Can You Detect A Liar?

Can You Detect A Liar?

Examining the Social contexts of Lying and the Indicators of Lying

Lying is as universal as eating. Everyone lies and it is an innate quality of human beings as social creatures. From sociability stems the origin of storytelling and elaboration of truths and deception. Just as easy as we tell lies it is often far more difficult to detect deception from others. Which leads us to ask ourselves:

In what ways can we become better at detecting lies?

To begin, children as young as two years old begin to understand the concept of lying and by the age of four, 80 percent of children will lie. Telling a lie evokes a lot of emotion, yet can be masked quite well. Children who have mastered the art of concealing emotions through self-control in speech and facial movement are considered “sophisticated liars” and from this observation Kang Lee, researcher of lying in childhood development, recommends that parents should “celebrate” their child’s lying achievements as such skills signal healthy, normal development of fundamental milestones.

Considering the length at which human beings develop the capacity for lying and deception begin in toddlerhood, it seems as though we should be relatively capable of detecting any and all lies that come our way. Unfortunately, our expertise in the detection of lies is subpar. On average, author Pamela Meyer states that “studies show that you may be lied to anywhere between 10 and 200 times” though most lies we encounter are white lies (those more harmless false truths we all are guilty of professing on occasion).

What steps can be taken then to identify the more severe lies such as those that affect the economy, our families, or our personal safety?

Meyers offers a few tips in order to help spot a lie.

1.) The first tip to be cognizant of is lying is a cooperative act. This means that we allow ourselves to be lied to for various reasons, such as for the sake of one’s dignity, for the sake of need, and for the sake of fostering a connection with someone in order to “connect our wishes and our fantasies about who we wish we were...wish we could be, with what we’re really like.” As social beings, we long to connect with our peers and sometimes we compromise the truth and our very own awareness to do so.

2.) Tip number two lies within the ambiguity of lying. Lying is complex...we’re ambivalent about the truth. Lying from a societal standpoint is normally deemed negatively as most are taught to always tell the truth, yet in reality lies are sometimes afforded and can prevent dangerous situations from escalating. As Meyer elaborates, “We’re against lying, but we’re covertly for it in ways that our society has sanctioned for centuries…” Though we understand that lying can be detrimental and unwarranted, we rely on lying within our everyday lives without hesitation most of the time, and if scrutiny is at the forefront then classical works of art such as Shakespeare or Dante even religious contexts identify the objectification of lying and deception.

Detecting a person’s lie can be tricky, yet noticing just a few small markers can make the difference between being fooled or outsmarting the liar. Meyer points out that the indicators or “hot spots” for signs of deception are speech and body language. Freud said it best as he remarked, “No mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips.” Meyer uses this statement to advise that though we may be able to keep our mouths shut when holding a secret, we can be found out by the body language we express. A misconception is that liars are fidgeters, unable to sit still. However, liars usually freeze and become very still. Furthermore, in terms of eye contact, liars are able to hold a focused gaze when telling a lie. Moreso, pay attention to the smile of a possible liar. Smiles can be forced and sometimes easily dismissed as authentic, but genuine smiles contract not only the cheek muscles, but also the muscles of the eyes. So next time pay attention to a person’s smile and try to notice if the smile exists within the eyes.

As for speech, when lying, people tend to conform to what is known as non-contracted denial in which their denials are void of contractions (think Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky scandal). Additionally, liars tend to use more formal language, are likely to distance themselves from the subject (e.g. person, place, thing) at hand, and tend to overwhelm a statement with too much detail of an account which further posits them to appear as dishonest for they appear to be working far too strenuously to appear truthful. Meyer references an interesting tactic that trained detectors' use for liars who jumble their stories with random and excessive information. To discover the truth, detectors will use a liar's tactic of chronology when retelling events to their advantage by asking the liar to retell the story backward which is a form of rehearsal that people do not practice in preparation of lying.

Of these tools, the most important aspect of detecting deception is to use the senses. Look and pay attention to a person’s subtle gestures and facial expressions:

Are their eyes smiling with the mouth?

Listen to the words being spoken.

Is the person using convoluted language?

Is the use of unnecessary words being used to overcompensate?

Is the tone slow and calculated, forced?

To learn more about the subject of lying and spotting lies, I recommend viewing the TED talks of both Pamela Meyer and Kang Lee who work extensively on the dynamics of lying and technological advances toward detecting liars. The links are provided for each video. Who knows, maybe through their insights you may find yourself using the tactics outlined and may successfully spot a lie before it gets the best of you.


