Riddles in the park: Deception detection
This is something I generally tend to avoid teaching people to do, but as so many have requested it, I shall.
Lying has become almost inherrent to the human condition, and most people lie several times a day. Often you may find yourself in a situation where you feel that someone is deceiving you, and there are several ways to determine the truthfulness of their claims:
- Listen carefully: When people are lying to you, particularly if they haven’t thought their story through, they are likely to make mistakes both in consistency and sentence structure. The most common of the latter is a misuse of tenses, If someone starts talking in one tense, and abruptly switches to another, then it can be a sign that they are lying (ie. “I was in the kitchen to begin with, then I find something that’s making me uncomfortable”). Also pay attention to see if their story makes actual sense, if there are discrepancies between details, it could well be hocum.
- Be assertive: Call them out on their story, ask them about specific details and see if the responses they give seem truthful. If they answer immediately, the chances are that they have been thinking this lie over for some time. If they deflect the question, or take particularly long to respond, you can bet there’s a chance they’re decieving you.
- Watch them carefully: Where language lies, body language does not. Only highly trained individuals can actually alter their body language to appear truthful, and there are a few ‘tells’ that can give someone away if they aren’t being honest. The most common of these are: hands covering parts of the face or chest, touching of the ears, nose or mouth are often good indicators. Another good thing to check is how open their hands are, people with their hands in their pockets or with their arms folded are more likely to be lying than those with their hands on display. A good rule of thumb is to check how visible the palms are, as it has been observed that people tend to have open palms when being truthful.
In any case, it is extremely important to remember to read gestures in clusters, as one individual detail may not lead you effectively to the truth (or untruth, as it were), someone with folded arms could just be cold, or someone touching their nose could have an itch. The more concordant information you have, the more likely it is that the conclusion that evidence supports is true.
If, for whatever reason, you find yourself needing to work out whether someone is telling the truth, remember to use these steps and remain as vigilant and attentive as possible, but also try to keep in mind that these methods are not 100% accurate, and all depend on circumstantial variables, and the skill of the reader.