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Myths in Deception Detection

The following “clues” are NOT RELIABLE indicators of deception.

Honest people do these same behaviors, and if we cannot discern when someone does this when they are lying versus when they are telling the truth with any reliability, these “clues”  have little value.  I do not teach these (as clues) in my class.   I teach these as distractions–because they take your eyes and ears away from what is really important.

When looking for a liar, do not focus on these:

  1. Covering one’s mouth, face or eyes with hand or fingers
  2. Touching one’s nose, chin, ear, hair or face
  3. Eye gaze direction (looking up or any direction)
  4. Eye contact (too much or too little)
  5. Details (too much or too little)
  6. Nervousness
  7. Blinking: excessive, slow or no blinking
  8. Shoulder block, body block or use of barriers
  9. Pursing of lips
  10. Licking of lips
  11. Biting lips
  12. Fidgeting
  13. Avoiding use of contractions
  14. Pointing feet away
  15. Saying “To tell you the truth…”, “To be honest…”, “Believe me…”, “Honestly,…” etc.
  16. Pointing with hands and fingers
  17. Leaning away
  18. Use of the words NEVER or ABSOLUTELY
  19. Crossed arms
  20. Letting tears stream down face
  21. Palms down or up

The following two statements are also NOT accurate:

  1. All shoulder shrugs unequivocally mean someone is lying.
  2. All head shakes and nods that are not congruent to a statement indicate lying.

The two elements above are very nuanced, and unless you understand the nuances behind the behavior, they cannot be easily discerned as reliable to be applied across the board as a clue.

Many people today read research and take research findings (such as liars do “X” more than truth tellers), and equate the findings as indicators to deception. Research findings and indicators are not the same, and cannot be interchanged.

Research may bear out that liars stare you down more than truth tellers, but how does one know what the threshold is for the definition to be consistently applied to call someone a liar? We know honest people stare, so how to determine that a liar is doing it? I don’t believe we can.

Many (not all) of the elements above do reveal information about how a person is feeling, but they do not reveal deception.

I believe we need to stick to deception clues that are much more reliable. I wouldn’t want to be judged by these criteria and I am pretty confident neither would you.

Need help spotting deception? Looking for an expert to teach your team how to spot lies? Seeking an expert to help you understand others around you? Contact Renee today.