How to spot a liar, according to a psychology professor

How to spot a liar, according to a psychology professor

A psychology expert has revealed several effective methods for detecting deceitful behavior based on verbal language and other visual cues.

Lying is a complex behavior that everyone will encounter at some point in their life, be it as someone that is lied to, or as a someone telling a lie (even little white lies). Identifying a liar has historically been a challenge and even portrayed as a valuable skill in pop-culture. You may remember the popular "Lie to me" series which features a psychologist who uses his lie detecting skills to solve crimes, a psychologist expert shares their expertise on how to detect signs that someone is lying. 

Whilst we can try to hide what we truly mean, the body often has ways of subconsciously expressing the truth. Typically, people think they can tell when someone is lying through visual signs in their body language, such as eye movement, gestures, facial movements and more. However, in a recent conversation with the BBC, Richard Wiseman, a Psychology Professor at the University of Hertfordshire, shed light on this subject.

So how can you detect when someone is lying? One of the most interesting tests that Wiseman mentions is one where the audience's ability to detect lies through verbal language provided superior in the absence of visual signals. This suggested that contrary to popular belief that verbal signs may be more revealing that non-verbal ones. Wiseman also dispelled the myth that looking up and to the right shows you are lying, stating there is no evidence to support this theory.  However, he points out that a true indication of a lie may be found in a deviation from a person's normal behavior pattern. Hesitations in speech, distancing in responses, and a reduction of personal details in speech are some of the signals to pay attention to.

As for the efficacy of lie detectors, Wiseman is also skeptical about their reliability, noting that physiology can be an inaccurate indicator, especially when we consider the stress of being examined can produce. No technology can solve the problem that the supposed traits of a lie also appear in suspects who are telling the truth. The effects are so small and unstable that they do not practically help in recognizing lies. Differences between liars and truth-tellers can only be found in studies and would not be suitable for practical lie detection. As for the ethics of lying, the British psychologist suggests a balanced view. Lying, in certain contexts, can strengthen social bonds, such as when feigning enthusiasm for an unwanted gift to avoid hurting the giver's feelings. Thus, lying is not seen as a one-dimensional behavior but varies according to circumstances, and understanding this is essential even in educating the young.

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