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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Lott

Catching a Liar

I've been studying deception detection. so I thought, as a little distraction for the weekend, I'd write a post with a few tips on how to spot a liar. Do keep in mind though , you need to know someone's usual behaviour, or have a base reading , to accurately identify signs of deception; also cultural differences need to be taken into account, like, for instance, in some cultures direct eye contact is considered rude.

A lot of the detailed understanding of deception detection. obviously, comes from the FBI, with experts such as LaRae Quy, and from the genius of micro-expressions , Paul Eckmann.

1) Be Calm and Keep Things Pleasant.

If you're trying to catch a liar out, don't become angry and accusing, no matter how frustrated you are. Remember the proverb 'you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar'. Don't put them on their guard.

2) Surprise Them.

A deceptive person will try to anticipate your questions, so that their answers sound instinctive and natural. They may have rehearsed their answers and story in advance.

Ask them something they don't expect, and they'll stumble.

3) Look For Vagueness.

People who are being deceitful, tend to give vague information. They leave out the details that 'join-up' the story. When people feel uncomfortable they prefer to not provide a lot of information so they can end the conversation quickly.

4) Too Much Information.

With some people, you have to look for the opposite of

# 2. This is one of those points when it's important to know a person's normal behaviour; when you know someone's normal behaviour, you'll be able to detect when it's out of the ordinary. Sometimes, when a person is lying, they tend to keep right on talking. They will give you too much information and it won't be consistent; the urge will be to keep making things up in order to convince you they aren't lying.

5) Listen

The old saying about having two ears and one mouth stands true here. Listen more than you speak. As I said in #4, Liars tend to speak more than truthful people in an attempt to sound legitimate and win over their audience. Also, they will use more complex sentences to hide the truth.

Be wary of the following:

Stress usually makes people speak faster.

Stressed persons often talk louder.

Cracking in the natural tone of voice usually occurs at the point of deception.Repetitive coughing and clearing the throat can be signs of tension.This isn't to say that a these are necessarily proof that someone is lying to you. Again you need to compare the behaviour to their base line and maybe choose to proceed with caution.

6) The Politician's Approach

If you ask someone a direct question and they answer but you're left feeling they didn't really answer at all, this is a good indicator of deception. If this happens, keep asking focused, direct questions and watch their anxiety levels go up. Such as, " so you said you were shopping last night, what did you buy?" "yes, I really had a good time-you should have seen Kelly she was really on a spree"

7) Questions on Questions

Liars love to answer questions with another question. They're usually buying time to come up with a lie.

8) The Sound of Silence

Silence usually makes liars feel uncomfortable. It can make them feel like they're under a spotlight being analysed, and the guilty don't like to feel this way, so they will often feel compelled to fill the silence.

9) Repetition

Often connected to # 6, as liars need to convince you of what they're saying so will repeat themselves. They may just keep on talking. Liars will be worried about what you're thinking so they will be continually trying to work this out, "You don't believe me, do you?" is a common question. If people are telling the truth, this doesn't even come up a as a concern.

Of course, some very competent, experienced liars are aware of this one and take the "I don't care if you believe me" approach. Here you'll have to watch carefully for a combination of their apparent emotions, body language and their words.

10) Contractions

A thing you can find with liars is not using contractions. The rather awkward "I did not.." rather than "I didn't..." is used as stress to emphasise the point and thus underline their integrity.

11) "No" way!

"No" is a key word to observe if you suspect someone is trying to mislead you.

A person is often demonstrating deceptive behavior when they:

say "no" and look in a different direction; say "no" and close their eyes; say "no" after hesitating; say a "noooooooo," stretched over a long period of time; say "no" in a singsong manner.

12) Answer This

Liars don't particularly like to give answers, but they may imply one. This is similar to #6, but it may appear more 'together'. This means it appears they are giving you an answer, when in reality they didn't directly answer your question. Some established liars are really good at this: " Were you at the restaurant at 8pm?" "yes, I ate supper"

13) Touchy!

Touching means connecting emotionally. When someone is lying they are unlikely to want this, so they will prefer to keep their distance.

14) Palmistry

A common gesture with deception is not showing the hands. Liars will often put them under the table, on their lap, in their pockets, or place their palms down rather than up.

15) Covering and Touching

Keep an eye out for covering or touching the mouth; they are literally trying to stop themselves saying something, or to stop something 'leaking' out. They may also touch other parts of their face, such as rubbing their eyes, picking at their ears, twisting their hair or rubbing their nose. Depending on their usual behaviour, these can be signs of trying to 'cover up'

And finally, you can ask for their story backwards...

Truthful people tend to add details and remember more facts as they repeat their story. Liars, on the other hand, memorise their stories and try to keep them the same. and added details often don't make sense or fit in. If you suspect someone is being deceptive, ask them to recall events backwards rather than forward in time.

For example, start at the end of a story and ask them to explain what happened right before that point. And then, before that... and so on.

For truthful people, this makes recall easier. Liars often simplify the story to avoid contradicting themselves.

Enjoy lie-detecting!!

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