First, let’s look at some numbers
• According to Liespotting – a website that offers “proven techniques to detect deception” – we are lied to as many as 200 times a day. Now, those aren’t necessarily big, harry lies, they can be little white ones. (“That dress doesn’t make you look fat at all.”)
• On top of that, apparently, we can only figure out we are being lied to about half the time.
• If you make a practice of lying, here’s some good news -- between 75 and 82 percent of the time you are going to get away with it.
• Twenty-five percent of lies are done, bless our lying hearts, for the benefit of others, according to a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
• While we’re not that great at catching a lie, according to some, with training we can be a bit better at it.
So how do you spot deception in others? Here’s a few tips.
Most people think that the trick to telling if someone is lying rests in facial expressions. That’s true, but it isn’t the only clue to figure out if someone is lying.
Lying in written form
According to a paper published by the American Psychological Association, University of Texas at Austin psychology professor James Pennebaker and his associates have developed computer software that analyzes written content and can predict whether someone is lying. The software looks for these written markers:
• Lack of or fewer first-person pronouns. We generally are not the stars of our lies, distancing ourselves from our untrue stories.
• More negative emotion words. Liars feel more negative and use words such as “hate” and “sad.”
• Fewer exclusionary words. According to Pennebaker, words such as “except”, “but” or “nor” are not often seen in written lies.
It’s written on their faces
Those trained in recognizing liars will look for facial clues and body language to help determine who is lying and who isn't.
Here are a few of those clues that may indicate someone is lying to you:
• They avoid eye contact
• Their body is angled away from yours.
• They fidget
• They touch their faces, especially their nose. Your nose heats up as you lie.
• They have fewer hand movements. Hand movements illustrate actions. Liars may not use hand movements because they didn’t’ do what they are saying they did.
Having said that, we do those things when we are not lying, so judge carefully.
How they say what they say
When a person is lying they can add or omit information to stories. Here are some verbal clues:
• Selectively answering questions
• Omitting critical information
• Too much detail indicating they have created a complicated lie
• Liars generally take longer to answer questions, unless they have had time to plan, then the answer comes quickly.
• Repeated words and phrases. (Hey, it sounded good the first time you made it up, why not bring it out again.)
What we lie about
Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., described in Psychology Today some truths learned in a study about lying:
• Lying was more common in phone calls than in face-to-face chats.
• What is a lie to some, may be an exaggeration to most others. About 10 percent of the lies DePaulo studied were more along the lines of exaggerations than deceit. Sixty percent were lies. The other 30 percent were more subtle mistruths.
• Would we lie again? You bet. More than 70 percent of liars surveyed say they would tell their lies again.
How do you spot a lie?
There are a few things to look for that would indicate that something you heard is not the truth.
Here are a few tips from WebMD:
• Inconsistencies: Look for stories that just don’t add up.
• Ask the unexpected: There is only a small percentage of people who are accomplished liars, the rest of us aren’t that good at it. If you want to trip-up a liar, asked a question that will throw them off their game.
• Gauge against a baseline: You have to know the person for this one to work. Pay attention to whether a normally clam person is agitated, a loud person quiet or an anxious person calm. Changes like that could mean a lie is on their lips.
• Look for insincere emotions: Fake it until you can make it probably won’t work for you if you plan to lie – at least not for long. Look for smiles that don’t seem full and natural, or looks of anger with a smile on top.
• Pay attention to gut reactions: Going “with your gut” is, really, a pretty good idea. How many times have you said, “I KNEW that guy was lying, why didn’t I listen to me.”
Sources: "Spy the Lie," Business Time; American Psychological Association; WebMD