ‘lying’, as well as ‘liar’ and ‘liars’. Since ‘lie’ can carry the meaning of ‘to deceive’ as well as a positional action meaning of ‘to be rested in a horizontal position of a surface’, concordances were investigated to yield accurate numbers. The qualitative analysis involves four selected excerpts from four episodes, each selected to demonstrate, including but not exclusively, one strategy of deceptive communication employed in the telecinematic discourse. This analysis is mainly based on Galasinski’s (2000) typology of deceptive strategies or “typology of deceptive actions” as framework, which consists of discursive and metadiscursive strategies. Discursive strategies can be categorized into two types of misrepresentation: focusing on the propositional content of an utterance and focusing on the pragmatic function of an utterance. The former consists of falsification (manipulating the Participants, manipulating the Processes) and distortions (overstatement, understatement), the latter refers to taking words out of context. Metadiscursive strategies can be categorized into misrepresentation of utterance’s content and misrepresentation of utterance’s function. The former consists of implicit misrepresentation and manipulations of felicity conditions, the latter refers to concealing evasion and concealing direct attack. One major benefit of Galasinski’s (2000, p. x) typology is its versatility in “explaining deceptiveness of speech acts to which it is impossible to ascribe truth or falsity: Although neither true nor false, questions, promises, and 8


commands can be deceptive. By presupposing something or by being insincere, they are deceptive metadiscursively.” It is worth noting that, a lie, by Galasinski’s (2000) definition, “is nothing more than a mendacious statement” (p. 99) which is “intended to mislead the addressee” (p. 23) and therefore it is not considered as a separate category in his typology. However, from the collection of his definitions of lies and other deceptive strategies, a lie being a statement of insincerity, does appear to be one stratum above discursive and metadiscursive strategies. This seems to resonate with Bok (1978, p. 14), who defines deception as a super-category with lying as a subcategory. She views a lie as “any intentionally deceptive message which is stated”. These statements are “most often made verbally or in writing”, but also includes other nontextual and non-verbal modes such as smoke signals, Morse code, sign language (Bok, Lying: Moral choice in public and private life, 1978, p. 13). As Galasinski (2000) has not provided any graphical or table representation of his typology, Figure 1 is a suggested reconstruction of the representation of his typology while Table 1 and Table 2 are possible tabulated summaries of definitions of each strategy.







Lies Monologic? WLying to oneself, or to sb without response


Deceptions /lies in paintings, photos, etc.

Verifiability of truth/falsity

Yes, can verify T/F Discursive strategies

Misrepresent utterance's propositional content: 1. Falsifications 2. Distortion Misrepresent utterance's function: 1. Taking words out of context

No, cannot verify T/F Metadiscursive strategies

Misrepresent utterance's propositional content: 1. Implicit misrepresentation 2. Manipulations of felicity conditions of speech acts Misrepresent utterance's function: 1. Concealing evasion 2. Concealing direct attack

Figure 1 Flowchart of a modified version of Galasinski's typology of deceptive actions

Also, since Galasinski’s (2000) typology of deception is based on corpus data of political debates, debaters are expected to offer a verbal response every turn. This will not be the case in the TV



series or in casual conversations, in which silence and ignoring are permitted. In order to cover situations such as the above, a ‘deceptive device’ will be introduced in the analysis where appropriate. A deceptive device in this study is loosely defined as a carrier which facilitates the employment of a deceptive strategy in the process of deceiving someone, which can be silence, ignoring, secrecy, mendacious statements, etc. Such device is not designed to be incorporated into any typologies, but rather to act as a simple label stating what has contributed to the type of deception in question, resembling a hashtag on social network. Due to the limited space the analysis presented in the following section is meant to be illustrative only and not exhaustive. It aims to demonstrate the flexibility of Galasinski’s (2000) typology of deception using TV drama House M.D. as data. Discursive strategies of deceptive communication Misrepresent utterance's propositional content (semantic relevance) Falsifications Distortions

Misrepresent utterance's function (pragmatic relevance) Taking words out of context

Falsely attributing /

In contrast to

The deceptive speaker presents

ascribing a particular


what was actually said yet attributes

statement to a debater.

distortions are all those

to the utterance or its part a

Two types:

utterances in which the

different pragmatic function from

speaker not so much

the one it originally had.

a) Manipulating the participants b) Manipulating the processes

lies but exaggerates, overstates, or minimalizes.

