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Is Dr. Lightman Crazy? A Psychological Look at ‘Lie to Me’

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Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman
Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman

‘Lie to Me’ is a rather addictive show about a group of deception experts led by Dr. Cal Lightman. The first season of the show focused primarily on basic cases handled by Cal and his crew at The Lightman Group.

In the second season, we see all team members put under exceedingly extenuating circumstances. During each episode, I find myself wondering if Dr. Lightman is certifiably crazy.

Lightman’s background in British special forces and covert operations in the United States has forced him to become an expert in lying—by detecting lies in others and masking the truth himself for security reasons or to get a reaction out of a subject.

While I have no background in psychology, I was tempted to further explore the idea that Dr. Lightman is either actually suffering from a mental disorder or deliberately exhibits the characteristics of a mental patient.

Primarily, I wonder if Lightman may suffer from a personality disorder. Furthermore, I wonder if his work facilitates or even necessitates the development of the characteristics of a personality disorder. Here’s a look at different personality disorders based on summaries by pharmaceutical company Merck.

Type of DisorderIndicators/ExamplesNotes
Paranoid personalityDistrustful of othersParanoid and distrustful behavior is usually justified considering Lightman’s past and present.
Schizotypal personalityEmotional detachment and belief that subject can manipulate others’ thoughtsLightman’s actual abilities indicate that he is able to manipulate others’ thoughts. Detachment necessary for scientific observation.
Narcissistic personalityNeed for admiration, superiority complexDefines Lightman’s life and career. Presence of narcissistic personality could explain relationship failures and reticence to pursue relationship with Foster.
Obsessive-compulsive personalityMust control situation and environmentJob necessitates need for perfection; lives are often at stake.

Of these potential disorders, in my unprofessional and strictly observational opinion, it seems that Dr. Lightman strongly indicates a narcissistic personality. I would not be surprised if Dr. Foster’s frequent concern for Cal’s well-being emanates from a personal and professional desire to monitor a more serious mental condition.

What do you think about the psychology of Dr. Lightman? Please post your own theories and analyses below.