8 Common signs of deception

Have you ever wondered if the person you are talking to is lying to you? When you see some of these deception signs appearing together, you should critically consider whether what has just been said is true.

Some common signs of deception:

1. Eye contact:

You may have heard in the past that liars do not look into your eyes, but the opposite is true. Especially master liars tend to have more eye contact than normal. Sometimes they literally stare at you because they are curious if you believe their lies.

Micro-expressions. © master1305 | Envato Elements

2. Micro-expressions:

Micro-expressions are very short facial expressions lasting only for a fraction of a second. They show hidden, often subconscious emotions of the person. If the emotion seen in the micro-mimic is not matching what is being said in the conversation, then this incongruence might point towards a lie.

3. Verbal repetitions:

Single words, phrases or sentences are repeated over and over again, which sounds like a broken record. If a person is telling the truth, he doesn’t have to repeat himself to convince you of the rightness of his words. Lying is cognitively quite demanding, so sometimes liars also repeat themselves to gain more time to think about what to say next.

4. Linear time series:

Liars often tell their story in a linear manner from the beginning to end. Because they have to spontaneously fabricate and manipulate details in their story, it is difficult for them to tell their story nonlinearly or backwards. Often, this circumstance is used in forensic interviews, for example, when the interviewee is asked to describe the events backwards. This increases the likelihood that contradictions will appear in the case of a lie.

5. Protection of sensitive body regions:

Sometimes liars cover or touch delicate areas of the body such as, for example, the neck. This can be considered as a protective reflex, especially in those lies used to protect one’s own interests or self-esteem.

6. Too many details:

Liars often decorate their stories with too many details to distract your attention from the actual lie and to appear outward and open. People who tell the truth usually do not decorate their stories with unnecessary details, especially when they are in the uncomfortable situation of being wrongly suspected.

7. Changes in breathing and pulse:

During a lie, the human nervous system usually enters a state of stress, the pulse rate and blood circulation increase (that is why some people, especially small children, blush when they lie), and breathing becomes deeper and faster. These changes can be very subtle, but sometimes they can be seen from the outside.

Covering mouth. © stokkete | Envato Elements

8. Mouth covering:

Sometimes liars cover their mouths, for example by placing a finger vertically on their lips as if admonishing themselves to shut up. This may be an indication that they do not want to tell the whole story or that they are deliberately withholding information..

But please keep in mind:

None of these signs “proves” that somebody is lying, rather these signs generally occur when someone is under stress or insecure. Thus, depending on the context, they can mean different things. Also, a single behaviour or body language sign is not reliable, watch out for clusters of these signs occurring together.

It is important to determine the baseline behaviour of a person, before interpreting his behaviour in extraordinary situations, otherwise it happens quickly that a behaviour that is generally different in that person, is misinterpreted as a sign of a lie. For example, there are people who, in principle, hold much more eye contact than others, or who generally have a nervous temperament. If you did not take the baselines of these people into account when interpreting their behaviour, you could quickly draw wrong conclusions.

Lie detection training:

Do you want to learn lie detection? From April 2018 you will find a link to our new online training program here. If you want to be notified of its’ start, you can sign up for our newsletter:

Quiz: Lie Detection Myths

There are some persistent myths about lies and lie detection out there. Test your knowledge: can you tell facts from fiction?

In which form of communication do people lie most?

Most people guess that it is easier to lie in emails, but it was shown that people lie more often on the phone, because the other person cannot see them and no written record of their words is kept.

Leave a Comment