Table 1 Tabulated summary of Galasinski’s (2000) discursive strategies of deceptive communication



Metadiscursive strategies of deceptive communication Misrepresent utterance's propositional content (semantic relevance) Implicit Manipulations of misrepresentation felicity conditions of speech acts Implicit Felicity conditions misrepresentations of speech acts are are no different those conditions from the strategies that have to in which obtain for a misrepresentation speech act to be is carried in the appropriate. explicit part of the Similarly to presuppositions, utterance felicity conditions can be presented as a set of propositions whose truth is normally assumed by the participants in the communicative situation when a particular speech act is performed

Misrepresent utterance's function (pragmatic relevance) Concealing evasion

Concealing direct attack

Concealing is the action of making evasion covert. Dialogic, requires questionanswer exchange; violates maxim of relevance; answer is semantically irrelevant to the question asked; irrelevance is intentional. To misrepresent the evasive utterance. Evader pretends to give a cooperative answer: a) changing the textual context of the question b) changing the focus of the question c) changing the focus and the textual context of the question. Concealment of the noncooperation by employing a number of semantic means: thematic position of the focal argument, parallel syntactic forms, and "tight" cohesion. Speaker may employ four strategies: explicit or implicit indication of readiness, licenses of uncooperativeness, and hedging.

Used mitigating devices as a means of manipulating the flow of the speaker's discourse and, furthermore, as a clandestine means to license an attack on the other speaker. In such a way, mitigating devices are part of the strategy of metadiscursive deception. Mitigating devices are all those expressions that are used to soften the intention behind the unwelcome action

Table 2 Tabulated summary of Galasinski’s (2000) metadiscursive strategies of deceptive communication



Analysis and Findings A quantitative analysis of the House M.D. corpus has produced significant results as shown in Table 3. A simple frequency count yields initial search results of 347 instances (37.59%) of ‘lie’, 76 instances (8.23%) of ‘lies’, 161 instances (17.44%) of ‘lied’ and 300 instances (32.50%) of ‘lying’, 32 instances (3.47%) of ‘liar’ and 7 instances (0.76%) of ‘liars’, making a total of 923 instances (100%). After a detailed inspection of the concordances, all instances were then separated into ‘Position Only’ which refers to the state of being in a horizontal position, and ‘Deception Only’ which refers to deceptions. For ‘Position Only’ lemmas of ‘lie’, the results are 26 instances (2.82%) of ‘lie’, 7 instances (0.76%) of ‘lies’, 0 instance (0%) of ‘lied’ and 27 instances (2.93%) of ‘lying’ (there is 0 instance (0%) of ‘liar’ and 0 instance (0%) of ‘liars’ as they are not ‘Position Only’ lemmas of ‘lie’), contributing to 60 instances (6.50%) of 923 total instances. For ‘Deception Only’ lemmas of ‘lie’, the results are 321 instances (34.78%) of ‘lie’, 69 instances (7.48%) of ‘lies’, 161 instance (17.44%) of ‘lied’ and 273 instances (29.58%) of ‘lying’, 32 instance (3.47%) of ‘liar’ and 7 instance (0.76%) of ‘liars’, contributing to 863 instances (93.50%) of 923 total instances.

Table 3 Results from corpus analysis of lemmas of 'lie'



Given there is a total of 8 seasons or 177 episodes (about 45 per episode), viewers are exposed to an average of 108 instance of ‘Deception Only’ lemmas of ‘lie’ per season (= 863 / 8), or 5 instances per episode (= 863 / 177) or 1 instance every 9 minutes (= 45 / 5). A qualitative analysis of the four selected excerpts has identified several deceptive strategies. They are deception by falsification (using lies and silence as deceptive device), concealing evasion (using secrecy / omission / undisclosed information as deceptive device), distortions (using overstatement and understatement as deceptive device) and lying (using mendacious statement as a deceptive device). A brief outline of the relevant background of each excerpt is given prior to each analysis which is detailed in their respective sub-section below.



Deception by falsification (using lies and silence as deceptive device):

Excerpt 1: Background of this episode (Season 4 Episode 4 Guardian Angels): 24-year old female patient Irene Walesa, a Ukrainian immigrant working as a funeral home cosmetologist, sees “dead people” and “had a vision of being raped by a cadaver before passing out. Seizure rules out psychiatric illness. No history of epilepsy, head trauma, or drug use.” Connie Walesa is Irene Walesa’s mother, who died when Irene was 4 years old. She appears in this episode as a person whom only Irene is able to see and converse with. Dr. Remy Hadley, nicknamed ‘Thirteen’, failed to monitor her male disabled patient Stark (referred to “The man in the wheelchair” in the dialogue) taking the administered medicine thus causing his and his dog’s death in the previous episode. She suspects that the patient does actually see dead people.

