How to Detect Lies

Four Methods:Detecting Lies in the Face and EyesDetecting Lies in Verbal ResponsesDetecting Lies in Body Language TicsDetecting Lies Through Interrogation

Looking at the facial expressions of a person to determine whether or not he or she is lying might just save you from being a victim of fraud. Or it could help you know if it's safe to trust your heart and get involved with an attractive stranger. Jury analysts use lie detection when helping to select a jury; the police do it during interrogation. Even judges use lie detection to determine which side to rule in favor of. To use these techniques, you'll need to learn how to read the little facial and body expressions that most people don't notice. It takes a little practice but having this skill can be fascinating! To get started, read on...

Method 1
Detecting Lies in the Face and Eyes

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    Look for micro-expressions. Micro-expressions are facial expressions that flash on a person's face for a fraction of a second and reveal the person's true emotion, underneath the lie. Some people may be naturally sensitive to them but almost anybody can train themselves to detect these micro-expressions.
    • Typically, in a person who is lying, his or her micro-expression will be an emotion of distress, characterized by the eyebrows being drawn upwards towards the middle of the forehead, causing short lines to appear across the skin of the forehead.
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    Look for nose touching and mouth covering. People tend to touch the nose more when lying and a great deal less when telling the truth.[1] This is perhaps due to a rush of adrenaline to the capillaries in the nose, causing the nose to itch.[2][3] A lying person is more likely to cover his or her mouth with a hand or to place the hands near the mouth, almost as if to cover the lies coming forth. If the mouth appears tense and the lips are pursed, this can indicate distress.[4][5]
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    Notice the person's eye movements. You can usually tell if a person is remembering something or making something up based on eye movements. When people remember details, their eyes move up and to the left if they are left-handed. When right-handed people make something up, their eyes move up and to the right. The reverse is true of left-handed people. People also tend to blink more rapidly ("eye flutter") as they're telling a lie. More common in men than in women, another tell of a lie can be rubbing the eyes.[1]
    • Watch the eyelids. These tend to close longer than the usual blink when a person sees or hears something he or she doesn't agree with.[4] However, this can be a very minute change, so you will need to know how the person blinks normally during a non-stressful situation for accurate comparison. If the hands or fingers also go to the eyes, this may be another indicator of trying to "block out" the truth.[4]
    • Be careful about assessing the truthfulness of someone's statement based on eye movements alone. Recent scientific studies have cast doubt on the idea that looking a certain direction can help pinpoint someone who is lying.[6][7] Many scientists believe that eye directionality is a statistically poor indicator of truthfulness.
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    Do not use eye contact or lack of it as a sole indicator of truthfulness. Contrary to popular belief, a liar does not always avoid eye contact.[1] Creatures may naturally break eye contact and look at non-moving objects to help them focus and remember. Liars may deliberately make eye contact to seem more sincere; this can be practiced to overcome any discomfort, as a way of "proving" that truth is being told.
    • Indeed, it has been shown that some liars tend to increase the level of eye contact in response to the fact that investigators have often considered eye contact as a tell.[4] Clearly, only use eye contact aversion as one indicator in a general context of increasing distress when being asked difficult questions.[4]

