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Four Lying Domains


Explanations > Behaviors > Lying > Four Lying Domains

Comfort/discomfort | Emphasis | Synchrony | Perception management | So what


There are many different indicators of lying and deception. So how do you keep them all in mind? Navarro (2003) helps by identifying four major domains.


A person telling lies may show signs of anxiety and stress, which can show up in deceptive body language. Although they may try to control this, there are some factors such as eyes, legs and facial muscles that can give them away.

They may try to distance themselves both from the event in question and even others who probe the event, with subtle moves away and creation of physical and cognitive barriers.

Remember also that some people who are comfortable lying may not feel stressed, whilst others may be prone to anxiety for all kinds of reasons.


All parts of the body can be used to create emphasis that exaggerates points where the person is feeling stronger emotions. People who are not feeling guilty will not exaggerate in the same way as those who are innocent.

Emphasis is normally an unconscious process and even if you try to fake this, the patterns are not the same and can be detected.

Liars may also try to de-emphasise critical points, playing them down where another person would be neutral about them.


In normal conversation, people find points on which to bond and so end up in sync, reflecting each other in words, tone and body language. As liars pull away they fail to fall into sync with the interviewer.

The liar will also fail to synchronise with themselves, for example saying they did not do something whilst nodding. Their stories will also likely fail to have internal synchrony as they contradict previous statements and they may miss out key details you find from other sources.

Perception management

Finally, the liar may work hard to manage how others perceive them, for example by being friendly, dressing tidily and so on. They may tell you they are honest in various ways ('Honestly, I think...') and are likely to be innocent by dint of personality traits ('I would never harm a fly').

As above, they may well seek to control their body, reducing potentially tell-tale movements or deliberately moving in ways that emphasise honesty (such as palms-up openness).

So what?

Use these four areas to help remember the things you should seek when watching for lies. You can also probe and give the person opportunity to do things in these areas that may indicate innocence or guilt.

See also

Deceptive body language


Navarro, J. (2003). A Four Domain Model for Detecting Deception: An Alternative Paradigm for Interviewing, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, June 2003


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