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How to Spot a Liar

How to Spot a Liar

I am currently reading a book called 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot by Richard Wiseman and it addresses the topic of spotting a liar. In the book is discussed how our perceptions of what someone will act like when lying actually is quite far from the truth. What we think lying looks like, is shaped more by TV and movies rather than scientific evidence. In the book, Wiseman uncovers some of the secrets on how to spot a liar, which I will share with you on the blog today and more.

Body Language

We generally associate lying with someone getting sweaty and fidgety. We assume that those who lie to us will avoid eye contact. Well, we were wrong. The media that has enhanced this view of liars that we have. In reality, most liars are not nervously moving around. There are studies that indicate that liars may even be slightly more relaxed, such as the study by Richard Gramzow from the University of Southampton.

So, what do liars do? How would you recognize whether someone is lying? What you want to look for are signs indicating that someone is:

  • thinking hard for no apparent reason,
  • speaking in an impersonal tone,
  • becoming more static and cutting down their gestures,
  • suddenly decreasing the amount of detail,
  • increasing pauses and hesitations, and
  • suddenly avoiding the words ‘me’, ‘mine’, and ‘I’ and increases the words ‘her’ and ‘him’.

However, these signs are very subjective and people generally don’t behave in the same way even when they are honest. Therefore, you will want to create a baseline for yourself. One way to better detect the truthfulness of the answer to the question you have in mind is to start by asking questions that this person is far more likely to answer in an honest way. By analyzing their behavior when they answer these questions, you will be able to see whether there is a shift in behavior when you get susceptible answers. If you want to know, for instance, whether your spouse secretly watched an episode of your favorite series while you were away, start by asking them what they had for dinner. Then ask them about Netflix after. A small disclaimer, this is of course not a foolproof method. Please don’t take any drastic decisions based on this set of signs.

Email

Studies have indicated that the probability of someone lying varies among different kinds of communication. One of these studies was done by Jeff Hancock et all. at Cornell University. They indicated that overall, people have less problem lying over the phone followed by lying in face-to-face conversations. Once people had to put their lying into writing, the probability shifted. People in this study lied the least when writing an email, followed by texting. The reasoning behind is that people are conscious that they are being ‘recorded’. They are afraid that these dishonesties may come back to haunt them. So, if you want to minimize the risk of a dishonest answer, ask them to put them into an email.

Are you ready to test whether these tips and tricks have improved your ability to judge whether someone is lying? I sure am! Do share your findings below like always.

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