Liars are harder to spot than you might think, research suggests.
People who fib know to suppress the ‘tell-tale signs’, such as avoiding eye contact and fidgeting, a study by Edinburgh University found.
‘The findings suggests that we have strong preconceptions about the behaviour associated with lying, which we act on almost instinctively when listening to others,’ lead author Dr Martin Corley said.
‘However, we don’t necessarily produce these cues when we’re lying, perhaps because we try to suppress them.’
Liars are harder to spot than you may think, research suggests (stock)
The researchers used an interactive game to assess the types of speech and gestures people make when lying.
They also analysed how a listener interprets whether a statement is false.
The computerised two-player game involved 24 pairs who were competitively hunting for treasure.
Players had the choice of either being honest about where the treasure was hidden or lying.
From their response, the other player in their pair interpreted whether they were telling the truth.
If the first player managed to fool the other, they got to keep the treasure.
However, if the second player found the treasure, they got to keep it.
At the start of the experiment, the researchers noted 19 signs of lying, such as pauses in speech and eyebrow movements.
These signs were used to suss out whether one of the participants could tell the other was lying.
Results suggest listeners make judgements on whether someone is telling the truth within a few hundred milliseconds of encountering a sign.
People believe someone is lying if they say ‘um’ or ‘uh’, repeat words like ‘the’ unnecessarily or correct themselves midway through a sentence.
Other tell-tale signs may include:
- Filling silences
- Restarting conversations
- Prolonging sentences
- Head, hand or shoulder movements
- Smiling or laughing
However, the researchers believe liars may make a conscious effort to avoid these, such as by attempting to look straight faced or being rigid in their body language.
As a result, many of the players in the study were fooled into thinking their opponent was telling the truth.
The scientists believe this could drive further research into how people become deceived.
The study was published in the Journal Of Cognition.