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Detecting Lies

 

Explanations > Behaviors > Lying > Detecting Lies

 

Lying is a widespread phenomenon which we all do to some extent. If you are working with others, it is often very useful to be able to spot the fibs.

Remember in all this that one indicator is seldom enough. You should watch both for clusters of behaviors and synchronisation of behaviors with what is being said.

Also remember that a lot of the body language associated with lying is the same as that which indicates stress. People feel stressed for a range of reasons, not just because they fear being found out when they lie.

 

Liars... So they...
...are often worried about being caught or feel guilty, and are hence tense. ...speak in a higher pitched voice (as vocal cords tighten).

...fidget.

...become distracted (eg. self-grooming).

...make speech errors.

...move jerkily.

...swallow more (as adrenaline creates saliva).

...clear their throat (as saliva dries up).

...do not 'remember' what they say happened. ...say things which are inconsistent.

...miss out irrelevant detail.

...are vague, missing out detail such as times, places and feelings.

...say nothing or 'don't remember'.

...prepare beforehand.  ...quickly jump in with answers to more obvious questions (rather than pausing to remember).

...give fuller answers than were asked for.

...volunteer information and excuses before they are challenged.

...make up stuff.  ...hesitate as they think about what to say.

...forget what they said (and so pause to try and remember).

...use the present tense (they are thinking about it now).

...do not want to answer questions. ...cover the mouth.

...clamp the mouth shut, pressing lips together when you mention difficult topics.

...give short answers.

...use closed body language (crossing arms and especially legs).

...change the subject.

...try to flatter you.

...challenge the questions.

...try to avoid answering key questions. ...digress and wander away from the real subject.

...try to distract you with other points of 'interest'.

...tell irrelevant truths.

...go along easily if you change the subject.

...use fogging words like 'tried' and 'wanted'.

...quickly skip over important details. using 'text bridges' to reach over omission gaps.

...try to confuse you. ...give complex answers.

...question minor detail of your questions.

...try to pre-empt you. ...spontaneously say what they did not do (but not what they did do).

...admit to minor offenses (so proving their 'honesty') and denying major offenses.

...try to appear innocent, acting like a child. ...wide open eyes, raised eyebrows.

...enunciate speech carefully with more mouth movement.

...raise eyebrows in middle of face and pout.

...look like they are about to cry (or otherwise upset at accusations).

...try to appear honest. ...use words like 'honestly' and 'truthfully'.

...tell you directly they are honest.

...offer information without being asked.

...offer information that is true (and avoid that which is not).

...agree with things you say where there is some truth (so they can tell themselves they are logically truthful).

...reject entire statements where there is only one thing wrong.

...try to shut you out. ...blink more often (and close eyes for longer when blinking).

...avoid eye contact.

...look away more often.

...turn away from you.

...place barriers between you (from arms to tables).

...try to conclude the conversation as soon as possible.

...try to fill up the time available. ...change the subject.

...try to talk about other things they believe will interest you.

...give longer answers.

...talk for a long time without gaps where you could interrupt.

...do not feel in rapport with you. ...do not mirror your body language.

...lean, turn or move away.

...smile less, even at witty comments.

...fake rapport, for example with exaggerated friendliness.

...are worried about what you might ask. ...talk a lot to use up the time.

...speak quickly to block interruptions.

...get 'emotional' to try and put you off.

...are worried about what they might say. ...use language carefully.

...pause to think before answering.

...give short answers.

...use a monotonous tone.

...avoid pronouns (such as 'I').

...fear eye contact will give the game away. ...avoid eye contact, turning eyes or head down or away.

...glance away just as they start lying.

...blink more often (and close eyes for longer when blinking).

...rub their eyes more.

...fear being detected. ...say as little as possible.

...try to get away or change the subject.

...turn away.

...parrot back your words with a denial.

...exaggerate statements about being truthful.

...watch you carefully for signs of suspicion.

...only look away for brief moments.

...hold themselves still, moving less.

...try to control language. ...use precise language.

...generalize and exaggerate ('always', 'nobody', etc.).

...do not use contractions (saying 'do not', vs. 'don't').

...enunciate words clearly.

...elaborate answers ('I never would...' rather than 'no').

...parrot back narrow negations ('Did you rob the bank?' -- 'No, I did not rob the bank.')

...cannot control language. ...say 'we' when you might expect 'I' (or vice versa).

...say 'a' when you might expect 'the' (or vice versa).

...make speech errors.

...try to control body language. ...hold the body rigid.

...leak signals then cover up fast.

...smile with the mouth but not the eyes.

...forget to control the lower body (which may twitch).

...'act', using exaggerated movements.

...cannot control body language. ...send conflicting signals with different parts of the body.

...have eye pupil dilation.

...shrug and grimace (usually for very brief periods).

...give the game away with lower-body signals.

...fidget, with hands and feet.

...move hands more.

...become aroused and speed up. ...talk faster.

...blink more.

...swallow more.

...move faster.

...speak less clearly.

...feel threatened. ...attack, defend or deflect.

...place barriers in front of them, from arms to books to tables.

...touch themselves in comforting ways.

...gesture towards themselves.

...try to take control. ...talk a lot to prevent more questions.

...get angry and play 'hurt'.

...use put-down language, such as 'Actually...' or 'As a matter of fact...'.

...launch a provocative personal attack.

...respond to questions with questions.

...changes the subject.

...need time to think. ...repeat the question.

...adjust their clothing.

...start by speaking slowly, until confident.

...ramble on about inconsequential things.

...has slight delays in speech-body alignment.

...go back and make quick corrections.

...start with 'well', 'actually' and other words that delay.

...make up pictures and see them objectively, from the outside.

...try to keep neutral.

...describe things as if viewing them.

...look in a different place (usually up and often up-right) to where we look when remembering (as opposed to constructing) a picture.

Draw the scene from non-first-person perspective (eg. plan view).

...try to distance themselves from events. ...use less 'I' statements.

...flatly deny presence or involvement.

...exclude themselves when drawing the scene.

...are thinking about negation. ...say more negative words like 'no', 'never', 'none'.

...use disclaimers ('you may not believe this, but...').

...use more excluding words such as 'but' or 'without'.

...want to leave. ...look towards the exit.

...point a part of the body (eg. foot or knee) towards the exit.

...lean away from you (or towards the exit).

...make excuses and try to leave quickly.

...fear being caught. ...skin gets redder or damper as they sweat.

...rubbing affected area, particularly palms and head, especially neck or the side of the nose (as salt irritates skin).

...feel guilty. ...provide justifications, without being asked for them.

...use very brief micro-expressions, such as turning down mouth corners or pouting.

...body language contradicts speech (eg. nodding head when saying no).

...touch the nose.

...know about the above and over-compensate. ...appear too casual and relaxed (notably also when the subject is serious).

...keep a 'frozen face' to avoid leakage.

...hold themselves still with hands and arms.

...stare (blinking less).

...go too rigid.

...go into excessive detail.

...show no discrepancies at all.

...wear dark glasses.

See also

Body language

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