The Best Way to Detect Lies

The Best Way to Detect Lies


Looking at facial expressions to determine whether a person is lying might just save you from being a victim of fraud. Or it could help you to know it's safe to trust your heart and get involved with an attractive stranger. Jury analysts use lie detection when helping to select a jury; the police do it during interrogation. Even judges use lie detection to determine which side to rule in favor of. To use these techniques, you'll need to learn how to read the little facial and body expressions that most people don't notice. It takes a little practice but having this skill can be fascinating! To get started, read on..

Detecting Lies in the Face and Eyes

1. Look for micro-expressions. Micro-expressions are facial expressions that flash on a person's face for a fraction of a second and reveal the person's true emotion, underneath the lie. Some people may be naturally sensitive to them but almost anybody can train themselves to detect these micro-expressions.

The Best Way to Detect Lies
  • Typically, in a person who is lying, his or her micro-expression will be an emotion of distress, characterized by the eyebrows being drawn upwards towards the middle of the forehead, causing short lines to appear across the skin of the forehead.
2. Look for nose touching and mouth covering. People tend to touch the nose more when lying and a great deal less when telling the truth. This is perhaps due to a rush of adrenaline to the capillaries in the nose, causing the nose to itch.A lying person is more likely to cover his or her mouth with a hand or to place the hands near the mouth, almost as if to cover the lies coming forth. If the mouth appears tense and the lips are pursed, this can indicate distress.

The Best Way to Detect Lies

3. Notice the person's eye movements.
You can usually tell if a person is remembering something or making something up based on eye movements. When people remember details, their eyes move to the left if they are right-handed. When right-handed people make something up, their eyes move to the right. The reverse is true of left-handed people. People also tend to blink more rapidly ("eye flutter") as they're telling a lie. More common in men than in women, another tell of a lie can be rubbing the eyes.

  • Watch the eyelids. These tend to close longer than the usual blink when a person sees or hears something he or she doesn't agree with. However, this can be a very minute change, so you will need to know how the person blinks normally during a non-stressful situation for accurate comparison. If the hands or fingers also go to the eyes, this may be another indicator of trying to "block out" the truth.
  • Be careful about assessing the truthfulness of someone's statement based on eye movements alone. Recent scientific studies have cast doubt on the idea that looking a certain direction can help pinpoint someone who is lying. Many scientists believe that eye directionality is a statistically poor indicator of truthfulness.

4. Do not use eye contact or lack of it as a sole indicator of truthfulness. Contrary to popular belief, a liar does not always avoid eye contact. Humans naturally break eye contact and look at non-moving objects to help them focus and remember. Liars may deliberately make eye contact to seem more sincere; this can be practiced to overcome any discomfort, as a way of "proving" that truth is being told.

  • Indeed, it has been shown that some liars tend to increase the level of eye contact in response to the fact that investigators have often considered eye contact as a tell.Clearly, only use eye contact aversion as one indicator in a general context of increasing distress when being asked difficult questions.

Detecting Lies in Body Language Tics

5. Check for sweating. People tend to sweat more when they lie.Actually, measuring sweat is one of the ways that the polygraph test (the "lie detector" in all the movies) determines a lie. Yet again, taken on its own, this is not always a reliable indication of lying. Some people may sweat a lot more just because of nervousness, shyness or a condition that causes the person to sweat more than normal. It's one indicator to be read along with a group of signs, such as trembling, blushing and difficulty in swallowing.

The Best Way to Detect Lies

2. Watch when the person nods. If the head is nodding or shaking in opposition to what is being said, this can be a tell. This is called "incongruence."
  • For example, a person might say that he or she did something, such as "I cleaned those pots thoroughly" while shaking the head, revealing the truth that the pots were wiped briefly but not scrubbed. Unless a person is trained well, this is an easy unconscious mistake to make and such a physical response is often the truthful one.

  • Also, a person may hesitate before nodding when giving an answer. A truthful person tends to nod in support of a statement or answer at the same time it is being given; when someone is trying to deceive, a delay may occur.

