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Lying Myths Debunked -- Lies About Lying; What Is Lying Behavior?

Updated on November 5, 2014
Changes in the facial "mask" may be important. Read below.
Changes in the facial "mask" may be important. Read below. | Source

Stereotypical Lying Information Has Been Proved Incorrect

I have heard and read about many "popular myths" regarding how to tell someone is lying for many years and want to share the information that many of these methods are inaccurate.

Some "Pop Psychology" magazines and some Human-Resources-type training seminars promote these inaccuracies. People that believe them and attempt to apply them often meet with broken relationships, angry friends, coworkers, and bosses; job loss, and even legal penalties.

Supervisors have been successfully sued for applying this misinformation.

Patty Inglish, MS. Preventive Medicine; Member, American Psychological Association. Posted online for the first time here on May 8, 2008.

For instance, my town recently experienced a case in which a young professional was not hired for a job, because during the employment interview, he looked up to the right. The interviewer possessed a high school diploma, but no additional school or training, and had attended one of these seminars about body language at the behest of the employer. What was the outcome of this case? -- The interviewer was fired and the interviewer and the company were both successfully sued. The young professional was hired elsewhere and has been active building a productive career. By the way, the company suffered a business decline in light of the news and word-of-mouth buzz about this event as well.

Be careful of what you believe and of who provides you with the information.

These facts are all based on 20 years of working as a therapist among diverse populations of all ages, races, incomes, and nationalities; in education among individuals that suffer Severe Mental Disorders (SMDs) and among at-risk as well as gifted youth, and involvement in research in Criminology.

Lying - Right or Wrong?

Lying - Right or Left?

Recent crime novels of the last decades have picked up on the inaccuracies of determining truth-telling from lying and even Fox News employs Body Language Specialist to add to their programs' ratings.

Some body language interpretations are accurate, others are accurate only other certain conditions, and others are inaccurate. This includes facial expressions and sweating as well.

For instance - Hillary Clinton appeared on Bill O'Reilly's program and sat in a chair uncomfortably, holding her hands and wrists together down to one side fo her knees. One interpretation is that she was being reserved, holding somewhat back, and protecting herself and her image and views. Another is that she was a bit too large and heavy for the straight-back-type chair and was trying to hold herself together on it. My opinion is to opt for Occam's Razor and the simplest explanation. I agree with the interpreter that Hillary's smile was not always real.


Individual differences is a term that usually refers to individual people to whom the rules of social sciences and medicine or what-have-you do not apply. However, it seems that there are more and more individual differences to the point where rules - especially inaccurate rules - do not apply at all.


It has been purported that looking up to the left is lying because it shows access to the right brain (creativity), while looking up to the right shows recall , because it indicates access to the left brain (logic and memory). This is wrong for a number of reason, including:

1) Females have been attributed with being more naturally creative than men. IN truth, they look up to the left and right when visualizing, as do men. But, their creativity is used against them and they are called liars for ever looking up to the left.

2) Most people have some visual-spatial intelligence -- If not, they might have less depth-perception. Regardless, i using visual-spatial abilities, one looks up to either side or out to a distance. Some people call this lying, and they are wrong, because they do not know any better. In testing hundreds of adult education students over 11 years, I found that both males and females had significant visual-spatial abilities.

3) Among the Japanese peoples, a language center developed on BOTH sides of the brain, not just the right brain. They can look up in either direction when thinking. OK, how about other Asians? How about Native Americans, who are related to Asians? How about Bi-racial folks that have Asian or Native American DNA and share behavior patterns?

4) Many people are visual learners and not auditory (by ear) learners.. While learning or while not learning, visual learners will look up to either side and out to a far or middle distance.

5) There is the matter of Social IQ or Emotional IQ. Some indivivuals of higher academic IQ scores appear rude, because they physically look past a conversation partner during a conversation - for a number of reasons, including mental multitasking,

6) Restaurant and some factory managers and others of some years experience do not maintain a steady eye-to-eye contact during a conversation, having been conditioned to watch a whole building of operations constantly and all at once. After a while, this cannot be switched off during conversations.

7) Autism Spectrum Disorders (we are finding increasing numbers of them in the USA among children and adults), including Asperger's, operate with a condition of inconsistent eye contact. It's neurological, it's not lying. Neurological disorders related to the Autism Spectrum may have the same component. This might include ADD/ADHD, Tourette's, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, and others -- Some of these could be mild enough not to even be diagnosed, but be the source of the eye contact or "looking." It may be neurological, and it may or may not be lying.

8) INCREASINGLY, eye contact in this society is viewed as a challenge. Children and adults are bring taught NOT to make eye contact in the 21st century in order to avoid a confrontation, a fight, and perhaps a knife cut or gunshot.

