How to Tell If Someone is Lying

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Have you ever thought of someone as honest but then found out that you were horribly wrong? Well in this article, we’re gonna look at some common signs of lying so that you’re not as easy to fool the next time.

Why People Lie

First off, let’s have a look at why people lie.

People lie for various reasons. And sometimes it’s justified. For example, the real explanation may be really complicated. But oftentimes, it’s for less socially desirable reasons.

For example, it may be for personal gain, to hide their true intentions, to mislead you, to manipulate you, etc. Given these possible reasons, it’s clear that knowing when someone is lying becomes important.

Luckily, Psychology has studied lying and discovered ways you can tell if someone is lying or not. Let’s find out how.

It’s Not about the Words…

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Firstly, you have to keep in mind that lying is often done nonverbally. This means that it’s more about how something is said rather than what is said.

Things to pay attention to include facial expressions, body gestures, nonverbal parts of speech like tone, etc.

With that in mind, let’s look at some specific signs of lying:

Microexpressions

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Sometimes people give away their lies through microexpressions. These are facial expressions that last for a very short period of time – only a few tenths of a second.

They come right after something that would provoke an emotion and are hard to hide.

For example, if someone rapidly frowns for a very brief moment but then cracks a smile, chances are, they didn’t like what you were talking about.

Inconsistency in Non-Verbal Behaviour

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There are many forms of nonverbal behaviour – eye contact, facial expressions, body gestures, tone or pitch of speech, etc. It is hard for someone to control all of these at once. Hence, when some of these don’t match, it is possible the person is lying.

For example, even though they sound confident in their tone, he/she may lean their body or head backwards while talking. This could indicate lying: it could be caused by anxiety from the fear of being caught.

Nonverbal Parts of Speech

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Nonverbal facets of speech include anything that is not related to the meaning of the words they speak.

People tend to raise their pitches unconsciously, or speak with more hesitation and tend to make more mistakes when lying.

Eye Contact

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Paying attention to a person’s eye contact can also reveal if they’re lying. Liars tend to blink more often & have more dilated (expanded) pupils (black centre of the eyes).

Another common sign is either having too low or too high eye contact. A liar may maintain high eye contact to look like they’re not lying.

Exaggerated Facial Expressions

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A liar may also exaggerate their facial expressions. For example, cracking a bigger smile or showing more grief/sadness than the situation calls for.

For example, if someone denies a request but then acts extra regretful for doing so, chances are, they’re lying.

Now to You: Don’t Try Too Hard

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Don’t pay too much attention to how or what someone is saying to find out if they’re lying. You’re less likely to spot their lies, studies suggest.

This is because of two reasons:

  1. We can only pay good attention to one thing at a time – either the person’s words or their nonverbal behaviour. This is due to the fact that we have limited cognitive capacity.
  2. When we are more motivated to detect lies, we tend to pay more attention to the words of the person than how they say it. But as we discussed, most of the clues related to lying are in nonverbal behaviour. Hence, we are less likely to be successful in lie detection.

Conclusion

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Though lying is pretty common, paying attention to these cues may help us catch liars more easily. But remember, it’s not any one clue that will reveal deception. The more signs you see, the more likely it is the person is lying.

But there could always be more to it. Hence, learn more about their situation and dig deeper before drawing conclusions.

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References:

Baron, R. A., & Byrne, D. (2006). Social Psychology (10th ed.). New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India

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2 thoughts on “How to Tell If Someone is Lying

  1. Interesting ways of catching liers. I for one try not to lie simply because sooner or later I forget what I lied, and I get caught. It happened often and boy, it was even more embarassing than telling the truth from the start. Hey, I once heard that a sign of lying is if someone gives too many details. Is that true?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Yes, it’s great to be honest ’cause you don’t have to remember each lie you told so you can be consistent in your lie story. Haha.

      Yes, over-explaining can be a sign of lying. They may provide an excess of details or give a lot of information you didn’t ask for. This is so they look open and thus honest. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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