3. Watch out for fidgeting. A sign that someone is lying is that they fidget, either with their own body or with random things around them. Fidgeting results from nervous energy produced by a fear of being found out. In order to release the nervous energy, liars often fidget with a chair, a handkerchief, or a part of their body.

The Best Way to Detect Lies

4.Observe the level of mirroring. We naturally mirror the behavior of others with whom we're interacting; it's a way of establishing rapport and showing interest. When lying, mirroring may drop as the liar spends a lot of effort on creating another reality for the listener. Some examples of failed mirroring that might alert you that something's not right:

  • Leaning away. When a person is telling the truth or has nothing to hide, he or she tends to lean toward the listener. On the other hand, a liar will be more likely to lean backward, a sign of not wanting to give more information than is necessary.Leaning away can also mean dislike or disinterest.

  • In people telling the truth, head movements and body gestures tend to be mirrored as part of the interplay between the speaker and the listener. A person trying to deceive may be reluctant to do this, so signs of not copying gestures or head movements could indicate an attempt to cover up. You might even spot a deliberate action to move a hand back to another position or to turn a different way.
5. Watch the person's throat. A person may constantly be trying to lubricate their throat when they lie by swallowing, gulping or clearing their throat. Lying causes their body to increase production of adrenaline, which gets their saliva pumping and then creates very little. While the saliva is surging, the subject might be gulping it down. When the saliva is no longer surging, the subject might be clearing their throat.

The Best Way to Detect Lies

6. Check the person's breathing. A liar tends to breathe faster, displaying a series of short breaths followed by one deep breath. The mouth may appear dry (causing much throat clearing). Again, this is because they are putting their body through stress, which causes the heart to beat faster and the lungs to demand more air.

7.Notice the behavior of other body parts. Watch the person's hands, arms and legs. In a non-stressful situation, people tend to be comfortable and take up space by being expansive in hand and arm movements, perhaps sprawling their legs comfortably. In a lying person, these parts of the body will tend to be limited, stiff, and self-directed. The person's hands may touch his or her face, ear, or the back of the neck. Folded arms, interlocked legs and lack of hand movements can be a sign of not wanting to give away information.

  • Liars tend to avoid hand gestures that we consider a normal part of discussion or conversation. With some caveats, most liars will avoid finger pointing, open palm gestures, stippling (fingertips touching each other in a triangle shape often associated with thinking out loud), etc.
  • Check the knuckles. Liars who stay motionless may grip the sides of a chair or other object until the knuckles turn white, not even noticing what's happening.
  • Grooming behaviors are common in liars, such as playing with hair, adjusting a tie, or fidgeting with a shirt cuff.
Two caveats to remember:
  • Liars can deliberately slouch to appear "at ease". Yawning and bored behavior may be a sign of trying to act just a little casual about the situation so as to cover up deception. Just because they're at ease doesn't mean they're not lying.
  • Keep in mind that these signals may be a sign of nervousness and not a sign of deceit. The subject in question might not necessarily be nervous because they're lying.

Detecting Lies in Verbal Responses

1. Pay attention to the person's voice. A person's voice can be a good lie indicator. He or she may suddenly start talking faster or slower than normal, or the tension may result in a higher-pitched or quavering tone. Stuttering or stammering may also point to a lie.

2. Pay attention to exaggerated details. See if the person appears to be telling you too much. An example might be, "My mom is living in France, isn't it nice there? Don't you like the Eiffel tower? It's so clean there." Too many details may tip you off to the person's desperation to get you to believe what is being said.

The Best Way to Detect Lies

3. Be aware of impulsive emotional responses. Timing and duration tends to be off when someone is lying. It's either because the person in question has rehearsed their answer (or is expecting to be questioned) or rattles off something, anything, in order to fill the silence.

  • If you ask someone a question and he or she responds directly after the question, there is a chance that the person is lying. This can be because the liar has rehearsed the answer or is already thinking about the answer just to get it over with.

