Lie-detection

How to know if someone is lying  

Instructions 

There is one video and one test

Watch the video and then take the test

There is a transcript of the video at the bottom of the page

TRANSCRIPT

LISA: JOHN, HOW DO YOU KNOW IF SOMEONE IS LYING TO YOU?

JOHN: THERE ARE SEVERAL INDICATORS. SUPPOSE YOU ASK SOMEONE A QUESTION AND WHEN HE ANSWERS IT, HE SQUIRMS AND LOOKS SIDE TO SIDE. THAT MEANS THAT HE IS NOT BEING FORTHCOMING.

LISA: THAT MAKES SENSE.

JOHN: PEOPLE ARE RELUCTANT TO OUTRIGHT LIE. THEY PREFER TO EVADE, AND THE BEHAVIORS JUST DESCRIBED ARE AS LIKELY TO ACCOMPANY A FAILURE TO ANSWER AS THEY ARE TO ACCOMPANY A FALSE ANSWER. BUT EVASIVE BEHAVIORS AND LIES GO HAND AND HAND, SINCE PEOPLE CANNOT COMPLETELY DODGE A QUESTION WITHOUT GIVING THEMSELVES AWAY AND THEY ARE THEREFORE REQUIRED TO GIVE SOME KIND OF A VERBAL RESPONSE TO YOUR QUESTION.

LISA: YOUR POINT BEING THAT A VERBAL RESPONSE THAT IS ACCOMPANIED BY SQUIRMING AND FIDGETING IS LIKELY TO BE A LIE. IS THAT RIGHT?

JOHN: YES IT IS. ALSO, IF THEY RESPOND NOT BY ANSWERING YOUR QUESTION BUT BY MAKING COUNTERACCUSATIONS OR OTHERWISE ADDRESSING RED HERRINGS, THEN THEY ARE PROBABLY LYING.

LISA: PLEASE CLARIFY.

JOHN: LET’S SAY YOU ASK SMITH IF HE STOLE YOUR MONEY. THE ACTUAL ANSWER IS EITHER ‘YES’  OR ‘NO.’ IF HE RESPONDS WITH A LECTURE ABOUT WHAT A MORAL PERSON HE IS OR ABOUT WHAT AN IMMORAL PERSON YOU ARE, THEN HE IS LYING.

LISA: THAT TRACKS. I HAVE FOUND THAT LIAS RESPOND WITH PERFORMANCES, AS OPPOSED TO ANSWERS. THEY PUT ON A SHOW. THEIR LEVEL OF EMOTION IS EXCESSIVE. THEY MAY USE UNNECESSAY PROFANITY OR SUPERFLUOUS GESTURES.

JOHN: EXACTLY. ALSO, PEOPLE WHO CANNOT ANSWER TRUTHFULLY WITHOUT INCRIMINATING THEMSELVES WILL DO EVERYTHING THEY CAN TO AVOID GIVING AN ANSWER. IF THE ANSWER THEY GIVE FOLLOWS A LONG SERIES OF ATTEMPTS TO STALL YOU OR DEFLECT YOUR INQUIRY, THEN THAT ANSWER IS PROBABLY A LIE.

LISA: WHAT ARE SOME OTHER INDICATIONS THAT SOMEONE IS LYING?

JOHN:  THROAT CLEARING AND SWALLOWING. IF THEY CLEAR THEIR THROAT AND SWALLOW BEFORE OR DURING THEIR RESPONSE, THAT RESPONSE IS PROBABLY A LIE.

LISA: THIS IS FASCINATING.

JOHN: AND IF THEY ENGAGE IN GROOMING BEHAVIORS, THEY ARE PROBABLY LYING.

LISA: YOU MEAN LIKE STROKING THEIR BEARD OR PLAYING WITH THEIR HAIR.

