Telltale Signs You’re Being Lied To
In The Adventures of Pinocchio, the wooden puppet’s nose grows when he tells a lie. In real life, the clues may be more subtle, but experts say that they’re there if you know what to look for. If you’re earning a master’s in psychology, or using your psychology degree in your career, you may want to sharpen your lie-detecting skills.
“Trained lie-spotters get to the truth 90% of the time,” says author, consultant, and speaker Pamela Meyer in “How to Spot a Liar,” her TED Talk that’s attracted more than 33 million views.1 Meyer, who’s been called “the nation’s best-known expert on lying,” says if you want to improve your lie-spotting skills, you should watch for “patterns of deception” in speech and body language.1
Listening for Lies
Does it sound like someone is lying to you? You may be right. Experts like Meyer say you can often find telltale signs in a person’s word choice, speech patterns, and vocal quality.
“Studies show that people who are overdetermined in their denial will resort to formal rather than informal language,” Meyer says in her TED Talk.1
For example, a person who’s lying may not use contractions, and that can sound more formal than usual. A co-worker who’s fibbing may say, “I did not take your bagel” instead of the more casual, “I didn’t take your bagel.”
Other clues to watch for:
- Distancing: “We know that liars will unconsciously distance themselves from their subject,” Meyer says.1 The co-worker is doing that when, rather than using his colleague’s name, he says to the boss, “I told that woman I did not take her bagel.”
- Qualifying language: Statements like “in all honesty” or “to tell you the truth” can be other telltale signs you’re being lied to. Now, it’s also true that many people use phrases like these innocently enough in conversation. But given their potential association with dishonesty, Meyer says it’s best to avoid them.1
- Questionable content: “Ask a deceptive person to tell their story, they’re going to pepper it with way too much detail in all kinds of irrelevant places,” Meyer says.1
- Vocal characteristics: People who are lying may sound tense, and their voices may be more high-pitched than usual.2 Some may adopt a deeper tone.1
What Lying Looks Like
The face is a good place to start when trying to determine if someone is lying. But it can be tricky.
According to psychologist and researcher Dr. Paul Ekman, human faces transmit brief messages that indicate deceit. It takes training to learn to detect and read what he calls micro expressions, which are usually visible for half a second or less. Generally, he says, faked emotional expressions are asymmetrical.3
If you want to learn how to spot a liar through body language cues, Meyer says to “throw your assumptions out the door. … Because we think liars fidget all the time. Well, guess what? They’re known to freeze their upper bodies when they’re lying.”1
A University of Michigan study found that people who were lying shared these behaviors:4
- Scowling or grimacing
- Maintaining eye contact
- Raised eyebrows
- Gesturing with both hands
While experts’ findings, theories, and processes may be different, they do seem to agree that lie detection is not foolproof.
“These behaviors are just behaviors,” Meyer says to the TED audience. “They're not proof of deception. They're red flags. We're human beings. We make deceptive flailing gestures all over the place all day long. They don't mean anything in and of themselves. But when you see clusters of them, that’s your signal.”1
“When it comes to signs of lying, we need to be careful to avoid what I have called Othello’s error,” Ekman writes on his website. “He mistakenly assumed that Desdemona’s expression of fear was the reaction of a woman caught in betrayal. He failed to understand that emotions do not tell you their cause. The fear of being disbelieved looks the same as the fear of being caught.”5
Earn an MS in Psychology Online
Deepen your knowledge of human behavior by earning a master’s degree in psychology. Career fields with a psychology degree include business, education, government, healthcare, social work, and more.
Walden University’s online MS in Psychology degree program features a general program and multiple specializations that let you tailor your studies to your career goals. You can choose specializations that include Digital Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Social Psychology. The Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) specialization can prepare you to work with children and adults on the autism spectrum.
Walden also offers an online Bachelor of Psychology degree program. You can follow a general program or customize your studies by choosing one of six concentrations. These include Addiction, Child and Adolescent Development, Criminal Justice, and Forensic Psychology.
If you’re a working professional ready to earn a psychology master’s or bachelor’s degree, you may find that Walden’s online programs can make your dream a reality. Walden designs its online degree programs for adult learners who want to earn a degree while staying active in their personal and professional activities. The accredited university’s online learning platform allows you to study on your own time and from anywhere you choose. All you need is an internet connection.
An MS in Psychology can help you advance your career. A BS in Psychology can help you prepare for a new career. Both can help you expand your opportunities, and horizons.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online MS in Psychology degree program to help you meet your professional goals. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
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