Method 2
Detecting Lies in Verbal Responses

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    Pay attention to the person's voice. A person's voice can be a good lie indicator. He or she may suddenly start talking faster or slower than normal, or the tension may result in a higher-pitched or quavering tone. Stuttering or stammering may also point to a lie.
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    Pay attention to exaggerated details. See if the person appears to be telling you too much. An example might be, "My mom is living in France, isn't it nice there? Don't you like the Eiffel tower? It's so clean there." Too many details may tip you off to the person's desperation to get you to believe what is being said.
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    Be aware of impulsive emotional responses. Timing and duration tends to be off when someone is lying. It's either because the person in question has rehearsed their answer (or is expecting to be questioned) or rattles off something, anything, in order to fill the silence.
    • If you ask someone a question and he or she responds directly after the question, there is a chance that the person is lying. This can be because the liar has rehearsed the answer or is already thinking about the answer just to get it over with.
    • Another tell can be omission of relevant time facts, such as saying "I went to work at 5 AM and when I got home at 5 PM, he was not there." In this glib example, what happened in between has been all too conveniently glided over.
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    Pay close attention to the person's reaction to your questions. Someone who has told the truth doesn't feel much need to defend themselves, well, because they're telling the truth. Someone who hasn't told the truth needs to compensate for their lie by perhaps going on the offensive, deflecting, or another stalling tactic.
    • A truthful person will often respond with even more detailed explanations to expressions of disbelief in his or her story. Someone aiming to deceive won't be ready to reveal much else but keeps repeating what has already been established.[5]
    • Listen for a subtle delay in responses to questions. An honest answer comes quickly from memory. Lies require a quick mental review of what they have told others to avoid inconsistency and to make up new details as needed. Note that when people look up to remember things, it does not necessarily mean that they're lying — this could just be a natural instinct.
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    Be conscious of the person's usage of words. Verbal expressions can give you clues about whether a person is lying. These clues include:
    • Repeating your own exact words when answering a question.
    • Stalling tactics, such as asking for a question to be repeated.[4] Other stalling tactics include stating that the question asked is excellent, Using words and phrases such as "basically..." And "what happened was....".that the answer isn't so simple as yes or no, or confrontational style responses such as "It depends on what you mean by X" or "Where did you get this information?"[4]
    • Avoiding use of contractions, namely saying "I did not do it" instead of "I didn't do it." This is an attempt to make it absolutely clear what the liar means.[4]
    • Speaking in muddled sentences and not making sense; liars often stop mid-sentence, restart and fail to finish sentences.[5]
    • Using humor and/or sarcasm to avoid the subject.
    • Using statements such as "to be honest," "frankly," "to be perfectly truthful," "I was brought up to never lie," etc. These can be a sign of deception[4]
    • Answering too quickly with a negative statement of a positive assertion, such as "Did you wash those pots lazily?" answered by "No, I did not wash those pots lazily," as an attempt to avoid the impression of a delayed answer.[4]
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    Notice when the person repeats sentences. If the suspect uses almost the exact same words over and over, then it's probably a lie. When a person makes up a lie, he or she often tries to remember a certain phrase or sentence that sounds convincing. When asked to explain the situation again, the liar will use the very same "convincing" sentence again.
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    Notice the mid-sentence jump. The mid-sentence jump is when a clever liar tries to distract attention away from him or herself by interrupting themselves mid-stream and talking about something else. Someone might try to change the subject in this clever way: "I was going — Hey, did you get a new haircut this weekend?"
    • Be especially cautious of compliments from the subject in question. The liar knows that people respond well to compliments, giving him or her a chance to escape interrogation by complimenting someone. Be wary of someone who delivers a compliment out of the blue.

