How to Spot a Liar delves deeper into how and why people lie. In it, the authors respond directly to reader requests for more details on reading and using body language to your advantage.
In the following Ted-Ed Lesson, Noah Zandan uses some famous examples of lying to illustrate how we might use communications science to analyze the lies themselves.
We hear anywhere from 10 to 200 lies a day
And we spent much of our history coming up with ways to detect them, from medieval torture devices to polygraphs, blood pressure and breathing monitors, voice-stress analyzers, eye trackers, infrared brain scanners, and even the 400-pound electroencephalogram.
But although such tools have worked under certain circumstances, most can be fooled with enough preparation, and none are considered reliable enough to even be admissible in court.
Lying spurs physiological changes
On a psychological level, we lie partly to paint a better picture of ourselves, connecting our fantasies to the person we wish we were rather than the person we are.
But while our brain is busy dreaming, it’s letting plenty of signals slip by. Our conscious mind only controls about 5 % of our cognitive function, including communication, while the other 95% occurs beyond our awareness, and according to the literature on reality monitoring, stories based on imagined experiences are qualitatively different from those based on real experiences.
This suggests that creating a false story about a personal topic takes work and results in a different pattern of language use.
A technology known as linguistic text analysis has helped to identify four such common patterns in the subconscious language of deception
- Liars reference themselves less, when making deceptive statements. They write or talk more about others, often using the third person to distance and dissassociate themselves from their lie.
- Liars tend to be more negative, because on a subconscious level, they feel guilty about lying.
- Liars typically explain events in simple terms since our brains struggle to build a complex lie.
- Even though liars keep descriptions simple, they tend to use longer and more convulted sentence structure, inserting unnecessary words and irrelevant but factual sounding details in order to pad the lie.
How can you apply these lie-spotting techniques to your life?
First, remember that many of the lies we encounter on a daily basis are far less serious that these examples, and may even be harmless.
But it’s still worthwhile to be aware of telltales clues, like minimal self-references, negative language, simple explanations and convulted phrasing.