How to Spot a Liar


Everyone lies about something; white lies, which are those concocted to spare somebody’s feelings are not a big deal most of the time. The people, however, who are compelled to lie about anything big or small have a problem.

Some people lie to improve their image, to gain financially or they may lie in an effort to avoid punishment. What’s more troubling is that lying can get worse with the passage of time, because if the liar gets away with it the first time, it will cause him to make up more and more untruths to cover the previous lies. Paying attention to the sometimes-subtle clues can make an average person as adept at identifying dishonesty as criminal investigators.

Nonverbal Signals That Indicate Lying

The eyes are the windows to the soul, and there is no better place to start when attempting to uncover deception. Eye contact is a skill that compulsive liars will take lots of time to perfect, and for them, it may be fairly easy to deceive others.

In contrast, for those who are less experienced at lying, eye contact can be a tricky thing. Individuals who lie but know they won’t be caught tend hold the gaze of the interrogator far too long, as if staring into the eyes will break the concentration and convince the examiner of his or her innocence. Liars who are ashamed of their falsehoods will not make eye contact at all.

When a person lies and feels badly about it, or believes that he or she will be caught, there will be some noticeable physiological responses. The body will have an increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure and heightened respiration, all of which are reactions to fear. This physical change dates back to when early humans were hiding from large predators. How do the eyes come into play? To make the vision as sharp as possible, the pupils will dilate during times of stress. Liars may have massive pupils when they make eye contact.

Here are other nonverbal signs that, when performed in clusters, suggest that an individual is concealing the truth:

  • Bodily gestures will be limited and rigid;
  • Subjects will subconsciously place objects like books or pens between themselves and the accuser;
  • Smiles will be forced;
  • He or she will touch the mouth as if trying to prevent a lie from slipping out; and
  • Subjects will constantly glance towards doorways as a way of saying they want out.

Verbal Cues that Indicate Lying

When somebody lies and doesn’t want to get caught, these are the thoughts that would be going the mind simultaneously. First, the real truth must be remembered. Second, any previous lies that have already been told must be remembered. Third, new lies must be consistent with previous lies. Finally, the new lie should be easy to recall so it will be easier to lie down the road. That’s a lot to juggle at once. Failure to handle all of these mental tasks is frequently revealed in the clarity of verbal messages.

When the heat’s on, inexperienced liars will not have the ability to make up a story that fast. Here are some things to watch for:

  • Using distancing language, i.e. omitting first person pronouns and only using the third person;
  • Adding too few details because it’s hard to keep inconsistencies together;
  • Providing lots of unnecessary details to deflect attention away from the subject;
  • Using sarcastic humor to avoid talking about the subject; and
  • Taking an unnaturally long time to answer questions.

There will always be those who have perfected their deception skills, and they are not easy to catch. Recognizing a liar will take some time, but once somebody is trained to look for important facial clues, changes in speech and breathing patterns, lie detecting will be second nature.