When sprinter Oscar Pistorius, charged with murdering his girlfriend, took to the witness stand in self-defense, we were forced to do the impossible: separate truth from untruth. Is he lying, as he describes shooting Reeva Steenkamp through a closed bathroom door? Or was he, as he says, legitimately frightened, and protecting her from an intruder? To tell the truth, it’s awful hard to catch a liar — or to even know if someone is telling the truth. The best estimate, based on hundreds of studies, is that people can spot a liar 54 percent of the time — a ratio that amounts to pure chance.
People lie all the time. According to one study, men lie at least six times every day!
Despite how frequently fibs are told, spotting a liar is not always easy.
Many experts agree that a combination of body language and other cues can provide hints on whether someone is telling a truth or a lie.
Lies are inevitable, but getting duped isn’t. When you’re in the presence of a liar, you can often uncover the truth by paying attention to very specific nonverbal cues. You just need to ask the right questions and observe their body language to catch them in the act.
How To Lie: The Linguistic Difference Between True And False Statements
Understanding the language of lying may help you avoid being taken advantage from in the future.
Let’s face it, being lied to is not fun. Those more susceptible to lies are in greater danger of being taken advantage of, and this can leave us emotionally, physically, and financially hurt. Unfortunately, there’s no one way to figure out if a person is lying or not, but there are some clues to look out for that can point you in the right direction.
In his TED-Ed talk, Noah Zandan, founder and CEO of Qualified Communications, a company dedicated to improving the way people interact, shared some useful hints to decipher a lie from the truth. According to Zandan, when we lie we subconsciously change our speech pattern. Researchers have found that stories based on imagined experiences are linguistically different from those based on real experiences. Here are some of the biggest differences to look for.
Liars Don’t Like To Refer To Themselves
“Which sentence sounds more false?” Zandan asks in the video. “‘Absolutely no party took place at this house’ or ‘I didn’t host a party here’?”
If you agree that the latter sounds more truthful, that’s because liars tend to dissociate themselves from their false statements.
Liars Tend To Be Negative
Although, by nature, liars lie, they often do feel guilty about their deceptive stories. According to Zandan, this comes out linguistically in their inclination toward negative phrasing. For example, a lie may be, “Sorry, my stupid phone battery died. I hate that thing.”
Simple Terms But Complicated Language
Since our brains struggle to build a complex liar, Zandan explains that liars will tend to explain events in simple terms. However, although they may have trouble coming up with an in-depth story, they will often tell their lie in convoluted wording, adding completely unnecessary detail.
Liars use their index finger to rub just underneath their nose.
“This sign is usually exhibited by individuals who don’t typically lie, so they feel remorse,” . “Immediately after they speak, They will touch their face in a way that slightly hides their mouth. It’s as though they can’t believe what just came out of there.”
Listen To Voice Pitch
When you lie, the pitch of your voice rises ever so slightly. Research suggests an increase in voice pitch is a good indicator that someone’s being deceptive — but it’s difficult to spot. If you know what their voice normally sounds like, and when they answer a tricky question their voice sounds higher than usual, something may be amiss.
Make Them Say it In Reverse
This technique is often used by the police. They will ask someone to give a version of events. Then they will ask them to go back to their story and repeat the events — but in reverse order. If they’re making it up, that’s much more difficult.
H0w Quickly Do They Answer
We call this one ‘response latency’ and it means that, because it takes a lot of brainpower to concoct a lie, there may be a time lag between you asking a question and the other person answering.