Lie Detection

Posted on Nov 08, 2008 by Gugel in Psychology

A detective pounds on the desk and looks the criminal in the eye. The uneasy crook fidgets and cant meet the detectives gaze. It looks like we have a liar here, the detective declares.

Despite what Hollywood would have you believe, fidgeting and avoid eye gaze show absolutely no correlation with lying. I’m here to tell you how its really done.

These indicators are based on a meta-analysis of hundreds of individual studies (Cues to Deception, 2003, DePaulo, Malone, Lindsay, Muhlenbruck, Charlton, & Cooper).

Weak Indicators:

  • Was the story plausible and logical?
    • The story isnt making much sense and there are a lot of seemingly irrelevant details thrown in.
  • Nervous?
    • People can be nervous for a lot of different reasons. Just because someone is nervous does not mean that person is lying, although it is more likely.
  • Higher pitch?
    • A higher voice pitch than usual is another slight indicator that someone may be stretching the truth.
  • Presses lips more than usual?
    • There is a lot of variation on how frequently someone presses their lips together during a pause in their speech. You really have to know the person for this one to be useful.
  • Raised chin?
    • An amateur poker player will act assertively when he is bluffing and act timidly when he has a strong hand. A raised chin in poker is a sign of assertiveness and hence, a bluff. This applies to beyond the poker table too. A raised chin might signal a lie.

Medium-Strength Indicators:

  • Does the person admit a lack of memory or spontaneously correct their story?
    • When we tell the truth, we usually interrupt and correct ourselves as we go. Liars tend not to do this. They say their side of the story and stick to their guns.
  • Dilated pupils
    • Although hard to detect, a person with dilated pupils is often in an increased state of arousal. One of things that might increase arousal (no, not the sexual kind) is lying.

Strong Indicators:

  • Was the story direct and personal?
    • Most people dont like to consider themselves liars. To internally get around the fact that they are lying, many people will resort to avoid saying I or me. For example, the lie No, I do not think those jeans make you look fat, might get actually said as No, the jeans are fine.
  • Not cooperative?
    • The person wants to avoid the subject altogether. Its a lot easier to say nothing than to lie.

None of these indicators guarantees a lie. After all, lie detection is a very inaccurate science. Lie detector machines, which are much better than humans, are only about 80% accurate. On a side note, here’s how to fool a lie detector machine. Bite your tongue right before you answer or press your toes to the floor when they ask you the base questions (Are you a human?, Did you ever fly to Saturn?, etc.).

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