July 21, 2017

Spotting Lies, Doubts & Assumptions

So how do we know when someone is lying?

Spotting lies is one of the primary reasons why we all research body language, and also the hardest aspect of body language analysis to master.  However just like most things in life, it can be a skill conquered with dedication and time.

body language, spotting lies, lie detection

Before discussing how to spot a lie, we must first look at what a lie actually is.  The simple cases are in regards to denying major crimes, but the less obvious ones include being polite to prevent hurting someone’s feelings, or mildly exaggerating to make a story sound better.

And sometimes the lies are assumptions for missing pieces of information in a story.

Now with bearing this in mind, you can understand why lie detection is no easily acquired skill.

10 Indicators of deceit

We have listed some useful indicators below which alone mean nothing, but together can suggest some kind of deceit is taking place. We also recommend reading ‘The need to know basics of body language’ before proceeding to this one.

1. Slowed Speech

If you see your friend become suddenly slower in their time frame between words.Also bear in mind that your friend is not just ‘slow’.The time frame between words also include statements such as ‘ummmm and ahhhh.

2. Stuttering

If your friend turns into an instant stutterer upon the presence of certain subjects, it could indicate a hidden emotion.It could even be as innocent as having crush on the person been spoken about.

3. Changed hand movements

When we talk we move our arms in two types of ways, Illustrators and Manipulators. We use Illustrators to describe what we are talking about to visually present our points. Manipulators however are when we use our hands to touch our neck, or face when we feel anxiety. There are two reason for our hands going near our face. The first is a result of our Autonomic Nervous System, which are involuntary bodily movements, which for example activate a range of sensors including our neck and nose itchy triggers while feeling anxiety.The second reason is that we do it as a form of emblem, to symbolically block what you are saying or hearing.

Therefore if a subject arises which results in a decrease in Illustrators, and an increase in manipulators it could suggest deceit.

4. Micro expressions

This is the most accurate, but unfortunately the hardest method to spot a liar. If you refer to the micro expression page you will learn how to tell people feelings in regards to certain subjects and colleagues.

If someone in a groups passes wind, and you find the group playing the “who farted game” look at everyone’s faces.The guilty party will flash micro expressions of both fear and happiness as everyone else will flash disgust.  Note these expressions will only be flashed for 1/25 of a second, and usually can only be spotted with training.

5. Conflicting body movements

Contradictions in body language is a great method for spotting hidden lies. If John Smith stated “I have absolute respect and admiration for Jane Smith” while shaking his head horizontally, I would believe that John Smith was such a big liar, that his pants were on fire.

A more subtle example however would be a speaker pointing his finger, but not looking at where the finger is beating the point down.This suggests that there is a hidden agenda for making the points, and that the finger is serving as a decoy.Even our subconscious bodies seem to have read the Art Of War.

6. Vocal frequency

For most people you will need a microphone and a lab to be able to detect these changes in a voice. However note how I did not say all people. I remember when playing against my friends in the board game “Risk” one of my Friends noticed a change in my vocal tone from when I played the board game to everyday conversations. I quickly figured out that “risk” (a board game of deceit and manipulation), activated my lying voice.

This came back to haunt me in social situations as he would point out my “Risk” voice to present that I am in fact telling porkies..

7. Simplicity

As mentioned in our upcoming ebook The “Liar Trap”, a liar hates being in the spot light. And those that hate being in the spot light tend to avoid details and keep their stories simple. On that note this is a very good indicator for spotting a person telling the truth. If they make corrections and or make references on their personal life (for example saying “a block away from my house” instead of “Smith Street”) I would bet that the character is been honest.

8. Eye Contact

Do not believe the myth that a Liar looks away. In fact quite the opposite is true that more often Liars hold strong eye contact to contradict the earlier myth, and also to see if their lie is fooling anyone. In my esteemed personal humble grand opinion, eyes are often a waste of time as there are so many non deceit related factors that determine if a colleague will look you in the eye while talking.

9. Time Travellers

If you notice a colleague changing between future and past tense on a regular basis, it would suggest that some part of their story is fiction.

For example

I did not steal your newspaper, and I do not have it hidden anywhere as opposed to “I did not steal your newspaper and I did not hide it anywhere”.

10. Rigid repetition

Back in my single days the boys would quote me pick up lines, that they never actually seemed to use in front of girls they were interested in (ironic right). Anyway the nature of a pick up line is a safe statement that projects everything you want and don’t want to communicate.The same principal applies for a lie. We all remember Bill Clinton, when he repeated the same line “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” for a range of different questions.

So there you go detective, and listed below are some exercises you can do to improve your ability to spot them.

1) The first exercise is the 5 facts game which you can play with friends.

Ask them to tell them 5 things about themselves, 4 of which are true, and one of which is a lie. You will probably get your first few guesses incorrect but the more you practise the better you will get at it.

2) The other exercise which I recommend doing is to watch TV until you spot one lie in an interview (News, Reality TV, Documentary). As you spot more and more increase your quota before allowing yourself to turn off the TV.

ANS and the polygraph

Autonomic Nervous System

Our ANS system is our body’s automatic reaction to emotions that are out of our control.These are heart rate, breathing rate, and sweating.  The Polygraph machine prints spikes in the graph chart every time there is a spike in emotion.  If however you don’t have a polygraph you can spot these by scratches to the face, and back of neck, and chance in vocal frequency.


The polygraph measures changes in our breathing, blood pressure and sweating to detect lies.However the Polygraph is very vulnerable to the Othello error, where it will only detect what the spike in emotion is, and not the source of emotion.

Therefore the machine is somewhat flawed in its use which is why its results are not tangible as evidence for any court of law.In saying this however, the Polygraph still gives investigators a head start as it is accurate roughly 80% of the time in lab tests.And the biggest benefit of a polygraph takes effect before a subject is even connected to it.And that benefit is that a person on it will be more likely to tell the truth as they believe that their lies will be transparent, and also a refusal to take it indicates the subject has something to hide.

In our upcoming E Book the Lie Trap, we will discuss the questioning techniques one can use to see who’s pants are on fire.  If you still would like to learn more consider Telling Lies by Paul Ekman and also What Everybody is saying by former FBI agent Joe Navarro.