How to Spot A Liar
Detecting Deception is no easy task. Today you find out how to spot a liar.
There are different kinds of deception and there are different
degrees of deception.
Some kinds of deception like omission occur when someone
doesn’t tell you something that is important. They leave it out.
“I was at the bar last night honey.”
“I was at the bar last night honey and then I met this woman
There are also errors of commission.
“This car has never been in a car accident.”
(It actually has…twice.)
The first key point you need to understand is that not all lies
are evident in nonverbal behavior. There are ZERO clues or cues
for many lies.
Some people are good liars. Some people are pathological liars.
Some people rehearse what there “story” will be over and over so
it comes naturally.
Other times when people lie there ARE cues and clues.
There are a number of things I look for when I think someone
might be deceiving me.
The most important cue is usually expressed by their feet.
People generally have no trouble controlling their torso, even
their hand gestures and sometimes facial changes. But one thing
that is hard to pay attention to for the “liar” is feet!
When communicating with someone I gain a sense for how their
feet normally move in conversation. When someone deceives their
feet “behave” differently. That’s my best and probably most
Next up I watch pupil changes. Some people’s pupils get bigger
some people’s get smaller. I’m not so concerned about the
direction of the size (bigger vs. smaller). I’m interested that
there is or is NOT a change.
The third thing I look for are expressions of boredom,
indifference, and unconcern. These are tough states to fake for
most people because they are typically unaware of their
behavior. In young people this collection of vocal and nonverbal
cues is even more obvious to the reader.
The “liar” will try and look indifferent but because they
aren’t used to behaving indifferent they are trying to guess
what they are acting like. Unfortunately it’s usually a dead
If people stumble over their words, repeat phrases or words,
when this is not their normal behavior, this is a pretty useful
“tell” as well.
On the other hand if someone is on trial in the Kevin Hogan
Mind Court…there are some things that I look for to find
First can or does the person give a genuine smile. It is HARD
to give a real life smile when you are lying to someone.
Obviously the pathological liar can but take out the
pathological’s and you have a real actor who can genuinely smile
and lie at the same time.
Next I’m looking for “verbal immediacy.” Does the person answer
me quickly or normally? It’s tough to lie and communicate
quickly. The faster you talk the less time there is to process
information. When you’re lying it takes time to process
information to make sure the story “comes out right.” This
doesn’t mean that people who respond slowly are lying. It means
that coupled with other “innocence cues,” I become more
convinced whether someone is telling the truth or lying to me.
Most people can’t determine whether someone is lying or not
with any degree of accuracy. When crossing cultural lines it’s
even more difficult to accurately predict whether someone is
being truthful or not.
Sometimes experienced police officers show better than chance
accuracy in deception but typically most people can’t figure out
truth vs. lie more than 55% of the time.
The reason is that people are looking at the wrong things.
They look at eye contact.
Fact is that eye contact isn’t all that relevant in determining
most people are lying or telling the truth.
Another cue people look for is nervousness, and yes,
nervousness IS slightly correlated to lying but it’s also
correlated to being scared and afraid of being accused of lying!
Want to have a good guess as to whether someone is telling the
truth of lying to you?:
Record the conversation and then listen to the conversation
when you aren’t in the presence of the person. People who can’t
see the person who is talking usually are better at detecting
truth vs. lie. Why? The vocal cues are some of the strongest to
pick up on.
Because it is such a well kept secret in the nonverbal
community, there is one powerful strategy you can use to improve
your odds of detecting deception.
Liars must construct their stories in chronological order.
People who tell the truth will be all over the map.
The liar has to create a story, remember it in order and tell
it chronologically. Because there is no actual memory to recall,
they have develop a false memory.
The truth teller might often SOUND like they are lying because
they are all over the map but the fact is that is more likely to
be a sign of truth than fiction.
Ask the person what happened in REVERSE chronological order.
The liar won’t be able to do it most of the time.