Traditionally, we’ve all been made to believe that liars can be identified by looking into their eyes. Shifty eyes are supposedly the go-to indicator of someone lying to you. However, recent studies prove that liars maintain more eye contact than people telling the truth.
The research conducted by the University of Michigan studied 118 video clips and examined gestures and language patterns used by those who weren’t telling the truth. Some of these were clips from case trials where innocent people were falsely accused and imprisoned.
After studying various clips and other material, the researchers came to the conclusion that people who lie often have more animated hand gestures and move more often than someone who’s telling the truth. So if you want to know if a person is lying try looking at their hands.
People aren’t hardwired into examining subtle cues and changes in body language and are often too involved in listening to what one is saying. For this reason, we’re not very good at detecting lies as it doesn’t come naturally to us.
Project lead of the Michigan University research, Rada Mihalcea said “People are poor lie detectors. 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. We’re not counting how many times a person says ‘I’ or looks up. We’re focusing on a higher level of communication.”
After going through their study material and video clips, the conclusion of the research stated that the following behaviors were most commonly found in liars:
- Scowling or grimacing of the whole face. This was in 30 percent of lying videos vs. 10 percent of truthful ones.
- Looking directly at the questioner—in 70 percent of deceptive clips vs. 60 percent of truthful.
- Gesturing with both hands—in 40 percent of lying clips, compared with 25 percent of the truthful.
- Speaking with more vocal fill such as “um.” This was more common during deception.
- Distancing themselves from the action with words such as “he” or “she,” rather than “I” or “we,” and using phrases that reflected certainty.
While it may not be foolproof, and some may even have mastered these gestures to be an authentic liar and lie detector, these do apply to the general population and groups of people across the globe.
Everyone has a slight change in behavior when they tell lies. Look for those subtle cues, change in movement, and hand gestures the next time you smell something fishy when you’re in conversation with someone.