Spotting lies is not an easy task. You may have watched the television show lie to me or Pamela Meyers : How to Spot a Liar at TED and figured it was as easy as catching a specific facial expression and that was it. But no. It’s slightly more complicated than that. Ok, it’s a lot more complicated than that. And you might think you are an awesome lie spotter but sadly, that is probably not the case.
Lie Spotters Are Not Created Equal
True. Recent studies have shown that an average person has about a 54% chance of catching deception. That’s it. A tad above the flipping of a coin. But a seasoned pro, having received proper education in the field of lie spotting, can reach about 85-90% accuracy in spotting liars.
A LOT of myths and inaccurate information is out there, so I thought it would be time to settle some debates and debunk some myths about catching liars.
This Is No Pinocchio Effect
True. If you’ve ever heard that this gesture, or that facial expression, or that display is a sure sign of a lie, you’ve been misinformed. No studies have ever shown that there is one single thing that we do that is 100% indicative of a lie. Nope. Nada. Niet. In essence, there is no Pinocchio effect. It simply does not exist. Most of the myths out there, as we’ll see below are signs of stress and discomfort, but not signs of lies per say.
“A Liar Will Not Look You In The Eye”
False. This is probably the biggest myth out there. And because it’s so well known that liars will often look you straight in the eyes because of this. Denying eye contact is often a sign of discomfort, and one could say that when we lie in a high stakes situation, we are very likely to feel some kind of discomfort, but to say that a person that does not look you in the eye is lying, is false.
“A Liar Will Cover His Mouth”
False. Sure, your kids might do this when they lie to you. But a person covering their mouth is not necessarily lying. The mouth cover action is actually a sign of discomfort and can be related to stress. When we are uncomfortable, we often tend to close ourselves (we cross our arms, grab our opposing shoulders or wrists). It’s a way to protect ourselves from imminent attacks. And when we are experiencing a higher level of stress, we will resort to some kind of auto-massage, like rubbing the chin or our lips with our fingers. So when you see someone suddenly cover his mouth and start rubbing his chin, it’s probably a sign he’s uncomfortable. Now, that said, of course when we lie and we can get into trouble if we get caught, we will probably show some kind of stress and discomfort. But the hand to mouth gesture on it’s own is not a sure sign of a lie.
“Micro Expressions Are Signs Of Lies”
False. If Lie To Me‘s Cal Lightman can do it, everyone can right? Well no, wrong. Micro Expressions are not signs of lying. They are quick flashes in time of a felt, repressed emotion. In other words, they reveal how we feel. Now, if your boss tells you he’s very happy with your work, and flashes a micro-expression of disgust and contempt, you might be in trouble, but the micro expression is not a lying signal. It’s rather the fact that there is a discrepancy between the spoken words and non-verbals that can tell us there is something being hidden from us.
So please be careful when you try to some lie spotting, In for yourself from reliable sources, or else you might be totally misinformed.
* To become a true lie spotter, you can check out my video course on spotting deception and lies here.