There are many more exceptions to the inaccurate rules of the stereotypical and incorrect ways of "telling how someone is lying."

Also remember that Lie Detector results are inadmissible in court. They cannot be accepted as accurate.

The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 restricts an employer's use of a lie detector to determine honesty or dishonesty, save for suspected theft or sabotage.

While we may wish that there were some party tricks that would tell us who is lying and who is not, there are not any. A Personality Profile like the long Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory is a good starting place, but no single test can reveal with 100% accuracy who tends toward lying or any other of the dimensions measured by the exam. Multiple test results from different instruments (with agreeing results), along with experience with the subject would more likely reveal a trend toward truth-telling or lying.

For all of the rest of the Body Language discipline - some of it is accurate, the rest is to sell books and TV viewership.

Research Findings

Dalhousie University (2008, April 24). Lying? The Face Betrays Deceiver's True Emotions, But In Unexpected Ways. ScienceDaily. Dr. Stephen Porter at the Forensic Psychology Lab at Dalhousie University

In 2008, Stephen Porter and Leanne ten Brinke of the Forensic Psychology Lab at Dalhousie University, Canada published their findings of the above research study in Psychological Science. It was titled Reading Between the Lies: Identifying Concealed and Falsified Emotions in Universal Facial Expressions. It created an uproar among those that had accepted previously-held notions about lying and truth-telling that revealed themselves to be out-dated, inaccurate, and false. After the initial uproar, much more interest was generated in this study, and in others across the US that found similar outcomes and facts.

Other Resources

  • American College of Gastroenterology (2005, October 31). New Study Suggests The Stomach -- Not The Heart -- Offers Greater Lie Detection Accuracy.
  • Economic & Social Research Council (2007, June 8). New Interview Technique Could Help Police Spot Deception. ScienceDaily. [Stereoptypical methods don't work]
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2007, February 19). A Good Lie Detector Is Hard To Find: 'Spin' And Fact Omission Leave No Neuro-trace. ScienceDaily.
  • University of Alberta (2007, April 5). Culture Is Key To Interpreting Facial Emotions. ScienceDaily.
  • American Academy of Neurology (2005, November 22). In Autism And Related Disorders, Recognizing Emotion Is Different Than Identity. ScienceDaily.

The Facts

Generally, looking to the upper right or upper left, failure to make steady eye contact, "shiftiness," and sweat do not indicate lying per se. Do not be mislead and fooled by "pop psychology" that is inherently incorrect.

What actually is an indicator of a lie is the event in which the facial "mask" of a person being interrogated or even that of someone having a casual conversation, will change briefly from time to time to reveal their true emotions.

The held-back emotions that cracked through the mask in Porter's and other studies were:

  1. Happiness

  2. Sadness

  3. Disgust

  4. Fear


In the Porter study, which included many subjects and proved to be statiscally significant in its findings, adults looked at pictures that would normally inspire definte emotions. They were told to pick either a real or feigned emotion and to display it on their faces as they looked at each card (they could do whatever they liked with their choices on each card).

Not a single person on the research team could accurately determine the emotions the human subjects displayed that were real or fake.


It seems that Charles Darwin was correct in 1872, when he stated and wrote that emotions cannot be hidden definitely or forever on the face, especially anger, disgust, and fear.

How do you tell when someone is lying?

Watch for a very quick change to another emotion on a person;s face, and ask them questions about what they were feeling and why.

Criminal Profiling

Forensics Science Degrees

High School Forensics Team Adventures

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      This article points out many of the lies that people perpetuate about how to tell if someone is lying. I thought the junk was put to rest, but I am seeing it again in magazines and content farms. People want to believe lies, even lies about lies.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hi, tsmog. So much pop psychology is incorrect and it is spread like gossip wildfire. I don't like it.

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 

      7 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Excellent. This article is at my latest hub. I don't which it will support - lie or truth, since it is wrote, but I know one thing. I will print this out and hand it out to those who seem to think they know. Thank you for writing this Patty . . .

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Happy New Year! It seems every year, the same questions come around - like...How can you tell someone is lying? The same old wives' tales masquerading as science are in the air.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thank you very much for your nice comments! I would be very interesting in "Lie to Me" and I'll look for it. Microexpressions are something to consider definitely.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image


      10 years ago from The Other Bangor

      thoroughly engrossing reading. I'm glad I found this article, as it is informative, logical, and well researched -- have you seen the recent tv show "Lie to Me"? It debunks the efficacy of lie detectors and focuses on microexpressions; I think you'd be interested (if you haven't already watched it).

