We are compulsive liars, yet paradoxically, are also terrible at knowing when others lie to us. According to a 2002 study by Robert Feldman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, people tend to tell 2-3 lies during a 10-minute conversation. At the same time, people detect lies with only 54% accuracy. We tend to believe that certain behaviors, such as avoidance of eye contact and fidgeting, are telltale signs of lying. Yet these are NOT good indicators of deception (we normally only make eye contact with each other 30-60% of the time, for instance). There are, however, surprising and revealing things people do while lying. The good news? If you train yourself to notice, your odds of detecting lies shoot up from 54% to as high as 90%!
To start, here are a few things you can look for on your next date:
- The smile – Does the area at the edge of the eyes (commonly known as ‘crow’s feet’) crinkle when she smiles? That particular group of muscles cannot be activated when we try to fake it. If you’re getting too many forced smiles, chances are, she’s not engaged.
- Hand gestures & upper body movements – Does your date keep his hands under the table while talking? Does the upper body appear stiff? People instinctively use their hands and arms to communicate and express emotion. When someone hides the hands, there’s a good chance there are things he is trying not to say.
- The feet – Our natural instinct is to take flight in unpleasant situations. We express this by orienting our bodies towards the exit. If your date’s legs are crossed and her feet point towards the exit/away from you, chances are, she is waiting for a chance to leave.
- The eyes – Is he trying to play it cool? After sitting down somewhere well lit for a while, look at his pupils. Do they appear bigger? Arousal causes the pupils to dilate, even in good lighting (a condition called Mydriasis).
- Physical barriers – Does your date put objects (like a purse or the breadbasket) in the empty space between you? These are unconscious attempts to erect barriers behind which she can ‘hide’ (feelings of discomfort, for instance).
- Repeating questions – Does your date repeat your questions? He is likely buying time to come up with an answer that ‘complicates’ the truth. If you get a response along the lines of “Am I seeing someone?…um…no,” time to dig deeper.
- Micro expressions – Look for a slight disconnect between your date’s immediate facial expression and how she claims to feel about something. Micro expressions are automatic, split second projections of real feelings that a speaker may be trying to disguise. These expressions can be difficult to spot because they are subtle and very brief (professional poker players have to train themselves to spot them). However, they are also very difficult to disguise, especially for an amateur liar.