When an individual acts suspiciously, even if it’s for something completely inconsequential, such as your brother eating your delicious turkey sandwich that was once stowed in the refrigerator, or for something more resolute, being able to have some inkling of insight on the truth is critical. Thankfully, a team of psychologists at UCLA has aimed to seek a solution to this quandary.
There have been multitudes of studies that have demonstrated that people are simply not that good at determining when someone is lying to them. An integral part of the problem is that there are no obvious cues that separate lying from truth telling. Another issue may be that we often misinterpret the gestures and intonations of another’s voice, muddying the water even further. Thus, most people tend to focus on readily available indicators, such as whether someone is nervously twitching or avoiding eye contact when speaking, but these characteristics are simply not an accurate means of finding out whether someone may be lying.
R. Edward Geiselman, along with three former UCLA undergraduates, analyzed over 60 different studies on detecting deception, and ultimately gathered and identified several various cues that nearly anybody can utilize to indicate that a person is being deceptive. For example, when deceptive people are questioned, rather than responding with a florid, elaborate ruse, they generally want to say as little as possible. In addition, although they choose not to say much, they spontaneously justify what they are saying, without being prompted (Geiselman, 2010).
Interestingly enough, a dishonest person will also initially slow down their speech in order to create their story, and when they are finally able to concoct one, they tend to “spew” out their story faster (Geiselman, 2010). They are also more likely to engage in grooming behaviors, such as playing with their hair or fiddling with their thumbnails. Gesturing toward one’s self, such as these action, tends to be a sign of deception whereas gesturing outwardly is not (Geiselman, 2010).
To combat this and seek an honest answer, asking open-ended questions (such as, “Tell me more about…”) can aim to provide detail. In addition, when questioning someone, interrupting him or her is certainly advised against because it simply perpetuates confusion. Next time your sibling steals your sandwich, focus on the details, simply because that is where the truth often lies.