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Veronica, thank you for your encouragement and reading. It is always a pleasure to have you visit my pages.

    • profile image

      Veronica Bright 

      10 years ago

      What an intelligent and well put together hub. It was a joy reading it

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      It is interesting, isn't it?

      I just completed reading another novel for review that included the newest research about "flickering" real emotions showing through - and the novel applied the knowledge to the 1950s McCarthy hearings. Interesting and entertaining as well.

    • profile image

      gwyn estember 

      11 years ago

      Interesting subject!!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Dear crash and Ravyn - thanks for visiting! I'll be looking at your Hubs very soon, so welcome to Hub Pages.

    • RavynSteel profile image


      11 years ago from North Wales

      Excellent Hub, and a very interesting subject :-)

    • crashcromwell profile image


      11 years ago from Florida

      Hey! This is a really cool page! Really, it is! Of course, I could by lying....but then, maybe I'm not!

      Just kidding. I've enjoyed my stay here so far, and I'll be checking out other pages too. I can certainly see why you've got a perfect score! I would be honored if you would stop by my hub site and give some constructive criticism.

      Keep up the great work, and happy hubbing!

      Jim Henry

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I've seen the commercial about "recordifying" TV programs too many times...

    • profile image


      11 years ago from Spokane, WA

      You make some great points here. I think a lot of us feel like idiots when we find that we've been lied to so there's a natural tendency for us to want to detect the lying.

      Which make us a great market for the "How to detect a liar..." type of publication.

      Heh. " ... would GW Bush say "over-complexify?" Well, there's that book about Mr. Bush titled, "Misunderestimated" so yeah, I think he might say that. And then sit back and enjoy the reactions. :)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hello steph! Thanks for telling us about your own unique experience, this proves the points of the article even again. I want people to NOT be misjudged according to myths and you've helped with that.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      11 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Loved this Hub! I frequently look up to the left and right when I am talking and thinking about something, trying to recall. Not lying!! LOL A very interesting, thorough job - thumbs up!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Sandra, thank you so much for your experience here! It is a prime example of what I am saying.

      Then there is the store that was sued over this, and they lost.

      We have over 150 gangs in my city -- one simply cannot look any of them in the eye, because that is a challenge to a duel. On our public transit, about half the time this is also true. Other times, I find folks srtaring at others in an attmpt to elicit a reaction. When I ride, I read on the bus, with one eye open for incidents.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hi Woody! How are you? Thanks for reading and adding your good contribution. Occam's Razor works well, even though sometimes we might wish it did not. Of course, once in a while, the more complex scenario is the true one. At times I tend to over-complicate things, and try to stick to Occam's Razor.

      heehee - would GW Bush say "over-complexify?" :)

    • profile image

      sandra rinck 

      11 years ago

      True story, My dad brought me up to look at someone in their eyes when speaking and so he automatically assumed that if I did not look him in the eyes I was lying, when in actuallity, my dad just intimidated me to the point of confussion...I was a nervous child.

      So then in the military, I was told to not look directly into someones eyes, but instead to, in a sense, stare to the back of their heads. So after all that my dad taught me, I couldn't help but look straight into peoples eyes, so that didn't help and of couse I got the regular "haze" of sorts because I couldn't stop doing it so I was defiant of orders.

      Now my eyes shift because I want to make eye contact but feel uncomfortable when someone looks back so I look, then don't look, and I have trouble paying attention because I am too concerned about whether or not I am being respectful.

      What a mess huh?

      Great hub Patty.

    • Woody Marx profile image

      Woody Marx 

      11 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      A great read! I like the Occam's Razor point you made. It's always the best technique to clarify muddled topics.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Greetings Wellness5!

      Thank you for reading and commenting. My topics are always ones that I have been thinking about for years. then I find an opening somewnere to put them. :)

    • wellness5 profile image


      11 years ago from Fondi, Italy

      Food for thought as usual - I cannot get over how you research all this stuff so well and quickly !

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I couldn't stand it any longer, amy jane!

      I first heard the things that don't actually work from an HR person that told me to LIE on my resume. Great Balls of Fire! -- There's way too much on it already! I knew this info had to be questionable and started studying the myths about lie detection in 1994. I'm glad I did. LOL 

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 

      11 years ago from Connecticut

      Really interesting! I always wondered about those "sure ways" to spot a liar. Thanks for clarifying. :)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hey Thanks! I just read a new crime novel I have to review for a major site, and it quoted two pieces of this misinformation --I felt I had to do something. LOL

      Thanks so much for your comments. :)

    • rodney southern profile image

      rodney southern 

      11 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      very cool!


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