Lee, K. (n.d.). Can you really tell if a kid is lying? Retrieved April 06, 2017, from

Meyer, P. (n.d.). Pamela Meyer. Retrieved April 06, 2017, from
Cover Image Credit:

Popular Right Now

17 Empowering Bible Verses For Women

You go, girl.

We all have those days where we let the negative thoughts that we're "not good enough," "not pretty enough" or "not smart enough" invade our minds. It's easy to lose hope in these situations and to feel like it would be easier to just give up. However, the Bible reminds us that these things that we tell ourselves are not true and it gives us the affirmations that we need. Let these verses give you the power and motivation that you're lacking.

1. Proverbs 31:25

"She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future."

2. Psalm 46:5

"God is within her, she will not fall."

3. Luke 1:45

"Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her."

4. Proverbs 31:17

"She is energetic and strong, a hard worker."

5. Psalm 28:7

"The Lord is my strength and my shield."

6. Proverbs 11:16

"A gracious woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth."

7. Joshua 1:9

"Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

8. Proverbs 31:30

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised."

9. 1 Corinthians 15:10

"By the grace of God, I am what I am."

10. Proverbs 31:26

"When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness."

11. Psalm 139:14

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

12. 1 Peter 3:3-4

"Don't be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God."

13. Colossians 2:10

"And in Christ you have been brought to fullness."

14. 2 Timothy 1:7

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."

15. Jeremiah 29:11

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'"

16. Exodus 14:14

"The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm."

17. Song of Songs 4:7

"You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way."

Next time you're feeling discouraged or weak, come back to these verses and use them to give you the strength and power that you need to conquer your battles.

Cover Image Credit: Julia Waterbury

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Celebrating My Mom: Her Beauty and Strength

Here's to the most inspirational woman in my life.


In observance of International Women's Day on March 8th, it is of paramount importance that we take a few moments to consciously recognize the women in our lives. We often call the women we adore by casual names like "Mom", "my sister", or "my girlfriend", and, usually, these nouns are intimate enough to replace their names---but not today. Today is for appreciating you, Melanie Daugherty, my mom---not as my mother, but as a human whom I hold with the highest regards.

It is easy for me to recall the innumerable times you've embraced me (even though I considered myself to be a disappointment), forced me to put my qualms into perspective, or insisted I put my aspirations into action (because "can't is too lazy to try") ; but, the magnitude of your accomplishments shouldn't always be measured by its impact on me, however, if it were to be, let it be the times you've inspired me.

Mom, I have always appreciated you, but I truly began to define you as my idol during my sophomore year of high school. During this time, I began experiencing shame in my identity. I was an athletic girl, but suffered from body dysmorphia, as well as a misunderstood and pessimistic perception of my inner thoughts. I became very introspective and was completely fixated on thoughts of worthlessness and lack of purpose. I assumed chronic fatigue was just a characteristic of being a teenager. In me, you recognized a past version of who you once were. I cried to you and you embraced me in your arms. My deteriorating state of mental health was not your burden, and you refused to let me define myself by diagnoses and prescriptions. Recognizing your success and triumph over anorexia and depression motivated me. I was so proud to be your daughter. Knowing that confidence and appreciation for the world was possible to achieve accelerated me into a period of self-reflection and determination. I wanted to trace your template of self-improvement with my footsteps and create a new image of myself---one that would reignite my childhood "spark".

You're not just my hero for saving me, but for giving me someone to admire. You live your life without limitations. Competing in the 140.6 mile Ironman triathlon is an accomplishment in itself, competing in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii is even more incredible, and completing eight of these triathlons is enough for most people to call you "crazy" rather than by your name. Your greatest demonstration of strength however, was not through athletic prowess, but through mental and emotional perseverance.

Losing your best friend to breast cancer was almost inconceivable because no one ever wants to acknowledge it as a possibility. What people also try to forget, is that it is just as possible for their lives to be taken from them. After learning to cope with your best friend's death, you were diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. Watching you grow progressively weaker was enervating in itself. This wasn't a reality I was able to accept as truth, partially because you were my mom, but also because your strength was an aspect of you that I didn't think could ever be taken from you---and I was right.

Although your complexion grew pallid and your body could no longer sustain itself, your mindset remained the same. You would not accept a last breath, and you ensured that every breath you took reiterated that. You demonstrated to me that positivity is the panacea that combats a discouraged mind.

Mom, for you, I am proud. I am grateful to have lost sometimes, because without loss, I wouldn't have been able to realize my strength, and I wouldn't have realized that if you hadn't been my anchor.

Related Content

Facebook Comments