How can you tell whether someone is lying to you?

Knowing whether or not someone is telling the truth is a recurring problem. Usually, we pay attention to details such as the facial expression or the attitude to try to recognize a lie, but it’s still difficult. Yet, a new study confirms that the lie-detector is actually you.

To come to this conclusion, the scientific team of Leanne ten Brinke (University of California) included 72 participants in the following protocol. Each participant watched simulations of suspects being interrogated. Some of them had stolen money, while others were innocent. All the suspects, whether guilty or not, had to say during the interrogation that they hadn’t stolen the money.
Then, the participants were asked to say which suspects, in their opinion, were lying and which ones were telling the truth. They identified the liars with a success rate of just 43%, and those telling the truth with a rate of 48%.

Then, the researchers carefully studied the reaction time of the participants in tests, one of which was the Implicit Association Test, which looks at the “automatic” reaction of the participants towards the suspects. To do this, they had to classify a series of words such as reliable, genuine, hypocritical, honest, and dishonest into categories of “lie” or “truth”. But before they were presented with each word, the scientists showed an image of the individuals seen previously (liar or person telling the truth) on a computer screen for a time too short to be perceived consciously (17 thousands of a second). They noticed that, after seeing the image of a liar subliminally, the subjects classified the terms associated with lying more quickly. The same results were obtained for those who were telling the truth, but with the terms associated with the truth.
This suggests that we are able to recognize the signs of lying unconsciously on the face of a person, but we are not necessarily able to do it consciously.

Ultimately, there is no point trying to see the signs of lying in a person because our conscious mind doesn't always see them. It would seem, however, more sensible to listen to our intuition after spending some time with this person.
Source: Leanne ten Brinke et al. Some Evidence for Unconscious Lie Detection. Psychological Science March 21, 2014. doi:10.1177/0956797614524421

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