Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Are they lying? The surprising new ways to tell if someone is being dishonest

ThinkstockPhotos-488052914.jpg

Looking someone in the eye and lying to them is apparently much easier than Hollywood films and politicians have led us to believe.

Researchers who watched hundreds of hours of video footage of lying criminals in high-profile court cases have found that fibbers share a surprising selection of common tells.

A team at the University of Michigan discovered that far from averting their gaze, people actually make more eye contact when they lie.

Being dishonest also makes people scowl and use their hands more.

The study found people share these traits when lying:

  • Move their hands a lot
  • Scowl or grimace their whole face
  • Use fillers such as "um," "uh" and "ah" 
  • Try to sound more certain
  • Look their questioners in the eye more often than those telling the truth

"People are poor lie detectors," says study leader Dr Rada Mihalcea, professor of computer science and engineering. "This isn't the kind of task we're naturally good at."

"There are clues that humans give naturally when they are being deceptive, but we're not paying close enough attention to pick them up," she adds. "We're not counting how many times a person says 'I' or looks up. We're focusing on a higher level of communication."

couple

"I adore your new purple shirt," says Emma, staring deep into Mark's eyes

The team examined footage from witnesses and defendants in 120 court cases and based their honesty on the outcomes of the trials. They have now developed the first lie-detecting software that examines words and gestures and doesn't require hooking people up to machines.

In tests, the software correctly identified when people were lying in 75% of cases, while humans can generally catch out lies only 50% of the time.

While previous findings have indicated that people tend to look away when they lie, Dr Mihalcea says it's difficult to motivate study participants to truly lie in a laboratory setting. She says her team's research is based on "real world" dishonesty where there is true motivation to deceive.

Images: Thinkstock

Related

gingerbread.jpg

Winning Christmas? The life-size gingerbread house

ThinkstockPhotos-483800191.jpg

Behold the UK's most cringeworthy office jargon

christmas_cracker_lead_v1.jpg

The Stylist Christmas cracker roadtest

book-review-a-brief-history-of-seven-killings-marlon-james-ali-smith-how-to-be-both.jpg

Book wars: A Brief History of Seven Killings versus How to be Both

fashion_style_faux_fur_high_street_4.jpg

Faking it: wrap up with this season’s fierce faux furs

exclamation mark.jpg

This one texting habit is a sign of insincerity, according to science

ThinkstockPhotos-475951130.jpg

These are the most popular beauty products of 2015

ariel-make-up.jpg

Ariel will have blonde hair in The Little Mermaid remake

serial.png

Serial is back! Listen to season two right here

Comments

More

Clueless nearly never got made because of Hollywood sexism

As Cher would say, as if

by Jasmine Andersson
23 Jun 2017

Starbucks are hiring 2,500 refugees across Europe

by Nicola Colyer
23 Jun 2017

Man carries out flower girl duties with immense pride and solemnity

His commitment is quite something

by Amy Swales
23 Jun 2017

Shocking US law says men can finish sex if woman withdraws consent

Shocking

by Moya Crockett
23 Jun 2017

Serial fans, Adnan Syed has been given a second chance in court

New hope for Syed supporters

by Kayleigh Dray
23 Jun 2017

The scientific reason summer turns you into a horrible person

A new study confirms that we’re not very nice when we’re too hot

by Moya Crockett
23 Jun 2017

The 5 most surprising things I learnt from appearing on First Dates

What's it really like to appear on First Dates?

by Jasmine Andersson
22 Jun 2017

Rihanna just gave a heartbroken fan the best relationship advice

The pop star took time out to give a fan this brilliant tip

by Stylist
22 Jun 2017

First Dates fans respond to “shocking” mansplaining incident

“A frightened, insecure monkey hanging on to his patriarchal perch for dear life”

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Jun 2017

Golden rules of work happiness from Europe’s female tech leaders

From nap rooms to therapists and no overtime

by Anna Brech
22 Jun 2017