You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

How to tell if someone is lying

The Independent logo The Independent 13/01/2018 Matty Edwards

a man wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Most people simultaneously object to telling lies and then go and do it anyway, whether its with honourable or more devious intentions. 

But imagine how easy life would be if you could spot the difference between honesty and mistruths.

Pamela Meyer, who wrote the book Liespotting, gave a TED talk about how she uses scientific knowledge to spot deception.

Lying is so deeply ingrained in our culture of online personas, partisan media and spam emails that we are surrounded by deception, according to Meyer. “We are all liars,” she says.

While some of us think that telling the odd porky is harmless, evidence shows that telling white lies leads people down a slippery slope towards more serious dishonesty, as the brain becomes accustomed to it.

Research has found that we lie consistently to our partners and men are more likely to lie about themselves while women are more likely to lie to protect others. But how do we spot it?

Language

Non-contracted denial - people who are overdetermined in their denial will use formal language, such as “I did not” instead of “I didn’t”

Liars may also use distancing language when talking about someone, such as “that man/woman”.

Other discrediting uses of language include using qualifying phrases and repeating the question in full.

Attitude

Anyone who has seen the Oscar-winning German film The Lives of Others will remember the interrogation techniques used by the Stasi, the East German police.

They decide their captive is lying because he repeats his story in the same order, word for word, which reveals that he has rehearsed the fabricated story.

If you ask a liar to tell their story backwards, you will watch them squirm, Meyer says.

Duping delight is the term for when someone smiles, which gives away relief at getting away with something. Another emotion or expression may be let out accidentally, or ‘leaked’.

Reluctance, irritation, unhelpfulness are signs that someone is lying, whereas someone telling the truth is more likely to be cooperative, helpful, suggest ideas and solutions. 

Facial expressions

Sigmund Freud once said: “No mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore.”

Mark Bouton, an FBI agent for 30 years and author of How to Spot Lies Like the FBI, says facial expressions and associated reactions indicate someone is lying.

“Some are caused by nervousness, some by chemical reactions, and others by physical reactions,” he adds.

The trick is to closely observe someone while you have an innocent, more casual conversation then to see if any ticks or facial expressions appear when you start asking more difficult questions.

These facial expressions that could be a giveaway include:

  1. Eyes darting back and forth: a physiological reaction to feeling uncomfortable
  2. Rapid blinking: a sign of stress
  3. Closing eyes for more than one second at a time: may indicate lying because this is a type of defence mechanism
  4. Looking to the right: people access actual memories when they to the left but when they do so to the right, they are accessing their imagination to invent something
  5. Face touching: chemical reactions cause people’s faces to itch when they lie
  6. Pursed lips: the mouth will often go dry when someone lies
  7. Fake smile: you can put on a smile with your mouth, but the bunching of skin around your eyes cannot
  8. Head shaking: if people shake their heads in disagreement with what they’ve said, their bodies could be betraying a lie
  9. Blushing and sweating: more obvious signs of discomfort could also give the game away

So now you know how to catch a liar. 


More from The Independent

The Independent
The Independent
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon