Neuroscience Shows Why You Cant Spot Liars
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Shows Why You Can’t Spot Liars
A short time after “The Truth
About Lies in the Workplace” was published, I received this email: “I
had just begun reading your
book, and had gotten to the part about body language signs that point
to someone who is lying when I was confronted with a real life
situation. A parcel (that was meant to be returned) disappeared from my
office. When I questioned the delivery man, he gave off at least three
of the body language signals that said he was lying. As I watched him,
I thought – ‘No way! He wouldn't do that.’ Later, he was captured on
video by one of the surveillance cameras leaving the building with the
– if you know what to look for, if you have a list of the “right
signals,” lie detection is easy, right?
peoples (like the delivery man) subconsciously display the telltale
signs of deception that make their lies relatively easy to spot -- but
other liars are much more elusive. Neuroscience has been looking into
what happens in the brain to explain this difference.
researcher, Tali Sharot, a cognitive neuroscientist at University
College in London, found that the brains of people who are unused to
lying show a huge response in regions involved in emotion – like the
amygdala and the insula – when they tell a falsehood. But, as a person
lies more frequently, the emotional response lessens and the negative
feelings associated with lying dissipate. Habitual and pathological
liars can become quite comfortable with their falsehoods.
of the observable signs of lying are dependent on the liar feeling a
negative emotional arousal and an uncomfortable sense of conflict. In
those cases, the act of lying triggers a heightened stress response.
Blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rates all increase, and this
gets displayed in a variety of “tells” such as:
Fake smiles. It’s hard for liars to give a
real smile while seeking to deceive. (Real smiles crinkle the corners
of the eyes and change the entire face. Faked smiles involve the mouth
Unusual response time. When the lie is
questioning, deceivers start their answers more quickly than
truth-tellers. If taken by surprise, however, the liar takes longer to
respond – as the process of inhibiting the truth and creating a lie
takes extra time.
Unnecessary elaboration. The more someone
story, adding unnecessary details and irrelevant information, the
greater the chance he or she is trying too hard to convince, rather
than to convey facts.
Greater formality. A liar’s language tends
become awkwardly formal and stilted, characterized especially by the
avoidance of commonly used contractions. A liar might say, “I did not
have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky,” rather than, “I didn’t have
sex with Monica.”
Higher vocal pitch. When lying, a person's
tone will rise to a higher pitch. Other verbal cues include rambling,
selective wording (in which one avoids answering the question exactly
as asked), stammering, and the use of qualifiers.
Change in blink rate. A person's blink rate
down as she decides to lie and stays low through the lie. Then it
increases rapidly (sometimes up to eight times normal rate) after the
Nose touching. A person’s nose may not grow
when he tells a lie, but watch closely and you’ll notice that when
someone is about to lie or make an outrageous statement, he’ll often
unconsciously rub his nose. (This is most likely because a rush of
adrenaline opens the capillaries and makes his nose itch.)
Changes in gestures. Often times, in the
to let their gestures "give away" the lie, deceivers will hold their
bodies unnaturally still. At other times, especially after being asked
a searching question, you may notice liars accelerate pacifying
gestures -- biting their lips, rubbing their hands together, fidgeting
with jewelry, touching their hair.
what about psychopaths or those practiced deceivers who become
comfortable with the act of lying? Or those who over time begin to
believe their own lies? Whenever someone has "neutralized" the negative
emotional responses that accompanies lying, it interferes with your
ability to spot deception.
polygraph, the most widely used method for lie detection, monitors
heart rate, blood pressure, and skin conductance to detect the
increased anxiety that often accompanies a lie. But one of the reasons
that polygraph results are inadmissible in court (and why it is
difficult to spot some deceivers in action) is that lie detectors fail
with people who are not anxious about lying. These are the same liars
who can most easily fool you.
About the Author
Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is an
international keynote speaker at corporate, government, and association
events. Contact Carol by phone: 510-526-1727, email:
Carol@CarolKinseyGoman, or through her website: www.CarolKinseyGoman.com.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2015-06-05 09:00:27 in Personal Articles