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Science Explains: How to Spot a Liar

Science Explains: How to Spot a Liar

The next sentence is true. The previous sentence was a lie. Now put your baffled mind at ease by considering the prior PAIR of sentences FALSE. Mind = blown? Lying can be very confusing but it is an innate part of life. Researchers have found that infants will lie before they can speak! A baby may fake crying for attention. It will then pause and listen for a reaction. If you don’t believe newborns are capable of such devious acts, ask a frustrated mother her opinion on the matter.

But how do we know when somebody is lying versus being sincere? Thankfully, science can help. Behavioral experts, social psychologists, and poker aficionados have been studying liars and documenting their habits. While there is no singular shared trait of all liars, there are plenty of indicators to look out for.

Suspicious Speech Patterns

Professional Lie-Spotter Pamela Myer explains in her Ted Talk that the average person may be lied to anywhere between ten and two hundred times per day! This figure triples if you’re a compliment-seeking preteen.

Although lying is a daily part of life, spikes of adrenaline still often accompany it. This adrenaline may be caused by fear of getting caught or jubilation over fooling someone. Either way, the heightened senses can result in less relaxed and differently formatted speech patterns. Myers lists the following as signs to look out for:

-Distancing Language = Pronouns instead of proper nouns (She instead of Mary)

-A detailed answer for EVERY question

-Repeating a question before answering it

-No contractions

-Avoids speaking in the third person (rarely uses the word “I”)

-Assures you they are NOT lying

Change in Voice

Police interrogators like to have a “base” to work off of. Basically, they like to know how their subject speaks when he or she is telling the truth. To do this, the officer will ask simple questions with obvious answers. Any fluctuation in volume, tone, or pitch during more difficult questions later on may be a sign of raised nerves and therefore lies.

Body Language

Nearly anyone can verbally lie. It is much more difficult to override primal physical behaviors, however. The following movements are subliminal signals of deception:

-A slight shoulder shrug while speaking

-Nodding or shaking one’s head in contradiction to words being spoken

-Mouth is pulled into a smile but eyes remain unchanged

-Looking down towards the ground/avoiding eye contact

-Making too much eye contact

Those final two points may seem contradictory, but they are both true. The reason is because humans are adaptive. After pop culture made the first fact into common knowledge, educated liars began forcing eye contact in an attempt to seem honest. Professional behaviorists and interrogators, however, see these actions more as a subtle confession and even challenge to “Call my bluff, bro.”

Do you think you can you tell when someone is lying?

Tags: science, liars, lying, nature, science explains

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Robert Punchur

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