We've mentioned a few ways to detect liars, but Pamela Meyer has discovered just about all of them. She's taken a look at the most common behaviours of liars, scientifically, and shares her expertise on how to detect them.
Meyer believes that lying is often a cooperative act. We willingly let others deceive us because we want to avoid conflict. We may tell each other an email didn't receive a response because it ended up in the spam folder or that dinner was delicious (or at least tolerable). This is OK to some extent because we're all OK with it, but studies show that you may be lied to anywhere from 10 to 200 times per day. Many of those are white lies, but studies have also discovered that strangers lie three times within the first 10 minutes of meeting each other. Meyer sees lying as what we do to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality. When we want something to be true, we lie so that it at least appears to be true in the hopes that we may be able to make it that way before any truth is uncovered. We hope it will be true, and so our lies are essentially loans of a desired future.
We all do this on occasion, but some lies are worse than others. Fortunately, science points to plenty of indicators to help us detect when we're being told a lie, many of which are contrary to what most people believe:
- Liars like to distance themselves from the subject. Taking Bill Clinton as an example, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman", has the two giveaways of "did not" and "that woman" help point out that it's a lie.
- Liars use qualifying language, like "to tell you the truth".
- Repeating the question before answering it dishonestly is a common indicator of a lie.
- Liars look you in the eyes too much. They don't fidget, but rather freeze their upper body.
- Liars will fake smiles. Here's how to tell the difference.
- Liars like to offer details.
- When liars are the culprits and trying to avoid punishment for what they did, they're more likely to suggest strict punishments for the "real culprit".
- Liars are terrible at telling their stories backwards.
- Liars will often point their feet towards an exit.
- Liars will often put barrier objects between themselves and the person asking them about their lie.
Meyer's talk demonstrates several other lie detection methods, such as head shakes and asymmetrical expressions, that you really need to watch the video to understand. It's fascinating and worth the 15 minutes it'll take to watch — especially because, with a little practice, you should be able to point out lies in your everyday life pretty easily.