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How to spot a liar

Lying can develop into a habit for some people. They don’t mean to misguide but they want to join in or be seen in a certain light. The problem for habitual liars is that they are pretty easy to spot. The ones who lie to get their own way, can be trickier to detect.

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Police techniques

If you’re looking for body language giveaways or you’re watching what the eyes are doing, you’ll miss the trick. The sorts of techniques that TV cops use to detect liars in the crucial final scene of some detective story aren’t real. Throw away your perceptions now because everything you think you know about detecting a liar is false. All that nonsense about “shifty eyes” and looking away have to be forgotten for these techniques to work.

Poker face

The theory goes that when we lie we’re hiding an emotional response and that the act of hiding it actually reveals it. The logic is that we do something to compensate for the repressed response. In the case of Bill Clinton, experts suggest that touching his nose when he lied about his sexual involvement with Monica Lewinsky was his “micro-expression” or his “tell” as it would be called on the poker table.

Techniques

You’ll need to use the element of surprise in order to get to the truth. Ask unanticipated questions as they might be confusing enough to get the truth from your subject. Asking your subject to report the events in reverse chronology is another method as they’ll struggle to retain the façade they’re built up as they try and work backwards. Small variations in the details given are definite clues that you’re dealing with a liar. Ask any cheated husband or wife about the things their partner told them and you’ll no doubt find that suspicion was raised by these slight changes in the recollection of events.

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