Detecting deception, or learning to tell if someone is not being entirely truthful is a fascinating craft to study. I am absorbed by the science behind behavior, micro-expressions and emotions. There are a number of cues, both nonverbal and verbal to look for when you’re trying to determine if someone is being truthful.
No one red flag should be taken as a sign that there is a lie in progress. It’s important that you have a baseline (how the person normally behaves) and that you look at a cluster of indicators before making any deductions. One rub of the nose may merely mean there is an itch; a clearing of the throat could simply mean a frog. Don’t jump to conclusions.
The information below is focused on one small verbal aspect to consider when looking for the truth – that is the use of contractions. I’m not talking about the baby labor kind of contractions but rather the grammar ones – specifically a shortened version of the written and spoken forms of a word, syllable, or word group, created by omission of internal letters: didn’t, I’m, I’ve etc.
Contractions are common and we use them daily. “I didn’t eat those m&ms, yet I still can’t fit into these jeans.” An innocent person may tell you, “No, I didn’t go into your purse.” Non-truthful people are less likely to use contractions. They’ll be adamant about professing innocence and may be a little melodramatic. One putting on a performance and who may be angry he’s being questioned would more likely say, “I did not take any money from your wallet!”
- “I did not have sexual relations with that woman… Miss Lewinsky” – Pres. Bill Clinton 1998
- “”I want to officially and for the record state the following facts: My husband [Guy Ritchie] and I are not planning on getting a divorce. …. I am not romantically involved in any way with Alex Rodriguez. – Madonna 2008
- “I can emphatically say I am not on drugs.” “I have never had a single positive doping test, and I do not take performance-enhancing drugs.” – Lance Armstrong 1999, 2004
- “I say that I am innocent of those charges.” – Jerry Sandusky 2004
- “No, no. I did not and I had absolutely nothing to do with her disappearance.” – Scott Peterson when Dianne Sawyer asked if he murdered his life, Laci. 2003
- “In all of my years of public service, I have never obstructed justice.” – Pres. Richard Nixon 1973
Just because they didn’t say: “I didn’t, I’m, or I’ve” doesn’t make these above folks a liar. However in these particular instances, history has shown us the outcome – that their above statements were found to be untruthful.
Lastly, it’s important to note that people for whom is a second language, using non-contractions is commonplace. Remember a preference for shortened words does not a liar make. To my knowledge, there has been no scientific study done to vet this observation. This is merely something to take note of and perhaps give further attention. Bear in mind, if their baseline speech patterns normally use contractions and then suddenly a switch, you’ll now know to delve further.
About the Author: Laurie Ayers is a speaker, author and deception detection and crime prevention enthusiast who has given seminars in schools, organizations and corporations. Her message is inspiring, humorous and empowering; delivering the importance of making wise choices to protect ourselves and those we love as well as to gain a heightened awareness about detecting deception. Learn more at https://www.LaurieAyers.com