Method 3
Detecting Lies in Body Language Tics

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    Check for sweating. People tend to sweat more when they lie.[8] Actually, measuring sweat is one of the ways that the polygraph test (the "lie detector" in all the movies) determines a lie.[9] Yet again, taken on its own, this is not always a reliable indication of lying. Some people may sweat a lot more just because of nervousness, shyness or a condition that causes the person to sweat more than normal. It's one indicator to be read along with a group of signs, such as trembling, blushing and difficulty in swallowing.
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    Watch when the person nods. If the head is nodding or shaking in opposition to what is being said, this can be a tell. This is called "incongruence."
    • For example, a person might say that he or she did something, such as "I cleaned those pots thoroughly" while shaking the head, revealing the truth that the pots were wiped briefly but not scrubbed. Unless a person is trained well, this is an easy unconscious mistake to make and such a physical response is often the truthful one.[1][4]
    • Also, a person may hesitate before nodding when giving an answer. A truthful person tends to nod in support of a statement or answer at the same time it is being given; when someone is trying to deceive, a delay may occur.[1]
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    Watch out for fidgeting. A sign that someone is lying is that they fidget, either with their own body or with random things around them. Fidgeting results from nervous energy produced by a fear of being found out. In order to release the nervous energy, liars often fidget with a chair, a handkerchief, or a part of their body.
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    Observe the level of mirroring. People naturally mirror the behavior of others with whom they're interacting. It's a way of establishing rapport and showing interest. When lying, mirroring may drop as the liar spends a lot of effort on creating another reality for the listener. Some examples of failed mirroring that might alert you that something's not right:
    • Leaning away. When a person is telling the truth or has nothing to hide, he or she tends to lean toward the listener. On the other hand, a liar will be more likely to lean backward, a sign of not wanting to give more information than is necessary.[4] Leaning away can also mean dislike or disinterest. They want to get out of it.
    • In people telling the truth, head movements and body gestures tend to be mirrored as part of the interplay between the speaker and the listener. A person trying to deceive may be reluctant to do this, so signs of not copying gestures or head movements could indicate an attempt to cover up. You might even spot a deliberate action to move a hand back to another position or to turn a different way.
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    Watch the person's throat. A person may constantly be trying to lubricate their throat when they lie by swallowing, gulping or clearing their throat. Lying causes their body to increase production of adrenaline, which gets their saliva pumping and then creates very little. While the saliva is surging, the subject might be gulping it down. When the saliva is no longer surging, the subject might be clearing their throat.
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    Check the person's breathing. A liar tends to breathe faster, displaying a series of short breaths followed by one deep breath.[4] The mouth may appear dry (causing much throat clearing). Again, this is because they are putting their body through stress, which causes the heart to beat faster and the lungs to demand more air.
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    Notice the behavior of other body parts. Watch the person's hands, arms and legs. In a non-stressful situation, people tend to be comfortable and take up space by being expansive in hand and arm movements, perhaps sprawling their legs comfortably. In a lying person, these parts of the body will tend to be limited, stiff, and self-directed.[4] The person's hands may touch his or her face, ear, or the back of the neck. Folded arms, interlocked legs and lack of hand movements can be a sign of not wanting to give away information.
    • Liars tend to avoid hand gestures that we consider a normal part of discussion or conversation. With some caveats, most liars will avoid finger pointing, open palm gestures, stippling (fingertips touching each other in a triangle shape often associated with thinking out loud), etc.[4]
    • Check the knuckles. Liars who stay motionless may grip the sides of a chair or other object until the knuckles turn white, not even noticing what's happening.[4]
    • Grooming behaviors are common in liars, such as playing with hair, adjusting a tie, or fidgeting with a shirt cuff.[5][10]
    • Two caveats to remember:
      • Liars can deliberately slouch to appear "at ease".[4] Yawning and bored behavior may be a sign of trying to act just a little casual about the situation so as to cover up deception. Just because they're at ease doesn't mean they're not lying.
      • Keep in mind that these signals may be a sign of nervousness and not a sign of deceit. The subject in question might not necessarily be nervous because they're lying.

Method 4
Detecting Lies Through Interrogation

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    Be careful. Although it is possible to detect dishonesty and lying, it is also possible to misread deception where there is none. A range of factors could be causing a person to appear as if he or she is lying when the "signs" might be due to embarrassment, shyness, awkwardness or a sense of shame/inferiority. A stressed person can be easily mistaken for a liar, as some of the manifestations of stress mimic the indicators of lying indicators. For this reason, it is important that any observation of a person suspected of lying involves drawing together a "cluster" of deceptive behaviors and responses, as there is no single "aha!" sign.[4]
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    Look at the big picture. When assessing the body language, verbal responses and other indicators indicative of lying, consider factors such as:[1]
    • Is the person unduly stressed in general, not just from the situation in which he or she is in now?
    • Is there a cultural factor involved? Perhaps the behavior is culturally appropriate in one culture but is seen as dishonest behavior in another.
    • Are you personally biased or prejudiced against this person? Do you want this person to be lying? Be careful of falling into this trap!
    • Is there a history of this person lying? Namely, is he or she experienced at it?
    • Is there a motive and do you have a good reason for suspecting lying?
    • Are you actually any good at reading lies? Have you taken into account the entire context and not simply zoomed in on one or two possible indicators?
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    Take time to establish rapport with the alleged liar and create a relaxed atmosphere. This includes not showing any signs that you suspect the other person of lying and making an effort to mirror his or her body language and pace of conversation. When questioning the person, act in an understanding, not overbearing, manner. This approach will help to let down the other person's guard and can help you to read the signs more clearly.
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    Establish a baseline. A baseline is how someone behaves when he or she is not lying. This will help you tell if the way the person is acting currently is any different from how they usually act. Begin by getting to know the person if you don't already and proceed from there — people usually answer basic questions about themselves truthfully. For someone you already know, checking for a baseline might include asking the person about something the answer of which you already know.
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    Learn to spot deflections. Usually, when people are lying, they will tell stories that are true, but are deliberately aimed at not answering the question you asked. If a person responds to the question "Did you ever hit your wife?" with an answer such as "I love my wife, why would I do that?" the suspect is technically telling a truth, but is avoiding answering your original question. This may indicate that he or she is lying or trying to conceal something from you.
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    Ask the person to repeat the story over again. If you're really not sure whether they're telling the truth, ask them to repeat the story multiple times. It's hard to keep track of information that isn't truthful. In the process of repeating their made-up story, the liar is likely to say something inconsistent, outright false, or telling.
    • Ask the person to tell the story backwards.[5] This is very hard to do, especially when requiring no loss of the details. Even a professional liar can find this reversal of approach a hard one to tackle effectively.
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    Stare at the alleged liar with a look of disbelief. If the person is lying, he or she will soon become uncomfortable. If the person is telling the truth, he or she will often become angry or just frustrated (lips pressed together, brows down, upper eyelid tensed and pulled down to glare).
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    Use silence. It's very hard for a liar to avoid filling silence created by you.[4] He or she wants you to believe the lies being woven; silence gives no feedback on whether or not you've bought the story. By being patient and remaining silent, many deceitful people will keep talking to fill that silence, embellishing and possibly slipping up in the process, without even being asked anything!
    • Liars try to read you to see if you've bought the tale.[5] If you don't show any signs of something to monitor, many liars will feel uncomfortable.
    • If you're a good listener, you'll already be avoiding interruptions, which in itself is a great technique to let the story unfold. Practice not interrupting others if you have this tendency — not only will it help you to detect lies but it'll make you a better listener generally.
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    Follow through. If you have the means, check out the facts behind what the liar is saying. A skilled liar might give some reason why you shouldn't talk to the person who could confirm or deny a story. These are probably lies themselves, so it might be worthwhile overcoming your reluctance and to check with the person you've been warned against. Anything factual that can be checked should be checked.


