Natasha Lyonne’s Charlie Cale in the TV series, Poker Face, is a talented poker player who possesses a unique ability to tell when people are lying. This skill has helped her to win millions of dollars in high-stakes poker games and throughout the show storyline, helps her solve mysteries – even when most people don’t even realize a crime has been committed.
In real life, humans are complex, and individuals can be skilled at hiding the truth, even from experienced lie detectors. But there are methods you can implement so that, with practice, you can tell if someone is lying or not.
One of the key elements in identifying a lie is to understand the context in which the lie is being told. People may lie for various reasons, including to avoid punishment, to gain an advantage, or to protect their ego. Understanding the motivation behind the lie can help identify inconsistencies in the story or behavior. The first step in detecting a lie is to consider the context of the statement made.
Another important factor to consider is the individual’s baseline behavior. A change in behavior can be an indication of lying, but this change needs to be compared to their usual behavior. Some people may exhibit nervous behavior, such as fidgeting or sweating when they are in a high-pressure situation, and this does not necessarily mean they are lying. Study how the person behaves in general, not just when you suspect they are lying.
It is also important to pay attention to the tone and pitch of the individual’s voice. Changes in tone or pitch can be an indication of lying. For example, a person may speak at a higher pitch when they are lying. You can first establish a person’s regular speech patterns and mannerisms by asking straightforward questions before moving on to more challenging ones
When someone says one thing, but their body language suggests something else, it may indicate deception. Non-congruent gestures are movements that don’t match the words a person says and can reveal whether they are being truthful or not. An extreme example would be a person shaking their head “yes” when they say “no”.
Anxiety can cause people to withdraw blood from their extremities, leading to excessive fidgeting as a way to calm their response or get blood flowing back to their extremities. Liars may rock back and forth, shuffle their feed, or play with their hair while they speak. This is the body taking over telling you that the liar is uncomfortable and nervous. It shows you that they want to leave the situation; they want to walk away.
Standing too still
While it’s well-known that people tend to fidget when nervous, it’s also important to be wary of those who remain completely still. This could indicate the body’s primitive neurological response to “fight” rather than “flight,” where the body prepares itself for a possible confrontation. During a normal conversation, people tend to make subtle and unconscious movements. Thus, if someone remains motionless with a rigid and catatonic stance, it’s often a significant warning sign that something is amiss.
People tend to breathe heavily when lying, so pay attention to their breathing and posture. When their breathing changes, their shoulders will rise, and their voice may get shallow. In essence, they are out of breath because their heart rate and blood flow change. Your body experiences these types of changes when you’re nervous and feeling tense — when you lie.”
Pointing at or toward something or someone else may indicate a desire to shift focus off an individual and place blame onto someone else. Additionally, liars tend to use hand gestures after speaking, not before, as their minds are busy creating and adjusting their story. They are also more likely to gesture with their palms facing away from the listening (indicating they are holding back information).
Liars may make sudden head movements right before they are expected to respond to a question. The head may be retracted or jerked back, bowed down, or cocked or tilted to the side.
Liars tend to show emotions through microexpressions, so pay attention to tiny shifts in their face throughout the conversation.
A special note about the eyes
While eye contact can be considered an important aspect of truthfulness in some cultures, the notion that people look left or right when lying has been debunked. However, research has shown that many people lie while maintaining direct eye contact.
Still, some people may try to cover up a lie or hide their reaction to it by putting their hands over their eyes or mouths or even closing their eyes when telling a lie. Or they may blink their eyes rapidly.
Liars often deceive by omission, providing fewer details when asked to go beyond their prepared stories. Investigators use this method by analyzing interviews and looking for the absence of descriptive words in a conversation.
Speaking in fragmented sentences and repetition
Liars may also use phrases such as “I want to be honest with you” or “let me tell you the truth,” as well as fillers like “uh” and “um” to buy time to think. Liars tend to repeat words to drill them in your mind or to give themselves extra time to come up with a good lie.
Repeating questions before answering them
As a liar is building their story, they may prepare themselves in real-time by repeating the question.
Refusing to supply detailed information
Liars will refuse to supply detailed information since it is difficult to make up and remember details. If you ask for details, they may even get angry or frustrated.
Watch for contradictions
Look out for inconsistencies in their story. Liars tend to contradict themselves because they are fabricating a false narrative and struggle to keep all the details straight. They may backtrack and edit their story as they go and offer up irrelevant or unverifiable information as a way to distract from the lie.
Too much elaboration
If someone provides you with excessive and unsolicited information, including unnecessary details, there’s a high chance that they’re not telling the truth. Liars may try to deceive by stretching the truth with too many words, often adding excessive detail to convince themselves or others of what they are saying. They may also use more profanity and third-person pronouns to distance themselves from any first-person involvement. Liars tend to be long-winded, as they hope that by speaking at length and appearing forthcoming, they will convince others of their lies.
Touching or covering their mouth
A clear indication of lying is when an individual instinctively covers their mouth when they don’t want to address a matter or respond to a query. If adults place their hands over their lips, it typically implies that they’re concealing information and unwilling to be truthful. Essentially, they’re cutting off communication.