Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Lying is an unfortunate aspect of human life that we all engage in and suffer through. Lying can be used as a defense mechanism to protect ourselves or someone we care about from harm. Nothing can destroy trust, and ultimately relationships, like a lie. Whether it is big or small, it can be devastating to any relationship at any stage. So how do we know who to trust? How do we know if we are being lied to?

There is no one concrete answer for this. Not even a polygraph test is 100% accurate. Many people have hypothesized that things such as sweating, rapid eye movements, or fidgeting can be signs of a lie; but these are generally misnomers. These are usually brought on by extreme stress or discomfort in the situation. In poker, you try to find your opponents “tell,” a movement or sign to tell whether they are bluffing or not. An old adage states that you are not playing the cards; you are playing the man across from you. So what are people’s “tells?” Are there any signs to tell if a person is lying?

A meta-analysis of dozens of studies shows that there are in fact some cues that can indicate a possible lie. One is the length it takes for a person to respond to a question. If it takes an inordinate amount of time for someone to answer a question and the answer is extremely vague, then they are probably lying. Also, if a person seems indifferent when posed with a tough question, then they could be “playing it cool” which ultimately could be lying. Lying is hard work. So if someone starts “thinking hard” about a question, then they may be cultivating a lie. Furthermore, if a person is being uncooperative, they could be trying to conceal something.

Unless you intend to waterlog or torture someone, you can never be 100% sure if they are telling the truth or not. Using these tips can help increase the odds of you detecting a lie. The best way to detect a lie is to follow your instincts. When presented with a situation, it seems that following your gut is a better way to uncover a lie than any other method.

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Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

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