  • A good way to practice your lie detection skills is to watch a court television program like Judge Judy and see if you can tell who's lying. Trust your instincts and then watch carefully to see if you can detect some lying tells of the person you least trust in the case (although sometimes they are both lying!) If you agree with the judge's verdict then you have probably detected the same signs she has.
  • You should also check if the lie makes sense. When most people lie, they get more nervous and tend to make up something that doesn't make sense. If they tell you too many details, they could be lying. Ask them to tell you their story multiple times and make sure they say the same idea as before.
  • Make sure you're positive they're lying before you call them on it! You wouldn't want to ruin your friendship/relationship for no reason.
  • The more you get to know someone, the better you will become at recognizing their thinking style and the better you will become at knowing when they may be straying from the truth.
  • Liars might use objects around them to help put detail into their lies. For example, there might be a pen on the table and then they will include a pen in their story. This could be another give away that the person is lying.
  • Changing the subject quickly or making a joke out of it could indicate lying. Also getting very defensive and looking away or trying to convince you with direct eye contact. Sometimes they will start questioning you to get the attention off of them. Some people are very good liars and don't show any real signs. You have to rely on your own feelings and evidence that you notice.
  • Some of the behaviors of a liar listed above also coincide with reactions and behavior of someone who might not be lying at all. People who are nervous, shy, easily frightened, guilt-ridden for some other reason, etc. can react nervously and poorly when interrogated or placed under pressure. Such people can easily become defensive if accused of lying, particularly those with a strong sense of honesty and justice. This may seem like they're lying, but they're often just shocked or ashamed to be put at the center of attention unexpectedly.
  • If you think someone is lying, ask for more details. If they hesitate or touch their face, this is an indicator that they may be lying!
  • Some people may have reputations for lying. Keep this in mind, but don't let it lead your opinion. People change all the time and the effect of turning over a new leaf can be destroyed by a lack of faith in a person due to his or her past reputation. Prior reputation isn't everything––as with the signs of lying, it has to be taken as part of the broader context, on a case-by-case basis. Consider too that sometimes those with prior reputations are particularly to be set up by another who might benefit from this person taking the blame.
  • It's easier to know if someone is lying if you know them well.
  • Although any one of the given examples may seem as though they may be telling a lie, a combination of many is a great indicator of lying.
  • Most people tell the truth most of the time and will cherish their reputation. Liars will "sail close to the wind"––they'll artificially bolster their reputation so that they seem more credible or desirable than they actually are.
  • Some people are just shy, and might not be really lying if they fidget a lot or don't meet your eyes. So never rule that out.
  • Some people are extremely experienced or even professional liars. They have told their made up story so many times that they are actually believable, getting all their days, dates and times down perfectly! In reality, our memories are reformed a little every time we retell them, so making up memories to deceive oneself isn't so unusual either. Sometimes, you may need to simply accept that you can't catch every lie all the time.
  • Liars don't talk too much. If you ask, did you do it? They will answer a simple no or yes. Be careful. Also asking did you break the pot? How did you do it? May get the truth out.
  • If you say " I don't believe you" or if you say "That doesn't sound true" the liar might get mad or talk louder than usual. Try to be negotiating, instead of accusative or verbally abusive.
  • Some liars will give more information than is needed.
  • When someone is trying to lie they start to stutter or fidget and they try everything to make you believe them like: crying or pleading. They also give you exact eye contact too so you might want to watch out for that too.
  • Those established as clinical psychopaths or sociopaths may lie for a living, as they manipulate reality to conform to what they prefer to see. Rather than trying to catch out such people, look after yourself first and don't get caught up in their webs of deceit. Such people care naught for anyone but themselves and won't hesitate to pile lie upon lie, no matter how much hurt it inflicts upon you.
  • Some of the behaviors outlined above may occur when somebody concentrates deeply on speaking (for example, when the topic is sophisticated or the person is stressed).
  • Also watch for rapid eye movement. The liar will try to look at you, but instead will not make eye contact and look around the room.
  • Instead of interrogation you can ask them a related question each day.
  • When the alleged liar will recall events, their gaze may shift down as they think, naturally. If they keep staring at you and don't think about it, it means the story could be rehearsed and they are lying.
  • Liars may slowly and clearly say the shortest answer possible, stopping for a second every now and then, closing their mouth.
  • Study body movements, voice tone changes, and their eyes. Those usually give away when someone is lying.
  • Botox or other plastic surgery may also interfere with tells and give false positives. It's hard to express yourself clearly when your face is frozen in place by cosmetic treatments...
  • Be wary of constant agreement. Some inexperienced liars just go along with what you say. So try to avoid suggesting things all together ie. "And after that you woke up and the dream ended?"
  • If you know the person very well and know if they are stressed, there is a better chance of them telling the truth.
  • If a person of your opposite gender knows you have a crush, and say they are already in a relationship, then they might be lying, to get attention. These sort of statements are common to be lies, so you should definitely check with them.
  • Many people will try to look extra casual when lying, because they think being tense will give themselves away. Most liars will; loosen their shoulders, breath less often, tilt their head, act as though you are being silly, shake their head with narrow eyes, and lean back. They will also deny things very calmly.


