Somewhat Unexpected Truths About Lying and Lie Detection

Modern “social” life is ripe for temptation to embellish our stories, so it’s especially helpful to recognize some myths and counter-intuitive truths about lying.

1. What Do Those Apparently Shifty Eyes Mean?

When someone is telling you something and looks up to the right, they are lying, according to an often-cited Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) claim. And they are telling the truth if they glance up to the right.

Yet at least three studies show no differences in truth telling by which way you look up. While a co-director of the NLP Training Center of New York, Steven Leeds recently asserted that NLP only cites eye movement as a way to recognize whether someone uses visual, auditory or kinesthetic (physical) cues to take in information, even that is disputed.

2. There are Unexpected Personal Benefits of Lying

Knowing when to remain silent, or to tell a white lie is, in fact, a social believes Feldman said. “We don’t want to hear hurtful things.” Bizarrely people who lie tend to be more popular. And embellishment-as-lying has its benefits. In interviews, college students who exaggerated their GPA later showed improvement in their grades. Their lies were self-fulfilling prophecies. Further, “exaggerators tend to be more confident and have higher goals for achievement,” according to University of Southampton in England psychologist, Richard Gramzow who concluded that, “positive biases about the self can be beneficial.”

Yet, our overall psychological health improves when we tell fewer lies.

3. Few Are Good Lie Detectors

“Most so-called lie detection experts — experienced detectives, psychiatrists, job interviewers, judges, polygraph administrators, intelligence agents and auditors — hardly do better than chance,” wrote Adam M. Grant. “In a massive analysis of studies with more than 24,000 people, psychologists Charles Bond Jr. and Bella DePaulo found that even the experts are right less than 55 percent of the time.”

Amateurs and so-called experts over-estimate their ability to read body language, including detect deception. According to Sue Russell, that confidence, “is counterproductive and even lowers the accuracy of judgments. People under stress—being wrongly accused certainly qualifies—can behave in ways impossible to distinguish from those who are lying.”

Yet, when business professionals, “amateurs” at lie detection, were asked to interview prospective employees, which kind of person was better at detecting liars and thus less likely to hire them, the more skeptical or the trusting evaluators? *See the answer at the end of the column, over at Forbes.

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