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How to detect a liar - non-verbal signs!

Updated on March 2, 2012

Everyone knows what lying is; when a person does not tell the truth; when a person is intentionally making a statement to deceive others. According to DePaulo et al. (1997) people tell one or two lies per day. The act of lying is classified in several categories. For example, there is big lie, bluffing, white lie, perjury, noble lie, polite lie, fabrication, barefaced lie, etc. Although, most people execrate lying, it is one of the most common wrong acts. Usually people lie to get themselves out of problems. It’s the fear that telling the truth might bring bad consequences for them. Sometimes people like to exaggerate to improve their self-image in the eyes of their surroundings or to get social acceptance. There are many reasons, but the question is; how do you know when someone is lying.

Although to catch a liar is not impossible, it is not as easy as we think. Experts such as FBI agents, psychiatrists or police officers are generally better at it, but there is a study that shows no difference in the accuracy rates of experts and non-experts (Bon & DePaulo, 2006).

There are certain non-verbal cues that give liars away.

Voice pitch

Several studies have confirmed that when people are lying their voices become high. However, the difference in voice pitch can (usually) only be noticed if you know their normal voice pitch. Otherwise there is no certainty that the person is actually lying. Also, some people can be very calm when telling a lie and there voice pitch shows no fluctuations.

Speech errors and hesitations

Another indicator of lying is the frequency of speech errors. People make more speech errors, such as non-words (oh, erm), stuttering and stammering. Also, people give short responses with little detail, because coming up with a story takes more effort. They hesitate to give a proper reply and take breaks responding while thinking what to say next.

Eye movement

One of a popular sign that gives liars away is the movement of the eyes. Liars rarely look in the eye and tend to deny eye contact as much as possible. However, a practiced liar knows this sign too and will purposely make eye contact to seem more sincere.

Body movement

A study by Ekman and Friesen (1974) has shown that body gives many cues away that are related to the deception of a liar. The participants gave identified a liar less accurately when a videotape of the face was shown than when a videotape of the body was shown. This means that body movements is a great source to detect liars. In another study Ekman suggested that food movements are an important indicator. However, other studies claim that as with hand movement, foot movement actually decreases, because people try to control any parts of the body which may reflect nervousness.

These are just few clues that might help to identify a lie. However, bear in mind that it is not always as easy as it may sound. Also, just because someone shows these signs does not mean that the person is lying. So, in order to detect a liar it is important to keep your eyes and ears open and think logically.


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    • kayha profile image

      kayha 6 years ago

      Alocsin; thanks for taking the time to read and giving your comment.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Excellent advice -- detecting lies becomes a lot easier as you get older. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • kayha profile image

      kayha 6 years ago

      Yes, intuition is always a good indicator. Thanks for your comment.

    • suzzycue profile image

      Susan Britton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I agree there are too many liars in this world. I use a sixth sense, a liar can usually make you feel uncomfortable and when this happens ,I usually walk away before it gets out of control. Good hub!

    • kayha profile image

      kayha 6 years ago

      Eye say: thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • eye say profile image

      eye say 6 years ago from Canada

      good hub, there are too many liars in the world, I enjoyed reading it.

    • kayha profile image

      kayha 6 years ago

      Thanks Curiad and Dilip.

    • dilipchandra12 profile image

      Dilip Chandra 6 years ago from India

      Good hub, now we can know how to lie perfectly without being caught with the above signs, lolz... well written and useful information :) Voted UP

    • Curiad profile image

      Mark G Weller 6 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      Thank you for the useful Hub kayha. I think that lying is closely related to denial and the use of minimization.

      Voted Up!

    • kayha profile image

      kayha 6 years ago

      Thanks for reading.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 6 years ago from Virginia

      Interesting hub on lying.....I enjoyed reading your hub and liked how you included the studies....although they seem to have different theories...voted up and interesting.

    • kayha profile image

      kayha 6 years ago

      I am sorry you experienced this. It is very hard and frustrating when someone close to you is lying about something and doesn't see the damage being caused by this.

      I agree with your list. Thanks for sharing.

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 6 years ago from Pasadena CA

      I just experienced one of my brothers and my sister lying about a game of mine (sentimental to all of us) that suddenly showed up in my brother's possession. He said she gave it to him. She said she "absolutely had nothing to do with it whatsoever and didn't even know anything was going on."

      My sister had borrowed the game from me some months before and never returned it. When I'd followed up at that time she'd said, "I thought I gave it back to you. You must have misplaced it." And when I told her I'd looked carefully and it was not to be found she'd snapped, "Well I don't know where it is!" She didn't offer to look for it.

      My brother, once I let him know it was mine and I'd like it back, said he would send it . . . four times. Kept calling it "Dad's game," since it had belonged to our father ten years ago. Rather than have to see it as mine, he said he thought I meant there must be another game, although I'd been very clear. It ended in an ongoing argument, where they both accused me of making a big deal out of nothing and where he mocked me, said I was just like Mom and then just like Grandma (both pejoratives to him) and it was my fault that another brother doesn't come to family gatherings anymore. "It's just a game," they said. "Not now," I replied. "It's about honesty, trust, and mutual respect."

      So here are some verbal cues to add to your list above for how to recognize liars (since all of our discussions have been via email or telephone):

      * They try to whitewash themselves and put the blame on you or someone else.

      * They totally exaggerate their innocence.

      * They guilt trip you or mock you, instead of accepting responsibility for their own words and actions.

      * They bring up things and people unrelated in order to bolster their case.

      * Their reaction is either way overblown or totally dismissive.

      * They pacify you and then become evasive, hoping you'll forget.

      * Or they'll just keep changing the subject, hoping to distract you or wear you down.