[Irene's Room. Day. House and "Thirteen" enter.] 1. IRENE: Now what? [House and "Thirteen" stand in front of her bed.] 2. HOUSE: I'm Dr. House. Is your mom around? 3. IRENE: Why should I tell you? You're just going to tell me I'm lying or crazy. [Connie sits on the armrest of a sofa nearby.] 4. HOUSE: Not gonna do that. I really need to know what she has to say. 5. IRENE: What do you want? 6. HOUSE: When you were young, was she...? 7. IRENE: No, not you. Him. [points to someone behind him] [House and "Thirteen" look at her in surprise.] 8. "THIRTEEN": [warily] The man in the wheelchair? 15

16 9. IRENE: No. He's old. [House moves away and we see an older sour-faced gentleman in a suit standing there.] 10. IRENE: Actually, looks like you. ["Thirteen" almost looks scared. Connie smiles at the gentleman. House walks towards the man and turns.] 11. HOUSE: Yeah, that's Grandpa House. Tell him to call back on a land line. Terrible reception in here. How much pain was your mom in? 12. OLD GENTLEMAN: It's Walter. 13. IRENE: He says his name is Walter. [House's face shows a mixture of shock and disbelief. "Thirteen" looks at him. House walks out.]

Interesting background of this episode is that viewers know by default that House M.D. is not a TV drama about the supernatural world, therefore the chances of patient Irene Walesa’ mother Connie appearing as a ghost is highly unlikely. This supposedly creates a ‘reality’ in the world of the show, which implies that everything Irene sees is unreal, is a symptom of her medical complications. However, due to the filming and editing techniques used in this episode, viewers see Connie’s presence in shots which represent Irene’s vision and Connie’s absence in shots which represent everyone else’s, they are led to question their presupposed ‘reality’ that this episode, making them think perhaps this is one that talks about the supernatural, and Irene indeed is communicating with her mother’s ghost. This possibility is further strengthened by earlier conversation between Thirteen (Dr. Remy Hadley) and Irene, in a situation which Irene is not only able to see her mother, but has also claimed to have communicated with the ghost of Stark, a disabled patient whose death as well as his dog’s death were caused by Thirteen’s carelessness in the previous episode – someone Irene has never met and should know nothing about. From Irene’s perspective, her mother Connie and Stark are still alive and she has no idea 16


why everybody else cannot see them. The importance of this story is that viewers who are (un)familiar with the drama can no longer be or are made less certain of what the ‘reality’ is and therefore, facilitating House’s deception. In the above excerpt, Irene has demonstrated her distrust of any doctors in Princeton Plainboro Hospital in turn 1 and 3. Turn 1 reveals that she has been bothered enough of times to make her upset. House knows that Irene’s vision of her mother Connie is not real, yet in turn 2 he asks ‘Is your mom around?’ in an attempt to deceive Irene that he does believe in her mother’s existence with an aim to gain her trust. Irene then challenges House by asking ‘Why should I tell you?’ then explains her refusal to answer House by saying ‘You’re just going to tell me I’m lying or crazy.’ House reassures Irene in turn 4 that he is ‘Not gonna do that’ and that ‘I really need to know what she has to say.’ The deceptive strategy House has used in turn 2 is a metadiscursive one, as his question functions as a mean of concealing a misrepresentation from Irene – that is, Irene is seeing the afterlife and therefore in turn, conceals the truth that Connie has long passed away. House’s question is deceptive because House is being insincere as he believes Irene is not actually seeing the afterlife. House’s statements in turn 4 is an honest one as his words agrees with his actions of meeting Irene and wanting to know what Connie has to say. As the scene progresses, viewers are drawn deeper into believing in Irene’s ability to see the afterlife. In turn 5, Irene directs a question to someone whom viewers and even House expects to be himself because he proceeds to ask his question in turn 6, until Irene interrupts House in turn 7 and points to the empty space behind him. Thirteen adds the suspense in turn 8 as she guesses the presence of dead patient Stark but instead Irene saw an old man who looks like



