Psychology professor: These are the easy ways to spot a liar

2023-05-24 09:59:00, Kuriozitete CNA

Psychology professor: These are the easy ways to spot a liar

Whether it's an innocent white lie, or a deep, dark secret, lying is a phenomenon deeply integrated into the fabric of society. But how can you tell someone they're lying when you're not dealing with an obvious scam?

Psychology gives the answer. We spoke to Richard Wiseman, a professor of public understanding of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He gave us additional insight into how to better understand a liar. He gives advice on how to spot a liar, what body language to pay attention to, and when it's appropriate to lie.

Are there any mechanisms that can help us identify when someone is telling us a lie? I myself tried to do an experiment in collaboration with the BBC, where we would interview different politicians on the radio. Some would lie and tell the truth, while the audience would call to say who was lying.

Surprisingly, no politician agreed to do so. Meanwhile, we contacted a well-known political interviewer of the time and he agreed to be included in the study. I interviewed him twice, each time about his favorite movie. Once he lied to me, and another time he told the truth.

We broadcast both interviews live on TV. We received about 30,000 calls in total, and we saw that the public did the same on television as in the laboratory experiments, which means that they were approximately 50/50. In other words, as a group, they couldn't tell when someone was lying.

We also published the transcript of the conversation in a newspaper, and put the audio on the radio. When we removed the visual cues, we suddenly had a huge increase in people's ability to detect lies. Visual cues are very controllable. The way we gesture, smile and look is under our control.

But when it comes to the words you say, and the way we say them, it's not something you think too much about. And therein lie the telltale signs. Once you focus on the audio cues, you become a better lie detector.

A popular example is that if you are lying, look up and to the right. Is there any truth to this thesis? We have looked into it. It is one of the most popular myths. We tested this claim, and found that there is no indication of eye movements

related to whether someone is lying. However, we did this in a controlled laboratory environment. We then analyzed eye movements in a case of people lying in public and again found no evidence that eye movements tell you anything about lying. However, people have this idea in their head.

Are people able to hide their body language when they lie?

Some people can, but most people don't. If someone scratches their nose, this can be a sign of lying, but also of completely normal behavior. It's no use seeing a piece of the action, and deciding that someone is lying just because you avoid seeing eye to eye.

Maybe they do this all the time. In lie detection efforts, we establish a baseline, and then look for certain cues. They tend to be verbal. In such a case, carefully note the moments of hesitation, the spaces of pause between the end of the question and the beginning of the answer.

Can you become a master liar?

From the point of view of psychology, there is this kind of 'blushing' theory. So when we lie to someone, we feel guilty and therefore begin to sweat and move uncontrollably, things that people who are physically active do.

However, if you've told this lie several times, or you don't really care about lying, or even if you're lying for some greater good, you may not feel the same guilt. While it is important to remember that many lies fall into that category, sensational lies are only a very small fraction of lies in general.

Most of the time lies bring us together. You meet someone on the street, and you tell them that you are happy to see them. Maybe this is true, but it could also be a lie that you tell to avoid hurting and insulting him. But the lie brings us together as much as it separates us. If you don't feel stressed when you lie, you won't show any of these signals.

So if you've told a story many, many times and you're properly rehearsed, you won't have those cognitive cues. In fact, you may even believe the lie yourself because you've told it so many times.

How reliable is a "truth machine" in detecting a lie?

It is a sophisticated device that shows how physically active a person is. This device will tell you how much they sweat, what their heart rate is, their breathing rate, etc. The question is: Does all this have any plausible connection with lying? This is quite a controversial topic.

And again the answer will depend on the situation. Not surprisingly, if you sit someone down in front of this device, even someone who doesn't lie can get a little nervous. Likewise, some liars have told a story so many times or don't feel guilty about lying, and therefore won't physically display those cues.

So my perspective is that they are not particularly reliable. They can certainly give you some idea, but of course they should be taken with some caution, because it is not a 100 percent sure test. Most of the testimonies obtained in this form are not considered as admissible evidence in court.

Should your children lie?

What we want is for children to lie several times. When it's their birthday and someone gives them a present, even if they think it's the worst present they've ever received, we wish they'd lie and say they really like it.

So we want them to learn to lie in such circumstances. But in other cases, we want them to tell us the truth. And that's because lying is not like most complex behaviors. They are not the same thing, but many things. And it depends on the situation.

So we have to tell children that sometimes it's okay to lie and sometimes it's not. It depends on the situation. Are you lying to make someone feel good? In this case, it's probably best to tell that lie. Or are you lying for your own benefit?

And if the person finds out that you are lying to them, they will be angry. The lie has been around for a long time, and has survived to this day. I just think the whole point of this issue is to be honest about what is a lie./ Adapted from CNA.al

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