Are there clear signs of lying? Unfortunately, study after study shows that most people might as well flip a coin to determine if a person is lying, rather than trust their intuition or lie-detecting skills. However, the research also shows that some people ARE consistently good at detecting lies. That’s a rather important fact, and although it is typically ignored, it is not disputed by the researchers. They usually just mention it briefly, as though the small number of people who have these skills makes it insignificant.
Rather than brush them off as insignificant, it may be better to look at what these people are doing. Doesn’t that seem like a more useful approach? And when we look, we see that one thing these human lie-detectors do is to use what they know about the individual.
How To Tell If Someone Is Lying
When you watch for signs of lying, you need to use what you know about the behavior of the person. In other words, try to think like a polygraph operator, by comparing behavior in persons under suspicion to their “base” behaviors. Look for a change in behaviors that may indicate lying.
For example, if a man always moves around in his chair, then this trait can’t be considered as an indication of lying. On the other hand, if he is normally very calm under pressure, but starts shifting in his chair after certain questions, that is more likely to indicate lying. Always look for these personal habits and indications of lying.
By the way, this shows the flaw in the common scientific opinion which says you can’t tell if someone is lying. Most research tests for things like eye-avoidance or sweating or hand movements, and finds that none of them reliably indicate a lie. However, they are looking at indicators only statistically, based on a general testing of a group, without relation to any known character traits or habits of the individuals being tested.
I’ll use an extreme example to show the flaw in this approach. Suppose that out of a group of 100 people, 50 always looked away from you when they lied, and 50 always focused more directly on you when they lied. Those would be great indicators once you learned which people in the group had which behavior, right?
But a researcher asks the question, “Is looking away correlated with lying?” He has all 100 subjects lie when answering a question, and when 50 look away and 50 look right at the questioner, he determines that there is no correlation between looking away and lying. He’ll also note that there is no statistical correlation between direct eye-contact and lying. This is despite the fact that in our example all 100 people give clear indicators that they are lying.
You see, he is looking for “universal indicators.” It would be nice if there were some good universal signs of lying, some things that everyone did when lying. While there are some signs that are better than others, this approach has met with limited success. However, when you take what you know about the individual into account, you can do much better.
In fact, to take this to the next level, you should note exactly how a person behaves when he or she lies. That way, you’ll have a decent indication he or she is lying the next time you see that behavior repeated. The more personal indicators you are aware of, the more certain you can be that the person is lying.
Consider this: If such psychological “tells” or signs of lying were meaningless, there would be far fewer consistent winners in poker. There ARE consistent winners at poker, by the way, and they often win because they are good at spotting a “bluff.” (They also know the odds, of course). That is strong evidence right there that there are signs of lying which are useful.