House in turn 9 and 10. The shot is produced in such a way that once House moves away the viewers immediately see this old man in suit waving his hat to greet, followed by shots of surprised looks Thirteen’s face and smiles on Connie’s. House walks towards the man and turns back to Irene and in turn 11, casually agrees with Irene by saying that this old man is his grandfather and continued his questions about Connie. House’s question is unanswered because Irene is told that the old man’s name is Walter in turn 12 and so she repeats that to House in turn 13. House looks shocked with disbelief and walks out of the room leaving Thirteen and the old man gazing at him. There are two types of deception involved in this section. The first one happens when Irene first interrupted House in turn 7. Her description of the old man in turn 9, 10 and repeating the old man’s name in turn 13 are not explicit enquiries requesting information from House, instead they implicitly function as a demand for confirmation from House. In turn 11, House agrees with Irene that she can see an old man. This ‘Yeah, that’s Grandpa House.’, contains 3 facts: 1) House cannot see the old man, 2) House agrees with Irene that she can see an old man, 3) House creates a ‘grandfather-grandson’ relationship with an old man who is invisible to him. These facts contribute to House’s (dis)belief and therefore to the deceptiveness of his reply, which is an intended, insincere statement stating what he disbelieves – a lie (Bok, Lying: Moral choice in public and private life, 1978). This lie functions as a deceptive strategy to gain Irene’s trust. Another way to analyse this statement is that despite Irene’s scaffolding of the old man’s details and her implicit request for House’s confirmation, she has not demanded verbally or explicitly the relationship between this old man and House. It was House who identifies the implicature (Grice, 1975) and answers to Irene that the old man is his grandfather. As such, 18


House has also committed a special case of falsification: manipulation of Participants, whereby he not so much of ascribing a statement to the old man but ascribe a ‘House’s grandfather’ identity to the old man, which arguably, can also be viewed as a non-verbalised statement ‘I am House’s grandfather’ being ascribed to the old man and therefore committing falsification. The second one happens after turn 13, when House gives a long silence and walks out of the room without asking more questions. At this point, viewers are made to think that House, if not completely believing what Irene is capable of, should at least be puzzling over the phenomenon. Silence (and leaving the room) does not yet contribute to deception. However, viewers soon discover in a conversation between House and Wilson in a later scene that House does not have a grandpa Walter, making the silence (and leaving the room) a deceptive strategy. This is important because according to House’s latest theory, Irene’s delusion and hallucination could be a hereditary disease passed on from Connie. Therefore, by acting as if he is shocked will make Irene think that he actually believes her, allowing him to chat with Connie and ask about her condition before her death. It is true that whether the silence (and leaving the room) contributes to deception or not is not made known to viewers at the moment of performance but only in the next scene. Since silence merely conceals information (Bok, 1982; Bradac, 1983), it can be truthful or deceptive (Hopper & Bell, 1984; Galasinski, 2000). In this case, viewers are told in the next scene that this particular instance of silence is in fact deceptive.



Deception by concealing evasion (using secrecy/omission/undisclosed information as deceptive device):

Excerpt 2: Background of this episode (Season 1 Episode 2 Paternity): Patient named Dan is a 16-year-old male with sudden onset of double vision and night terrors with no apparent cause. The patient was hit in the head during a lacrosse game. His mom and dad accompany him to the hospital. Dan is on the verge of dying in the following scene. [House comes into the office.] 1. House: You idiots! You lied to me! 2. Dad: We didn’t lie about anything. You, on the other hand, accused us of molesting our son. 3. Cuddy: Perfect. 4. House: Can we get off my screw-ups and focus on theirs? Theirs is bigger. You’re not Dan’s parents. 5. Mom: We’re his parents. 6. Dad: He was adopted. He doesn’t need to know. 7. House: I do. 8. Dad: Adoption makes him just as much his [interrupted] 9. House: Listen, when we were taking his medical history, were you confused? Did you think we were looking for a genetic clue to his condition, or did you think we were trying to ascertain who loves him the most in the whole wide world? 10. Cuddy: How did you find out about this? 11. House: I sampled their DNA. 12. Dad: We didn’t give you any DNA. 13. House: Your coffee cups from the cafeteria. 14. Cuddy: You can’t do that! 20


15. House: Again, why are we getting hung up on what I did? [Turns to Dan’s parents] Your medical history is useless. 16. Dad: No, we gave you a detailed history of his biological mother. 17. Mom: Her history; non-smoker, good health, low cholesterol, no blood pressure problems. 18. Dad: Dan was adopted two weeks after he was born. You have his history. There’s nothing you need to know that we didn’t tell you. 19. Cuddy: Sounds reasonable. Well, if you want to transfer your boy that is your choice, but I still think it’s the wrong [interrupted] 20. House: Was she vaccinated? [Pause] The biological mother, when she was a baby, did she get her vaccinations? 21. Dad: Dan was vaccinated at 6 months. 22. House: Mm hmm, and do you know why kids get vaccinated at 6 months? Because before that, they are protected by their biological mother’s immune system. So, was she vaccinated? [parents went silent]

