Catching a Lie: How to become a Human Lie Detector?

Everybody lies. It’s a universal human characteristic. Whether you’re a good person who’ll tell a lie not to hurt your friend’s feelings, to a cheating spouse, to spies and superheroes, we lie. But we all wish no one would lie to us. You’re here because you’re one of those people who hate being lied to and want to know how to become a human lie detector.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a lie is a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive. People lie for a variety of reasons, sometimes with nefarious intentions and other times with wholesome intentions. It could be to maintain a secret, to protect someone from harm, to protect someone’s self-esteem from getting hurt, to avoid punishment, to lead someone astray, to damage someone, etc.

All lies are not the same, there are different types of lies. Here are a few:

  • Omission– Half truths, when one tells the truth but leave out important points.
  • Bluff– Pretending to have or not have something.
  • Exaggeration– Stretching the truth.
  • Perjury– Lying under oath or affirmation in a court of law. A serious felony.
  • White lie– Minor lie that gives comfort to the recipient. If you plan on living among other people in a society, you’re going to have to commit this lie many times.
  • Bold-Face– an obvious and unbelievable lie
  • Fabrication– giving a statement as true despite not knowing whether or not it actually is true.
  • Noble lie– told when the overall benefit of having a lie is greater on a grander scale than knowing the truth (e.g. Ozymandias’ plan at the end of Watchmen).

And the list goes on. These are some signals liars give off when lying. Pick up on these signals and you have a good chance of spotting a liar.

  1. Avoid answering your question by deflecting it with a truth. E.g. Q.”Did you take my hot dog?” A.”I hate hot dogs, why would I take yours.”
  2. Stiff body movements and gestures. Kept close to body
  3. More than average sweating. (Could also be a sign of nervousness from shyness/diffidence)
  4. Too much information. Telling too much may be a desperate attempt to get you to believe them.
  5. Unusual eye movement. This doesn’t mean avoid eye contact. Truthful people also avoid eye contact from time to time. Right handed people usually look to the left when coming up with a lie and reverse with left-handed people.
  6. Verbal and facial expressions are mismatched.
  7. Liars usually go on the defensive when asked a question. They want to convince you of their “honesty”.
  8. Liars might look away or put an object between you when asked a question
  9. Lies come either very quickly (as they were already thinking of the “answer” before you asked) or very slowly (as they are having a quick mental review and coming up with the lie)
  10. Liars tend to use your exact words and phrases in the answer (e.g. Q.”Did you sleep with my man” A.”No, I did not sleep with your man.”)
  11. Speaking monotone
  12. Using no pronouns or contractions
  13. Avoiding direct answers (like politicians)
  14. Joking around with the subject to lower the tension
  15. Their responses are usually emotionally vapid, don’t resonate emotionally because liars are always trying to convince you using logic and reason, not emotion.

These are some tips on how to trap a liar:

  • Ask leading questions. Questions that suggests the answer or contains the information the examiner is looking for. 98% yes or no answers and are never open ended. Not loaded questions (i.e implicit assumptions.)
  • Allow awkward silences into the conversation. A liar will become unnerved
  • Listen to the tone of their voice. High or shifting pitched voice are a good tell tale sign the person is fibbing.
  • Change the subject suddenly. A honest person will be confused, but a liar will be relieved the interrogation is over.

Now while all these points can help you become a human lie detector, don’t forget that everyone is different as are the ways they tell a lie or a truth. There is no silver bullet, though knowing a person well enough gives you the advantage of knowing his/her characteristics.

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