  • Another tell can be omission of relevant time facts, such as saying "I went to work at 5 AM and when I got home at 5 PM, he was dead." In this glib example, what happened in between has been all too conveniently glided over.
4. Pay close attention to the person's reaction to your questions. Someone who has told the truth doesn't feel much need to defend themselves, well, because they're telling the truth. Someone who hasn't told the truth needs to compensate for their lie by perhaps going on the offensive, deflecting, or another stalling tactic.

The Best Way to Detect Lies
  • A truthful person will often respond with even more detailed explanations to expressions of disbelief in his or her story. Someone aiming to deceive won't be ready to reveal much else but keeps repeating what has already been established.
  • Listen for a subtle delay in responses to questions. An honest answer comes quickly from memory. Lies require a quick mental review of what they have told others to avoid inconsistency and to make up new details as needed. Note that when people look up to remember things, it does not necessarily mean that they're lying — this could just be a natural instinct.

5. Be conscious of the person's usage of words.
Verbal expressions can give you clues about whether a person is lying. These clues include:
  • Repeating your own exact words when answering a question.
  • Stalling tactics, such as asking for a question to be repeated. Other stalling tactics include stating that the question asked is excellent, that the answer isn't so simple as yes or no, or confrontational style responses such as "It depends on what you mean by X" or "Where did you get this information?"
  • Avoiding use of contractions, namely saying "I did not do it" instead of "I didn't do it." This is an attempt to make it absolutely clear what the liar means.
  • Speaking in muddled sentences and not making sense; liars often stop mid-sentence, restart and fail to finish sentences.
  • Using humor and/or sarcasm to avoid the subject.
  • Using statements such as "to be honest," "frankly," "to be perfectly truthful," "I was brought up to never lie," etc. These can be a sign of deception
  • Answering too quickly with a negative statement of a positive assertion, such as "Did you wash those pots lazily?" answered by "No, I did not wash those pots lazily," as an attempt to avoid the impression of a delayed answer.
6. Notice when the person repeats sentences. If the suspect uses almost the exact same words over and over, then it's probably a lie. When a person makes up a lie, he or she often tries to remember a certain phrase or sentence that sounds convincing. When asked to explain the situation again, the liar will use the very same "convincing" sentence again.

The Best Way to Detect Lies

7. Notice the mid-sentence jump. The mid-sentence jump is when a clever liar tries to distract attention away from him or herself by interrupting themselves mid-stream and talking about something else. Someone might
try to change the subject in this clever way: "I was going — Hey, did you get a new haircut this weekend?"
  • Be especially cautious of compliments from the subject in question. The liar knows that people respond well to compliments, giving him or her a chance to escape interrogation by complimenting someone. Be wary of someone who delivers a compliment out of the blue.

Detecting Lies Through Interrogation

1. Be careful. Although it is possible to detect dishonesty and lying, it is also possible to misread deception where there is none. A range of factors could be causing a person to appear as if he or she is lying when the "signs" might be due to embarrassment, shyness, awkwardness or a sense of shame/inferiority. A stressed person can be easily mistaken for a liar, as some of the manifestations of stress mimic the indicators of lying indicators. For this reason, it is important that any observation of a person suspected of lying involves drawing together a "cluster" of deceptive behaviors and responses, as there is no single "aha!" sign.

2. Look at the big picture. When assessing the body language, verbal responses and other indicators indicative of lying, consider factors such as:

The Best Way to Detect Lies
  • Is the person unduly stressed in general, not just from the situation in which he or she is in now?
  • Is there a cultural factor involved? Perhaps the behavior is culturally appropriate in one culture but is seen as dishonest behavior in another.
  • Are you personally biased or prejudiced against this person? Do you want this person to be lying? Be careful of falling into this trap!
  • Is there a history of this person lying? Namely, is he or she experienced at it?
  • Is there a motive and do you have a good reason for suspecting lying?
  • Are you actually any good at reading lies? Have you taken into account the entire context and not simply zoomed in on one or two possible indicators?


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