I was going to title this “Five Ways to Tell If Someone Is Lying.” But then you’d be looking for an article that addressed things such as eye contact, hesitation, acting nervous, lack of memory and fidgeting.
I’ve seen those articles. They’re mostly entirely inaccurate.
For those who just want the bottom line on how to know if someone is lying, I’ll cut to the chase.
There is only one way to know if someone is lying: You have ground truth.
That’s it. There isn’t any other way to know if someone is lying. Ground truth means you have a verifiable first hand observation.
You can have a hunch. You can suspect. You can even have a pretty good idea. But to actually know for certain you have to have verifiable facts, data, truth. Without that, you’re inaccurate to say that you know someone is lying.
Yet every day in the news and social media we see “so and so is lying” stated as a fact. We hear significant others say they know someone is cheating. When they really mean that they suspect, think, assume, believe someone is lying.
What about so-called experts who claim they know when someone is lying?
I have been called a lie detector. I may have even used it myself. However, in my case, it’s merely one of many titles to give someone an idea of what I do. I openly and readily admit that without ground truth I, or anyone else, cannot tell you if someone else is lying.
I caution you to listen carefully to claims if someone tells you the can tell if someone is lying, yet their conclusion is based on anything other than ground truth. But then again, if you had ground truth you wouldn’t need to seek out a deception professional.
What about lie detector or polygraph machines?
A polygraph machine picks up on autonomic arousal. That’s a fancy way to say it will record increases in breathing, heart rate and skin changes, such as sweating. But those factors really only reveal that someone is uncomfortable, not that they are lying.
So then saying that a person or a machine is a lie detector is somewhat of an inaccurate label?
Correct. Whether one specializes in deception by using a polygraph, body language, or like I do, through forensic statement analysis, without ground truth all any of us can do is give you points that need further investigation. To do otherwise would be irresponsible.
We can say at [this] point, based on scientific studies and my expertise, there’s a strong likelihood that information isn’t correct, or the person is withholding something or attempting to deceive.
A person of interest is being questioned about a murder. The interview isn’t raising any red flags until he is asked if he killed the person. If hooked up to a polygraph, the chart starts looking like an EKG because of the physiological changes. Or the person may flash some micro-expressions or use language that could indicate deception.
One conclusion: The person is lying.
A more accurate conclusion: The person suddenly became uncomfortable.
Hypotheses: The person may be showing some deception markers because he is lying and he did kill the person. That is possible. Or, the person may know who did it, which caused the reactions, even though he honestly answered that he was not the killer. Or, the person may not be the killer, nor know who is, but is concerned the interviewer won’t believe him and therefore could be facing time in prison. That stress and fear of not being believed also would cause the same reactions, physically or verbally, that a dishonest person would also present.
The point is that very few people know if someone is lying.
Very few people have ground truth. Some may think they have ground truth, but in actuality it’s not a verifiable first-hand observation.
It’s interesting to note that studies have shown that most who have not had any formal, scientific training in deception do no better than approximately 50% accuracy in detecting deception. This includes those who claim they are ‘very good’ at telling if someone is lying. It’s been shown they do no better than chance (50/50).
Yet of those of us who have studied the science and have had extensive training and experience, typically have an accuracy rate of approximately 85% (+/-) in detecting deception.
As a deception analyst, I can certainly give you a strong indication if someone is not being entirely forthcoming. I can confirm that your suspicions may be founded and I can point out which areas you should probe further to get to the truth. And I can definitely tell you when someone is uncomfortable or has a change in baseline behavior.
But remember, there is only one way for you to know if someone is lying: You have ground truth.
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As Managing Director of Concealed Statements I work with men and women who want to increase their deception awareness to avoid wasting time or money and avoid making poor decisions based on inaccurate information.