We all lie, to some degree. But some of us lie just a bit more than others. That’s where it’s handy to know what to look for — and it turns out, we’re looking for the wrong things. Here’s the best way to be a human lie detector.
The Week has a breakdown of the latest in spotting liars, and it turns out it’s not nervousness you need to look for. Instead, you need to make them work harder, increasing their cognitive load:
…deliberately make the person think harder to magnify the signals to a point where they are obvious.
Have people tell their story backwards, starting at the end and systematically working their way back. Instruct them to be as complete and detailed as they can. Ask open-ended questions to get them to provide as many details and as much complete information as possible (“Can you tell me more about…?” “Tell me exactly…”). First ask general questions, and only then get more specific. Don’t interrupt, let them talk and use silent pauses to encourage them to talk.
Also, keep an eye out for signs of increased energy going to the brain. Liars will move less, blink less, pause for longer and seem more and more distant and impersonal. The more they have to work, the more pronounced these behaviors will be.
Of course, it also helps to put them in a spot by driving them for verifiable answers. This is also true for large lies instead of smaller ones. Saying “No, I didn’t eat your donut” is a lot less demanding of a lie than insisting there was no way you could possibly have banged the boss’ wife because you were in Florida at the time. So you probably won’t bag your donut-thieving “friend” with these techniques. But at least now you know what to look out for.