OPINION: How to find out if a candidate is lying

Jose M. Galang

Posted at May 03 2016 06:34 PM | Updated as of May 03 2016 08:21 PM

Facial expressions, gestures and language can help us determine whether a person is lying and setting us up for a deception, according to a book, Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception.

The book’s author, Pamela Meyer, is recognized worldwide as an expert deception detector. She says that visual cues and psychology can be employed in figuring out whether a person is telling the truth or lying.

“Deception epidemics” now plague societies across the globe, as per findings from lie-detection skills developed and sharpened over the past few years by Meyer and her company, Calibrate, which is based in Washington D.C.

Lie detection has proved to be valuable to corporations in their search for employees for key positions and for partners in possible business ventures. By recognizing lies and other signs of deception, companies have been able to avoid huge losses.

It is not too difficult to conclude that during election seasons, lies and deceptions abound. It is therefore easy for voters to fall prey to candidates who have mastered the pernicious art of fraud and lying.

Meyer’s Liespotting offers several tips on how to sense a lie from the candidate speaking on the stage or talking to an interviewer on TV. For instance, the face and facial expressions, says Meyer, are “a liespotter’s best friend”.

While skilled liars may know how to keep a poker face, says Meyer, the fear of getting found out may overtake them. Liars might “flash a look of contempt at an incompetent investigator” or might even show a “hint of delight at getting away with their deception”.


Obviously, liars use words to obscure the truth. If facial expressions, gestures and leg movements are not already difficult for the liar to control, “keeping all the details of your story straight” can unravel a deception. Thus, if one says different things at different times about one particular topic or issue, one can promptly be suspected of lying.

The careful listener, says Meyer, can do a fair bit of liespotting just from the words liars choose to use. For example, liars “give very specific denials” and choose their words ever so carefully. When a liar wants to build credibility, he or she will pad his or her story with as much factual content as possible. Deceptive individuals will add more detail around the prologue of a story, Meyer quotes Israeli researcher Avinoam Sapir as saying, but gloss over the main event where the deception comes into play.

Still, Liespotting notes, just 7 percent of how we communicate with each other is through words. Humans communicate primarily through body language. “Recent studies have concluded that body language make up about 65 percent of our interactions — the bulk of the 80 percent of communication that is deemed ‘nonverbal’,” says the Liespotting author.

The head can “have a mind of its own” even while we concentrate on other things — like keeping a story straight. This means that we’re prone to nod ‘Yes” even as we’re mouthing “No”, or vice versa. This often happens in television interviews and it should arouse suspicion immediately, says Liespotting.

Certain nervous tics — nose scratching, ear tugging, mouth covering — tend to increase in frequency with the stress of lying. “While zeroing in on the face to look for facial expressions, take note also of fidgeting actions like face-touching,” Meyer says.


Also, the arms are another “body language hotspot” that draw the most attention when they are underused in any conversation, says Meyer. “We cross our arms when we want to take a defensive position. A liar might lock them in place there, afraid he will leak clues to his deception by using unnatural hand gestures. The crossed-arms stance is the polar opposite of the open, palms-out stance that is considered to be the most welcoming, truthful position.”

If you are dealing with someone whose arms are crossed, be prepared for a negative or unwelcoming reaction, whether you suspect deception or not, says the expert liespotter.

Maybe the few pointers discussed above will not be enough to make any of us experts in spotting lies and deception. But they should be good enough to give us some useful clues that can lead us to scrutinize more discerningly the candidates that are now before us.

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