Monday, March 20, 2006

How to catch a liar? Bodylanguage myths exposed

We all think we know the signs of a liar - twitchy, nervous, blinking, doesn't want to look you straight in the eyes, strokes hair, touches nose.

Well, you're wrong, research shows. It's exactly the opposite. In a study of 130 volunteers, liars touched their noses and stroked their hair 15-20% less than truth tellers. Liars tend to be more still, with fewer movements.

So how do you catch a liar?

Well, look for signs that someone is suddenly more self conscious, more restrained, more concentrated. When the person does make hand gestures, it is to try to come across as honest. Look especially for the following signs:

- holding hands apart to indicate size
- touches the heart, a gesture of love and being genuine (see Bush picture)
(these gestures are used 25% more when lying, research has shown)

No doubt this data is culturally biased though.

Aside from the above hand gesture clues, you have to pay much closer attention. Liars usually don't give themselves away that easily. Look for changes in breathing, pupil dilation, skin flush, muscle tone changes, even pore size.

Also, look for exaggerated signs of honesty rather than stereotypical signs of lying. It's obvious in a way - liars make sure they avoid any body language that is commonly believed to indicate a liar, and try to imitate the body language of someone telling the truth. Acting - and therefore (indirectly) lying - is something we learn to do since we are very young. We learn to manipulate our body language to make it appropriate to the social situation.

So what about the looking to the right versus looking to the left tactic? (Looking right = invention, accessing part of the brain that constructs information, so would entail lying). Well, apparantly even that is a myth. We construct information even when telling the truth. But this could still be useful if we pay particular attention to what the person is saying - and if it involves constructing information.

So to catch a liar, you have to look closely for fake or exaggerated signs of honesty, listen carefully to see if body language contradicts what they're saying, and of course, ask lots of questions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting reading - years ago I suspected my partner was cheating on me so I asked him "the question" and looked him straight in the eye. He was an expert liar - he did none of the usual touching nose/ears etc. He stood extremely still, almost grew 2 inches in height, did not blink, hardly breathed, looked me the eye and LIED. I thought WOW - you did that well. (I already had the proof before I asked the question). He became my ex very quickly !