In the above excerpt, Dan’s parents use Respective Adoption Language (RAL) (Johnston, 2008) throughout when talking about Dan. In turn 1, House makes it explicit that Dan’s parents have lied to him, which dad denies in turn 2. At this point, viewers are presented with two choices/‘realities’: to believe in House or Dan’s parents. Believing in either one of the two will immediately result in deceptions in another. In turn 4, House reveals that Dan’s parents are not actually Dan’s parents. Mom insists that they are Dan’s parents in turn 5 while dad admits that Dan is an adopted child and he does not need to know. House rebuts and says he does need to know. Till this point, from the parents’ perspective, they are telling the truth but only in the social sense. However, from House’s/doctors’ perspective, mom is telling a lie in the medical 21


sense because House has already discovered that Dan’s mom and dad are not his biological parents in turn 1. To House, statements by Dan’s parents in turn 2 and 5 are deceptive metadiscursively as they evade from mentioning that they are Dan’s adoptive parents, which is later admitted by the dad in turn 6. More specifically, turn 5 violates the maxim of quantity, quality and relevance (Grice, 1975): reply by mom is not adequately informative, is not entirely true and is intentionally made irrelevant in the biological sense, constituting to covert evasion. To Dan’s parents, House’s statements in turn 1 and 4 are also deceptive metadiscursively as they convey a false presupposition or implicature (Grice, 1975) that they have not treated their adopted child as their very own and therefore do not qualify to be Dan’s adoptive parents. House understands their argument, hence his turn 9 which consists of a series of rhetorical questions. The story unfolds in a similar fashion. House says the medical history of Dan’s parents is ‘useless’ in turn 15. Dad disagrees in turn 16 and says they gave House a detailed history of Dan’s biological mother while Mom lists several basic but good qualities of Dan’s biological mother in turn 17. In turn 18, dad adds that he also has also given House Dan’s medical history and that House has everything that is needed to know before House asks in turn 20 about the vaccination of Dan’s biological mother. Dad answers Dan’s vaccination instead in turn 21. House explains the reason behind his question and repeats his question, which results in a silent pair of parents. Turn 15 and turn 4 may look similar, but they are different as in turn 4, Dan’s parents are in fact hiding a secret from everyone which is later exposed, but turn 15 does not involve a 22


concealment of the ‘uselessness’ of the medical history they submitted. There are also reasons to believe that turn 16, 17, and even turn 18 are truthful statements of the parents because after knowing House is looking for a genetic clue to Dan’s condition in turn 9 (with the assumption that they are actually listening), hiding this information such as medical history will put Dan’s life at risk. However, dad’s reply to the House’s questions in turn 21 is a clear instance of covert evasion. House’s questions are whether Dan’s biological mother was vaccinated when she was a baby but the reply from dad is that Dan was vaccinated at 6 months. According to Galasinski (2000), this is an example of a concealing evasion in which a speaker produces an answer pretending to be relevant and cooperative, but in fact not. The deceptiveness of such evasion is metadiscursive. In turn 20, House places the focal proposition of the question on the [Dan’s] biological mother and she when she was a baby, however, the dad’s response in turn 21 only satisfies the ‘when X was a baby’ but not the who. Having realized such covert evasion, House explains the medical reason behind his question as to why he must know if Dan’s biological mother was vaccinated when she was a baby – that a baby is only vaccinated at 6 months because they are protected by their biological mother’s immune system before that (through breast milk which contains antibodies, and the mother may not contain such antibodies if she was not vaccinated when she was a baby herself). The parents are speechless having heard House’s explanation. Whether they do know if the mother was vaccinated or not is unmentioned, therefore it is not possible to determine the (un)deceptiveness of the silence.



