How To Catch A Liar
If someone tells you that he ran away to hide after hearing a gunshot, would you believe him? Definitely not, says one federal agent. Forming such tentative conclusion from such a simple testimony is a matter of gaining behavioral insights.
Like crime investigators, an average person can also systematically judge the truthfulness of a statement or action by following these rules.
Look for inconsistencies
Going back at the aforementioned testimony, the said investigator immediately doubted the credibility of the witness. Why? After hearing a gunshot, it’s a human instinct to look first at the source of shooting. The crime investigator found it hard to believe someone who recounted running away without taking a look first at the origin of the gunshot.
This basic technique of finding loopholes in a testimony entails knowledge of human behavior. Ask yourself “Did this person act normally? Is his story logical?” If not, it is more likely than not that he is just fabricating a story to hide something.
But an individual’s action may deviate from what is deemed normal or predictable. Taking this into consideration, the above investigator waited until the witness was not paying attention. He banged the table suddenly to see the initial response of the witness. As he predicted, the witness promptly looked at the table, thus confirming the investigator’s suspicion. Sure enough, his suspicion turned out to be right.
Ask questions that are least likely to be anticipated by a skilled liar
It is estimated that 4% of the population are good at lying. A good liar will come up with a detailed story to which he will refer to create a consistent testimony. The key is to catch them off guard. Asking the unexpected will push a liar off his fabricated story, enabling you to catch loopholes in his testimony.
Look for deviations from established behavior
There is a good reason to be suspicious if a person who is known to be anxious suddenly acts calm, or if someone who tends to be calm starts acting anxiously under circumstances in which he is expected to act otherwise.
Examine facial expressions
Many people cannot fake smile. A person who smiles at a wrong time or holds his grin for too long is likely to be pretending. A fake smile may also come along with contrasting emotions like anger. Also pay attention to the opening and stretching of lips. You can tell if someone is faking his smile if the opening of his lips looks constrained.
Listen to your instinct
You feel that someone is lying though you cannot exactly pinpoint signs that prompt your suspicion. You may develop these gut reactions when you notice deviations from true emotions.
Look for microexpressions
Liars try it hard to conceal their emotion. Outwit them by looking for microexpressions, which are brief facial expressions that normally last about a 25th of a second.
Microexpressions reveal concealed emotions. Someone who is hiding his anger, happiness, fear or anxiety will subconsciously manifest his true feelings through a brief facial expression that vanishes in a blink of an eye. Microexpressions are barely noticeable but can be identified by an external observer.
An average person cannot recognize microexpressions 99% of the time. However, the learning curve can be as short as an hour.
Look for contradictions
Look for contradictions between voice and words, voice and gesture, words and gestures, and words and facial expressions. Liars are likely to subconsciously mismatch their gestures with their statements. For instance, an affirmative statement may be uttered with the head shaking sideways rather than up and down.
Looks for signs of uneasiness
If someone is anxious and is acting in a manner that deviates from his established behavior, chances are he’s lying. Signs of uneasiness may include failure to establish eye contact or excessive sweating.
Examine how detailed a testimony is
A long and detailed response to a simple question may indicate that the respondent had conceived a complicated web of lies. For instance, when asked “Where have you been?,” the lying respondents may say something like “I need eggs and milk so I went to store and along the I way I almost hit a dog, so I slowed down.”
Know what may prompt people to lie
Knowing when someone is telling the truth is more important than looking for signs of lies because people may be mistaken as liar for telling the truth.
Another good reason to know the truth amid lies is that it uncovers the motives of lying. The above lie-detection guidelines do not give clues as to the reason of lying. Microexpressions just reveal hidden emotions, but they won’t tell you why a person is lying.
Knowing the reason behind a lie requires social-emotional intelligence. You must become a people expert to interpret and use microexpressions better.
Being suspicious has both upsides and downsides. When you are attentive to signs of lying, you are less likely to be misled. However, being suspicious at all time is obviously not a good philosophy. On the other hand, being trusting makes you a better friend or parent, but such behavior will leave you vulnerable to deception.