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04 August 2009

Can You Really Separate the Liars from the Truth-Tellers?

Face illusion photo, take a look at the word the face spells

From Denny: Seems the deception researchers think they are on to something in the ongoing search to separate the liars from the nervous who appear to be lying but are not during interviews or interrogations. Most people don't bear up well under interrogation and are understandably nervous, appearing to be guilty when actually they are not. Therefore, the usual "tells" of nervousness or shifty eyes is not enough to determine a liar. You require more than that to make a sound judgment about the veracity of what the subject is telling you.

Scientists have a new theory they think works and it's called "cognitive load." We all know that lying (for most people) is mentally taxing just to keep up with a consistency of the lie over time. You know, get your story line straight. So, scientists think the trick to do while interrogating someone is to ask them to perform a task while lying - or telling the truth - and it will become evident which it is because lying is supposed to be more taxing on the liars.

I doubt how well this theory will hold up; I certainly have known what could be termed professional liars and they demonstrate complete ease at lying. "If their lips are moving; they're lying" is our motto. This theory may work for the majority of the population and in certain cultures. Time will tell as it is tested worldwide.

The researchers are in England and here is what they set up as a study to test their theory: One group was asked to lie convincingly and the other group was told to tell the truth. The story line was about a staged theft scenario that only the truth tellers had actually experienced.

Then the researchers, led by psychologist Aldert Vrij of the University of Portsmouth in England (a completely different culture than in America), brought in a second pair of groups to do exactly the same but with an added condition: they had to maintain eye contact while relating their stories.

When the researchers took the videotapes back to the lab to examine for "tells" and cognitive load they did find some interesting facts. Verbal signs of cognitive load were displayed as fewer spatial details in the suspects' stories. Nonverbal signs of cognitive load were displayed as fewer eye blinks. Eye blinks, you say? Yes, eye blinks when rapid suggest nervousness; fewer blinks are a "tell" displaying cognitive load. So, guess how this is useful? Liars blink less. (I could have told you that and saved you a few million dollars...)

How did the eye contact figure in? It was subtle according to this experiment but did manage to define and magnify the difference between the liars and the truth-tellers.

What to watch for when you try to apply this new theory? Be aware some people naturally blink less than others, so you really need to spend some time getting to know a person before placing them in a stress situation to determine if they are lying or not. Other people have such good and disciplined minds they can carry the cognitive load better than others can. In short, you better actually know the person before you place them in a situation like this because individual differences muddled some of the group results here.


Use this theory as a general baseline to measure the liars in your life. It isn't foolproof or totally accurate like most generalizations. It will help you to grow in your own emotional intelligence about relating to other people.

And, remember, some people appear to be lying because they are withholding private information. Keep that in mind when trying to determine if a person is lying to you: what is their agenda for lying? Are they private people? Are they philanderers? Are they embarrassed for others to realize they are not quite as important as they boast to others?

There are a lot of reasons people lie. Gamblers lie about what they had for breakfast afraid you will nail them down as to where they actually were at a certain time of day and the wife may find out. Other people lie to enhance their status in life and don't want to be found out. Some people lie just to appear more interesting and worthy to others. People are people; love them any way! :)

Written by Denny Lyon
Copyright 4 August 2009
All Rights Reserved

Source: Scientific American

England, University of Portsmouth, Society and Culture, science, research, Eye contact, Cognition, Social Sciences, Psychology, Cognitive load, Emotional intelligence, eye contact, cognitive science

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