Deception through distortions (using overstatement and understatement as deceptive device):

Excerpt 3: Background of this episode (Season 1 Episode 3 Occam’s Razor): Female patient Jodi Matthews was at the clinic and was assigned to House in exam room 1. [Cut to House in the exam room with Jodi.] 1. Jodi: [My mucus] It was yellow. 2. House: It was? 3. Jodi: It’s not any more. 4. House: Hmmm, that’s a shame. 5. Jodi: I thought that might be a problem, so I brought you this. [She hands him a paint color sample card.] 6. House: Your mucus was pale goldenrod. 7. Jodi: Last week, yes. Should I be worried? 8. House: Oh, yes. Very. 9. Jodi: Really? I thought I was okay now. 10. House: And yet, here you are. What happened? Paramedics took a week to respond to your 911 call? 11. Jodi: You’re not a very nice doctor, are you? 12. House: And you are very bad at whatever it is you do. 13. Jodi: You don’t even know me! 14. House: I know you’re going to get fired. That’s why you got the new glasses, that’s why your teeth are sparkly white. You’re getting the most of your health insurance while you still can. 15. Jodi: I might be quitting. 16. House: If you were quitting you would have known that last week when your snot



was still pale goldenrod; you’re getting fired. 17. Jodi: I just don’t like being told what to do. 18. House: [silent and nodded] I’ll get you in for a full body scan later this week. 19. Jodi: Thanks.

The above excerpt involving House and female patient Jodi is an example showing how difficult it may be to determine presence or absence of deception in each utterance. However, as the story unfolds and through House’s observations, viewers are shown the (in)sincerity of the patient, allowing deceptiveness to surface. In turn 1, Jodi reports a condition she suffered in the past without reporting current condition in the same turn. Her use of past tense arouses House’s suspicion as he repeats the subject and the past tense verb in a question form ‘It was?’ in turn 2 in an attempt to request for information her current condition. Jodi replies in turn 3 without offering any new information but instead focuses on the state of change (the colour) of her sputum from past to present, that her sputum is no longer yellow. The fact that this is near nothing to report from a patient visiting a free clinic at a hospital presents a rather odd intention. Turn 5 sees House making a ‘Hmmm’ sound, a suspicion marker rather than a hesitation marker or a filler, followed by an expression of pity ‘that’s a shame’, which in itself is a sarcasm and an act of insincerity. Doctors, and even House, are generally not expected to show sympathy to a disappeared symptom such as yellow mucus and therefore, the deceptiveness of this statement lies in the misrepresentation of House’s belief. Jodi, not having registered House’s sarcasm, continues in turn 5 by showing House a paint colour sample card she has prepared, hoping that House will



be able to diagnose her condition with it. House reads out the words on the sample card in turn 7 and Jodi says ‘Last week, yes.’ Then asks whether she should be worried in turn 7. For Jodi to be emphasizing the time ‘last week’ and reassuring it by using ‘yes’ that it ‘was’ ‘last week’ that her mucus was pale goldenrod but ‘not any more’ this week, she draws House and the viewers’ attention to her consistent emphasis on the ‘past’ factor and de-emphasis of her current medical condition. House’s reply ‘Oh, yes. Very.’ in turn 8 aims at eliciting her hidden agenda while at the same time, it is deceptive in the form of distortion. There are at least three ways to argue that House is being insincere in making this reply: 1) Commonsensically speaking, the disappearance of a common symptoms a week ago such as yellow mucus indicates that her current condition is hardly life-threatening enough to be ‘very’ worried. 2) Jodi has not mentioned any other symptoms to House, neither one that is more nor less serious than the disappearance of yellow mucus, which may indicate that she has not yet come to the point of mentioning them or there is no other symptom. 3) Jodi consults House whether she should be worried in turn 7 indicating the former case in point 2) is almost certain, that is, she does not have any other symptoms and her only symptom has already disappeared. These three arguments point to the deceptiveness of House’s use of distortion in turn 8 as a result of overstatement of Jodi’s medical condition. Jodi begins to worry in turn 9 after hearing what House says and reveals her true belief that she is ‘okay now’, implying that she does not believe she is sick, and yet she is seeing a doctor in an attempt to induce a belief in the doctor that she is sick, just not very sick. Galasinski (2000) argues that such induction of belief in an addressee by manipulating the truth and falsity of information, particularly one that the speaker does not believe in, constitutes to deception. 26