  • Body language is one indicator; it is not a fact. Don't punish a person simply because of your reading of body language and tells. Always find concrete evidence before drawing final conclusions. Moreover, don't turn unearthing a liar into a "I'll be played for a fool if I don't take this seriously" situation; leave your personal sense of righteousness to one side and look for facts, motive and broader consequences. While you have every right to feel betrayed and hurt if someone has lied in a way that has caused you harm, wanting someone to be a liar because this fits in with your own biases can cloud your judgment.
  • Some people have really dry throats and will naturally swallow and clear their throats often.
  • Be aware that some people like to stare at you eye-to-eye. They may have trained themselves to do this, they may use it as a way to put others on edge or they might just think it's being polite because someone told them to maintain eye contact as a matter of courtesy!
  • Be careful of how often you appraise others' truthfulness. If you are always looking for lies, people may avoid you out of fear of a grilling. Being on the offensive and suspecting everyone all the time is not vigilance––it's a sign of an obsessive lack of trust in others.
  • Forcing a smile is often just an attempt to be polite; don't take this personally. If someone fakes a smile for you, it can also mean that he or she wants to make a good impression on you, valuing you as a person and showing respect.
  • Some people fidget when they need to go to the toilet or are too hot/cold.
  • Studies show that interrogations of a suspected liar should always be performed in his/her mother tongue as even expert speakers of a foreign language will not show the same reactions (in spoken language as well as body language) if questioned in a language acquired later in life.
  • Be aware of disabilities. A disability can affect the way someone interacts, so applying non-disabled standards could lead to misinterpretation. Find how they normally act, and then notice deviations from that.
    • Autistic people (including those with Asperger's) may fidget and avoid eye contact as part of their natural body language.
    • Anxiety (notably social anxiety and PTSD) can sometimes look like lying; a person may avoid eye contact, avoid people, and act nervous.
    • Deaf or hard of hearing people may need to watch your mouth instead of your eyes in order to lip read or better understand what you are saying.
    • Bipolar (manic depression) symptoms include fast talking during a manic phase.

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