Don’t Be Taken for a Fool—Become a Human Lie Detector by the End of this Article

“Any lie is moot until it has a recipient who has agreed to believe it. A lie has no power whatsoever by its mere utterance.” –Pamela Meyer, lie-detection expert

As my tens of readers know, I only write blogs on here when I’m angry, and I’m sick and tired of everyone defaulting to believing most of the words that come out of their fellow human’s mouths, when that can be at a great risk to your safety, finances, or sanity.

Statistics vary but concur that all humans lie (including lies of varying extremes) at least one to two times per day (and as much as ten), but one study found that people lie at least once during just ten minutes of conversation, usually two to three lies per ten minutes. This doesn’t surprise me given how much we tell ourselves in our head that isn’t necessarily true, over and over, all day long. We’re not naturally wired to internally or externally tell the exact state of affairs at all times.

On the flip side, we are biologically wired to believe that people’s outsides are a reasonably accurate reflection of their insides. We assume a tall man with big muscles will be fearless in a dangerous situation. We assume a gorgeous woman is confident in gaining attraction and admiration. However, we can attest from our experiences that what we see on the outside is often a far cry from a person’s inner world, and yet our biology keeps overruling that, making us want to believe what we see from people.

So take a few minutes and learn to look and listen a little closer. Lying is not that hard to spot and this skill can be invaluable to every part of day-to-day life.

“Why in the world wouldn’t we want to understand when people are not being genuine with us?” –Brett DiNovi, lie-detection expert

[Remember- ideally you would have a baseline for the person you’re observing, and just one of these behaviors isn’t a 100% indication of deception—look for clusters of the signs.]

Physical Signs of Lying

Duping Delight

This is one of my favorites. It is smiling or other positive facial expressions—sometimes flashing for less than a second—that reveal the person’s unconscious pleasure of “getting away with it.” You’ll start to see it now that you know about it. Here are some screenshots of people smiling while either saying or hearing back something where they’re being deceptive:

From top left to bottom right: Amanda Knox, Chris Watts, Lance Armstrong, Diane Downs, Catfish S7E34: Taylor, Jade, Austin

It’s easiest to see on TV when you can pause the frame, but if someone’s ever telling you something and you’re like, “This isn’t funny!” or “Why are they smiling?”…note that!

Blocking Mouth / Touching Face

A person will often talk while covering or touching their mouth, lips, or near that part of their face. The theory is that the body is subconsciously trying to prevent the lies from coming out of your mouth.

Lance Armstrong, John Edwards, Translucent Ghost Man

You might also see more touching of the face and hair in general—an increase in nervous tics or “grooming gestures” under stress.

Signs of Fight or Flight Response

Look for signs of the body’s natural fight or flight response due to the stress of lying, such as: sweating, increased thirst, swallowing, licking lips.

Chris Watts, Brett Kavanaugh

[But remember, fidgeting is not inherently a sign of lying!]

Nodding/Shaking Head

This is definitely not fool-proof, but it can be a fun one if you need a tie-breaker. The head can have “a mind of its own” when our concentration is on other things, which means people can end up nodding “Yes” even while saying the word “No.” Again it’s not going to work every time, but when someone subconsciously has this conflicting gesture, it can be a very obvious sign of lying.

Verbal Signs of Lying

Certain phrases and tones are good keys to deceptions (when seen in clusters!!), and incredibly easy to spot!

Overemphasizing Truthfulness

Listen for phrases such as these, qualifying language or calling out their own character, which are often used by people who are being deceptive:

  • “To tell you the truth…”
  • “Honestly…”
  • “I swear to you…”
  • “To be perfectly honest with you…”
  • “I swear to god…”
  • “Ask [so-and-so], I told them…” or “they will tell you…”
  • “I’m not the kind of person who…”

Verbal Attacking / Hostility / Inappropriate Attitude for Situation

An honest person will have no reason not to be helpful and cooperative in a conversation. They will often be willing to brainstorm and be otherwise contributing in a conversation. Acting flippant, hostile, defensive, etc., can definitely be a sign that they are lying.

Buying Time

Because the person has to make up a response rather than drawing from the truth, which is easier, they need more time. This may manifest as:

  • Repeating the question verbatim
  • Saying “What?” but then answering the question without needing to hear it again
  • Diverting you by answering your question with a question
  • Not directly answering the question

There are many, many more behaviors to look for in clusters, so if this interests you, definitely keep informing yourself. The signs in this article are the easiest to remember, most straightforward to notice, and can be the hardest for an average liar to cover up.

Keep Lie-Spotting:

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Stop taking everything for granted…it’s time to rethink the structures within which we live: heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, relationship ideals, etc.