These utterances, in terms of Galasinski’s (2000) framework of deceptive discursive strategies belongs to the category of distortions, which constitute to an intentional misrepresentation of the propositional content by understating/overstating the severity of the situation. Through the use of distortion, she intends to induce two levels of belief in House: using her past medical condition (of which the truth/falsity is undeterminable), turn 1, 3, 5, and 7 intend to make House believe that she is sick enough to receive some forms of treatment or medication, while turn 9 intends to make House believe that she is not as sick as House has claimed. House notices this and in turn 10 says ‘And yet, here you are.’ And asks Jodi what happened and made his sarcastic remark. Jodi attempts to avoid from answering House’s question while at the same time judges him as ‘not a very nice doctor’ in turn 11. House rebuts in turn 12 by hinting the actual purpose of her visit to the clinic is related to her poor performance at work. In turn 13, Jodi thinks that House does not know her so he is in no position to judge her. Through his observation, House reveals what Jodi is hiding and lying about her intention of her visit in turn 14, which is to maximize her health insurance claim before she gets fired. Instead of telling House that she is or was actually feeling unwell, Jodi partially agrees with House’s reasoning but instead of getting fired, she suggests that she ‘might be quitting’, which is her first actual answer to House’s question in turn 10. By saying that she ‘might be quitting’ confirms that her visit to the clinic has very little or nothing to do with her mucus being yellow last week. Also, instead of saying ‘I am quitting’ or ‘I will quit’, she chooses to say she ‘might be quitting’, her reply is an attempt to deceive House into believing that there is a possibility for her leaving her job but only actively and not passively. The reason that her utterance is deceptive is explained by House in turn 16, that is if she were quitting her job, she would have visited the clinic while 27


her mucus was still yellow to get the most of her health insurance and not after she has recovered, which means the reason for her to visit a clinic after she has recovered is that the ‘decision’ is made (therefore removing the possibility of ‘might be quitting’) after her recovery between ‘last week’ and ‘now’, a time too short to be a well-planned decision made by Jodi herself, leaving the only possibility of ‘getting fired’. House’s abductive reasoning is later confirmed by Jodi in turn 17 as she reveals that ‘I just don’t like being told what to do’, basically admitting that her answer in turn 15 ‘I might be quitting’ to House’s question in 10 ‘What happened?’ is an insincere misrepresentation intended to induce a belief in House, which also constitutes to distortion because ‘quitting’ actively is a very much understated version of ‘getting fired’. Finally, her reason is well-received by House, so much that he decides to help Jodi by offering her ‘a full body scan later this week’ in turn 18. In return, Jodi expresses her gratitude with her ‘thanks’.



Deception by lying (using mendacious statement as a deceptive device):

Excerpt 4: Background of this episode (Season 8 Episode 1 Twenty Vicodin):

House has served considerable time in prison for his crime in driving his car into Cuddy’s (his boss and girlfriend) house. He sits before three male and two female members of the parole board. Warden Delaire is a male officer sitting on the far right of the table while female Case Worker on the far left of the table. 1. Delaire: Given good… [he flips a page in the file] …ish behavior and 8 of 12 months’ time served, we have the discretion to grant parole, Friday the 10th, five days from now. [He closes the file, folds his hands on the table and looks directly at House.] Are you sorry about what you did? [House pauses before answering. There is a uniformed guard standing between him and the door.] 2. House: Yes. [A couple of people on the panel shift. Delaire looks at them then back at House.] 3. Delaire: Yes? 4. House: Well, that's the correct answer, isn't it? 5. Female Case Worker: Are you trying to annoy us? 6. House: No, I'm just trying to give you the answers you need to cover your asses, fill out your forms, and let me out of here. 7. Female Case Worker: We need you to show us remorse. 29


8. House: Is that how our system works? Release the best actors? I shudder to think what that world would be like. 9. Female Case Worker: You drove your car into your ex-girlfriend's house and then fled the country for three months. 10. House: I knew that her daughter was at grandma's, like every Friday, and I saw everyone else move into the living room. 11. Female Case Worker: They could've moved back. 12. House: Which I would've noticed since I was driving right towards them. 13. Delaire: Shut up. We got an order to reduce overcrowding. But let me be clear — you mouth off to one guard, we catch you with a single cafeteria tray in your cell, you break any rules I don't even remember, you can park your ass here for four more months. So forget being sorry. Can you stay out of trouble for five days? [As the warden speaks, what he’s saying sinks in. There’s a long pause.] 14. House: Yes.

