BEYERS DE VOS
The truth will set you free. Honesty is the best policy. Liar, liar pants on fire. Truth is truth, until the end of reckoning. Oh, really?
As most teenagers will tell you, it gets a bit more complicated than that. Life isn’t straightforward and it is a very lucky person who has never been lied to and a very unusual one who has never lied. As Oscar Wilde put it, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
Face it, everyone does it. In fact, according to the experts, they do it all the time. About three times every ten minutes, if you want to get technical about it. And as with most things in life, some people are just better at it than others. It’s something which comes easily to them. They have a talent for lying.
But then the opposite is also true; other people have a knack for being able to tell when someone is being dishonest or insincere. They are called Truth Wizards: a technical term for people who can spot a lie as soon as someone tells it. They were so named by American scientists Dr Maureen O’Sullivan and Dr Paul Ekman who devised the Wizards Project, a psychological study to test people’s ability to detect lies. Truth Wizards have a unique ability to spot micro-expressions, which are involuntary facial expressions that mirror the seven universal emotions: disgust, anger, fear, sadness, happiness, surprise and contempt. They occur within 1/25 of a second, usually in high stake situations or when someone is trying to conceal something. Truth Wizards also have acute abilities to detect inconsistencies in both spoken and body language.
The television show, Lie to Me, recently seen on Mnet, is a fictionalisation of Dr O’Sullivan and Dr Ekman’s work.
Sadly though, not all of us can be truth wizards, so this week Perdeby wanted to find out what other cues someone could use to tell whether they were being lied to.
According to Psychology Today, there are certain indicators to look out for. If someone crosses their arms or creates a barrier between themselves and the person they are talking to, it is usually a sign that they are hiding something. Involuntarily touching of the neck, face or arm, fiddling with your hands, shifting your body weight, or intentionally creating distance are all signs of lies.
But in an interview with NBC news, Dr O’Sullivan maintains, “Anxiety by itself is not a sign of deception. There are other things you have to look for, things that are inconsistent with what [people] are saying.”
She says that there are clues to dishonesty in people’s speech patterns, “it’s harder to lie than tell the truth. To lie, people have to make something up. This can lead to hesitations in speech, slips of the tongue, lack of detail in what they are saying.”
Interestingly, she also argues that the notion that people break eye contact when they are lying is a popular fallacy. In fact, they are so aware that they are lying that they will usually make more eye contact.
So there you have it. Next time you ask your boyfriend if those pants make you look fat, or next time you’re told “It isn’t you, it’s me” these are the things to look out for.
But a word of warning, straight from the expert himself: when Dr Ekman was asked by Time magazine why he thought people lied, he famously replied, “Truth or happiness, never both.”