JOHN: EXACTLY. ANOTHER BIG TIP OFF IS THEIR POSTURE. LIARS OFTEN HAVE A BOLT UPRIGHT UNCOMFORTABLE POSTURE. AND THEY ARE LIKELY TO HAVE EXCESSIVE MUSCULAR TONICITY. THEY ARE LIKELY TO PURSE THEIR LIPS AND HAVE AN EXCESSIVELY TIGHT AND MASK-LIKE EXPRESSION.

 LISA: THAT’S INTERESTING.  

JOHN: THE LIAR’S AFFECT ALSO TENDS TO BE OFF. THEY ARE TELLING A HAPPY STORY BUT LOOK SAD OR THEY ARE TELLING A SAD STORY BUT LOOK HAPPY.

LISA: THAT MAKES SENSE.

JOHN: AND A LIE IS OFTEN PRECEDED BY A FLEETING MICRO-EXPRESSION THAT IS TOTALLY AT ODDS WITH THE TENOR OF THE STORY THAT FOLLOWS. YOU SUSPECT THAT SMITH SPENT HIS LUNCH-BREAK STEALING FROM YOU, AND YOU ASK HIM WHAT HE DID DURING LUNCH. HE MAY BRIEFLY LOOK EXTREMELY PERTURBED AND THEN SETTLE INTO A JOKE-FILLED STORY ABOUT HIS INNOCENT LUNCH-TIME ANTICS.

LISA:  SO THERE TENDS TO BE A LACK OF CONGRUENCE BETWEEN THE LIAR’S WORDS AND HIS BODY LANGUAGE.

JOHN: YES, AND IN SOME CASES THIS CAN BE QUITE BLATANT, AS WHEN THEY SAY YES WHILE SHAKING THEIR HEAD FOR EXAMPLE.

LISA: WE’VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT BODY LANGUAGE. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ACTUAL CONTENT OF THE LIAR’S STATEMENTS? FOR EXAMPLE, IS THERE ANYTHING DISTINCTIVE ABOUT HIS WORD CHOICE OR SYNTAX?

JOHN: YES. FIRST OF ALL, UNNECESSARY DETAILS ARE VOLUNTEERED AND NECESSARY ONES ARE OMITTED. LIARS WILL OFTEN LINGER ON INCIDENTAL POINTS AND GO INTO GREAT DETAIL ABOUT THEM, WHILE PROVIDING ONLY VERY SCHEMATIC INFORMATION ABOUT ESSENTIALS.

LISA: PLEASE CLARIFY.

JOHN: SUPPOSE YOU SUSPECT SMITH TO HAVE STOLEN MONEY OUT OF YOUR DESK WHILE YOU WERE AT LUNCH. YOU ASK HIM WHAT HE DID DURING LUNCH. AFTER VARIOUS EVASIONS, HE TELLS YOU THAT HE WENT TO A RESTAURANT. BUT HE DOESN’T GIVE YOU THE NAME OF THE RESTAURANT. OR HE DOESN’T MENTION WHAT HE ATE THERE. OR HOW MUCH IT COST. OR WHETHER HE LIKED IT. BUT HE DOES TALK AT LENGTH ABOUT THE HOMELESS PERSON WHOM HE PASSED ON THE WAY TO HIS RESTAURANT.

LISA: WHAT IS THAT ABOUT?

JOHN: THE PERSON DOES HAVE DETAILED AND ACCURATE INFORMATION ABOUT A HOMELESS PERSON, BUT THAT INFORMATION IS DERIVED FROM ANOTHER OCCASION. MAYBE HE HAD AN ENCOUNTER WITH A HOMELESS PERSON LAST WEEK. HE IS LOOKING FOR ANY OPPORTUNITY TO INJECT LIFE-LIKE DETAILS TO INTO HIS FALSE STORY SO AS TO GIVE IT CREDIBILITY.

LISA: AND THE ABSENCE OF RELEVANT DETAILS REFLECTS THE FACT THAT THEY DID NOT GO TO THE RESTAURANT IN QUESTION.

