The strange condition of lie vomiting in “Knives Out”

In the 2019 movie “Knives Out,” is a comedic who done it, with a character even saying the deceased man “practically lives in a Clue board.” The movie was over all very entertaining and the comedy kept the audience engaged; however, it talked in depth about a disorder I had never heard of before. The main character, Marta Cabrera, is said to not be able to lie without vomiting. This fact is completely vital to the plot; but my first thought was is that real?

Now, I have seen tells when a person lies; for instance on “Brain Games” season 2 episode 12, the segment “Tells” shows a woman who when she lies she purses her lips. There are many different types of tells and not everyone has a tell; but the main question is, can vomiting be a tell? Dr. David A. Johnson, a professor of gastroenterology at Eastern Virginia Medical School and a past president of the American College of Gastroenterology, said that vomiting has never “been brought up that it was specifically around a lie, but emotional upset sometimes can be a trigger.”

How could lying bring about such a strong reaction? The brain is only doing one more thing, right? Actually, lying is an action involving at least 3 parts. First, there is suppressing the truth. Second, they must come up with the lie. Finally, the person must convince the other person that the lie is true, by not letting nervousness, tells, or anything else that might get in the way. According to Emma J. Williams et. al.’s research, lying takes take longer and sometimes much longer than telling the truth. Williams’s “results demonstrate several distinct mechanisms that contribute to additional processing requirements when individuals tell a lie.” At the time of their study in 2013, not much seems to be known about the process of lying, but based on Williams’s data I would say that lying is most likely going to be a serial process due to the time differences between lying and telling the truth.

In conclusion, Gastroenterologists, David A. Johnson and Kara G. Margolis, say they have never seen a case of chronic vomiting after lying, but that it is feasible. I would recommend that you look at Williams’s study, the link is below.


Knives Out:

Brain Games, Liar Liar episode:

Marissa Martinelli:

Bill Sullivan Ph.D.:

Emma J. Williams:

3 thoughts on “The strange condition of lie vomiting in “Knives Out”

  1. rgallahan

    First off, I loved this movie. This is a great time for this article as it just was shown on campus. I never fully felt like the whole bit about lying making someone throw up was feasible, but they sure made it work for the movie. I like that you show how complex lying really is, but it isn’t, for the most part, likely that it would make someone throw up. I liked how concise this article was, it was not hard to understand.

  2. ccragun

    This was a good movie! I thought that this was one of those things that movies put in to make dramatic, I never really thought much else about it. If throwing up is a feasible response to lying, I wonder what other kinds of tells and responses people could have. I also wonder what other things in movies that are thought to be fake could have explanations to them.

  3. adill98

    I also thought this movie was great! When I first watched it I also thought to myself “can lying really induce vomiting?” This characters problem of vomiting when lying was a crucial part of the movie and the investigation that was going on in the movie. I liked the sources you found to support if lying can induce vomiting. I also liked that you put the factors that make up the act of lying, I found it very interesting and really had never thought about it that way.

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