There are some people who can’t tell a lie, many who can’t tell the truth, and unfortunately, most people can’t tell the difference. Can you tell when someone is pulling the wool over your eyes? As children, we were raised to tell the truth and taught that honesty is always the best policy. We were told stories about George Washington and Honest Abe Lincoln to reinforce the virtue of truthfulness. However, as we grew older, we realized that the truth sometimes hurts and that few relationships could survive the harsh reality of brutal honesty. To keep from hurting others, we learned the usefulness of telling “white lies.” On the other hand, self-serving lies can be damaging and are frequently used for personal gain or to avoid punishment.
Scientists looking for a reliable way to expose liars invented the polygraph machine, also known as the lie detector, in the 1920’s. While certainly not a perfect machine, it is estimated that the lie detector has a ninety percent accuracy rate. While polygraph evidence is not permitted in a courtroom, the CIA, FBI, police, and employers routinely use it as an interviewing tool. In addition to using a lie detector, many law enforcement agencies videotape interviews in order to evaluate body language gestures in detail. Gestures or expressions that occur in less than one second are called micro gestures. Micro gestures are extremely difficult to observe unless they have been recorded on videotape and played back in slow motion. Body language experts have identified and categorized thousands of human gestures and their associated meanings. It might surprise you to know that research indicates over 65% of our communication is done non-verbally. In fact, studies show that nonverbal communication has a much greater impact and reliability than the spoken word.
Body language is a complex mixture of movement, posture, and tone of voice. Developing a working understanding of body language is similar to learning a foreign language in that it requires time and effort to achieve mastery. Typically, when someone is lying, they subdue their gestures and avoid direct eye contact, or have what is termed, “shifty eyes.” The three primary facial gestures associated with lying are called; “speak no evil, see no evil, and hear no evil.” The “speak no evil” gesture is when someone filters their words through their fingers or uses their hand to block their words. The gesture “see no evil” occurs when an individual rubs their eye(s) while they are talking. The third facial gesture, “hear no evil”, occurs when a person covers their ear(s) or drills their finger into their ear as they are speaking. The two, less obvious lying gestures are micro gestures, which require close observation to detect. The first of these subtle, but important micro gestures is a nose wrinkle. This is the same gesture that occurs naturally when you smell something offensive. The other facial micro gesture that is used to detect lying is a slight downward curl of the corners of the mouth. People sometimes lie, but their body language always tells the truth!