Unlike the first three excerpts, the excerpt above is not a doctor-patient/patient’s family discourse. Instead, it is one in which House, as a prisoner, no longer has the authority and thus power to initiate a turn. In the above excerpt, turn 1 and 2 may seem to be a normal questionand-answer exchange: question by a warden and answer by House. It is almost impossible to tell whether or not House’s reply is sincere. On one hand, viewers are given 7 seasons to familiarize with the House’s character and therefore should have no problem predicting/assuming that House is being insincere. Based on this, the pause before his reply in turn 2 can be seen as a moment of pondering his untruthful response. On the other hand, viewers who are watching the drama for the first time might consider that pause as a moment



of introspection which leads to his truthful response in turn 2, although the warden’s understatement of House’s behavior in prison being ‘good... [he flips a page in the file] …ish’ could indicate some possibility that House might not be telling the truth in turn 2, since he has not been behaving as good as expected. Soon, through House’s silence, the use of the prison officers’ body language, gaze and the Warden Delaire’s ‘Yes?’ question to House in turn 3, the storytelling has guided viewers to expect further elaboration from him, possibly on his remorse. And since House has failed to proactively provide such information, viewers are led to wonder if House’s response is a sincere one. Through the use of a tag question ‘Well, that’s the correct answer, isn’t it?’ with ‘Well’ as an elaboration marker in turn 4, House has made it clear that he was indeed being insincere in turn 2. Since turn 2 contains only one single word in this mendacious utterance, there is only adequate information to classify this strategy as lying. Turn 5 to turn 14 are all sincere utterances of House and other interlocutors, as House is basically trying to explain that all his actions are completely rational, safe and therefore he has nothing to be sorry about. Turn 2 and turn 14 are both replies of the same word ‘Yes,’ but turn 2 is mendacious while turn 14 is sincere. Viewers can tell the latter from the fall in House’s volume, pondering gaze, refrained from further arguing and most importantly, how well-behaving he is in the later scenes. Texturally, the descriptions in the fan-script have provided the clue needed. In this aspect, fanscripts are far more superior to transcripts of naturally occurring recordings due to the presence of descriptions of shots in scenes.



Conclusion This study has looked into a number of strategies of deceptive communications in the TV drama House M.D. and has provided an illustrative analysis on selected excerpts from the perspectives of a new viewer and a recurring viewer of the series. Through understanding how deceptions are realized in popular TV drama (and more specifically scripted doctor-patient/patient’s family discourse in this case), we as viewers can understand the proximity of our physical reality to the constructed reality, which in turn constitutes to a big part of the former-mentioned for many people around the globe. The Telegraph (2011) reports that by 2011, House M.D. alone had been viewed by a spectacular 81.8 million in 66 countries even before this 8-seasons series ended in May 2012. This equates to almost 25% of the population of the United States (United States Census Bureau, 2016) and more than the entire population of Germany as of 2015 (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2016), excluding the number of on-going re-watching through online video platforms such as Netflix, internet sharing and DVD/Blu-ray discs sold. TIME’s Luckerson (2016) published official figures from Netflix in January stating that Netflix’s subscribers alone streamed 42.5 billion hours’ worth of programming in 2015. As technology advances and TV drama-watching gradually becoming a global online phenomenon, how humanities and cultures are being portrayed in a TV show could well become the world’s ‘next new reality’, potentially distorting social norms (Myers, 2010).



Deceptive communications, sometimes referred to as ‘the dark side of creativity’ (Gino & Ariely, 2012), if not consciously or actively learned through watching TV programmes such as House M.D., may be subconsciously persuaded through even the most casual conversations (Myers, 2010). Although neither good nor bad because deception is part of our everyday life, understanding the strategies involved can be beneficial, in the sense that this knowledge helps one determine when and how or even why people deceive. Therefore, understanding how House is in total control of the situations in the TV drama, how he reads into other speakers’ deceptions or attacks his addressee’s covert evasion and distortions, how he employs counterdeceptive strategies when he is in power, and how he attempts to gain grounds by winning arguments when he is not in power, is as much a sociolinguistic lesson as a social lesson. The educational benefit alone is enough to win more attention from educators and researchers to the study of deceptions or deceptive communication than it currently receives. Putting it into perspective using House’s words, "Well, I needed somebody around here with street smarts. Ok? Knows when you're being conned, knows how to con." (House M.D. Season 1, Pilot – Everybody Lies)



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Table of Tables Table 1 Tabulated summary of Galasinski’s (2000) discursive strategies of deceptive communication ................ 11 Table 2 Tabulated summary of Galasinski’s (2000) metadiscursive strategies of deceptive communication ........ 12 Table 3 Results from corpus analysis of lemmas of 'lie' ........................................................................................ 13

Table of Figures Figure 1 Flowchart of a modified version of Galasinski's typology of deceptive actions