JOHN: CORRECT. ANOTHER INDICATION THEY ARE GIVING YOU A MADE-UP STORY IS THAT THEY SELF-CORRECT. THEY GET MID WAY THROUGH A SENTENCE, THEN STOP, THEN START A NEW SENTENCE. THEY ARE LIKELY TO USE SENTENCE FRAGMENTS INSTEAD OF ACTUAL SENTENCES.

LISA: THIS IS ILLUMINATING.

JOHN: ALSO, WHEN SOMEONE’S STORY IS A LIE, PHRASES OR CONCEITS ARE REPEATED IN AN ALMOST RITUALISTIC MANNER. THEY WILL REPEATEDLY MENTION ‘THE BALL GAME’ OR ‘THE SASSY WAITRESS’ OR THE ‘PEACH COBBLER FROM HEAVEN.’ IN A TRUTHFUL STORY, SUCH EXPRESSIONS MAY COME UP AND THEY MAY EVEN BE USED MORE THAN ONCE. BUT IF THEY RECUR WITH RHYTHMIC CONSISTENCY, THEN WHAT YOU ARE HEARING IS A FABRICATION.

LISA: WHAT IS THAT ABOUT JOHN?

JOHN: THEY ARE TRYING TO CONSTRUCT A SCENARIO IN THEIR MINDS AND ACTUALLY MAKE THEMSELVES HALF BELIEVE IT. SO THEY ARE SEIZING ON SOME REALISTIC SEEMING DETAIL AND USING IT AS A WAY OF ANCHORING THEIR PHONY STORY IN REALITY.

LISA:  SO THE CONCEIT BEING REPEATED IS LIKE A NAIL AND THE REPETITION IS A WAY OF HAMMERING THAT NAIL DOWN.

JOHN: WELL PUT. A RELATED FACT IS THAT LIES INVOLVE EXCESSIVE USE OF UNDEFINED PRONOUNS. IN A LIE, ‘HE’ AND ‘SHE’ AND ‘THEY’ REPEATEDLY OCCUR WITHOUT ANY INDICATION WHO THESE PRONOUNS REFER TO. AND THIS IS OFTEN COMPENSATED FOR WITH EXCESSIVE REFRENCES TO SPOTTY MIKE OR DISCO FREDDY.

LISA: I THINK I UNDERSTAND. THE UNDEFINED PRONOUNS HAPPEN WHEN THE PERSON IS CONCOCTING THEIR STORY, AND THE REPEATED REFERENCES TO DISCO FREDDY OR SPOTTY MIKE HAPPEN AFTER THEY HAVE STARTED OUT TO FILL OUT THEIR STORY WITH SOME CHARACTERS.  

JOHN: THAT’S RIGHT. AND MADE UP STORIES TEND TO BE LITTERED WITH VAGUE ALLUSIONS TO INSIDE INFORMATION AND INSIDE JOKES. LIARS OFTEN USE SUGGESTIVE BUT VAGUE EXPRESSIONS THAT PUT THE BURDEN OF PROOF ON THE OTHER PERSON’S SHOULDERS. THEY REPEATEDLY SAY ‘YOU KNOW’, SUGGESTING THAT THEY HAVE GIVEN YOU INFORMATION WHEN IN ACTUALITY THEY HAVE NOT DONE SO.

LISA: YES, I KNEW A SERIAL LIAR WHOSE STORIES WERE ALWAYS LOADED WITH WINKS AND NODS AND ALLUSIONS, BUT IT WAS NEVER MADE CLEAR WHAT THOSE ALLUSIONS ACTUALLY REFERRED TO.

JOHN: RIGHT. BUT MOST PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO ADMIT THAT THEY ARE IGNORANT, AND THEY WOULD RATHER PRETEND TO BE IN THE KNOW THAN CONTINUE WITH THEIR LINE OF INQUIRY.

LISA: CAN ALL OF THIS BE SUMMED UP IN A SINGLE SENTENCE?

JOHN: YES DEFENSIVE RESPONSIVE ARE LIES. NON-LIES ARE NON-DEFENSIVE.