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Contrary to the impression given on popular television shows, the degree to which Lie Detection is successfully done by observing non-verbal, body language is greatly exaggerated.
Lie Detection can happen at higher levels of reliability by applying principles described in my book, "Changing Your Stripes." But the primary intent of my book is NOT to detect the lying behavior of others (although you could do this), but to detect the lies that you are telling to others, and to discern the lies you are telling to yourself.
It is often hard to catch yourself telling and living lies, because you and I will "lie" unwittingly; meaning, we lie, but we do not know that we are lying. These betrayals of truth are not always just lies told by the mouth, but usually lies manifest via emotion. The Emotional Lies that we Live, are the hardest lies to discern in yourself, yet quite easy to see in others.
When you have a problem, but don't realize you have a problem . . . that's a problem! How could you ever solve a problem, if you don't think you have a problem? The blindness of being unable to see yourself living a lie is called "Self-Deception" — Freud called it "Denial."
"The worst lies are the lies we tell ourselves. Denial is a way of lying to ourselves.
The built-in bias for psychological research is to look for physical correlations: How does lying relate to factors of body-language, genes, dna, brain chemistry, etc — that's Psychology. But there are more reliable correlations to be found beyond physical confines: specifically, paying attention to tell-tale signs within verbal-language and human relationships — that's Social Psychology.
According to Miller and Stiff (Deceptive Communication, 1993) the reliability of body-language cues for detecting deception is no better than a flip of a coin. Further, Ekman and O’Sullivan (1991) found that people in occupations where detecting deception is advantageous (federal polygraphers, judges, crime scene investigators, and psychiatrists) were not more accurate at detecting deception than average college students. In his book "The language of confession, interrogation and deception," Roger W. Shuy concludes that "human beings are not good lie detectors."
What follows is a list of Body-Language Signs of Deception — signs that you and I may be lying. But remember, these signs are as reliable as a coin flip. After this list, I detail highly reliable Tell-Tale Signs of Deception.
Body-Language Signs of Deception
1. Avoiding Eye Contact
This tell-tale sign is not always reliable because, for example, telling the truth is often accompanied by a lack of eye contact. Admitting the truth when you've made a mistake, is often a hard thing to do; here, lack of eye contact correlates to guilt and shame . . . and NOT lying.
Also, Liars who are aware that “Eye Contact” is the #1 sign of lying, they may try to defeat detection with too much eye contact -- eye contact that seem unnatural and contrived. paradoxically, Giving Too Much Eye Contact can be a tell-tale sign of Deception.
2. Increased Blinking Rate
Is the person lying, or does he or she have a speck of dust in the eye? You need a "base-line" Blinking Rate to compare against, if this indicator will be valid. Some people naturally blink a lot, while others . . . not so much.
3. Changes in Voice Pitch and Pauses
High or low vocal tones may correlate to tight underwear. Excessive pausing may indicate that a liar is making up a story on the fly, or it may signal that a person is simply not articulate. For example, consider a sports interview: most of the time athletes are NOT lying, but some athletes are also NOT articulate either — hence "pausing" is present in their speech.
3. Nervous Fidgeting.
Hands touching the Face, Nose, or Mouth are typical signs of lying, BUT itching and stroking the face can happen because a person has allergies. Remember, people are often nervous at the prospect of telling the truth; thus, this Tell-Tale sign of Lying, along with the others mentioned here, are as reliable as a coin flip.
4. Verbal Defensiveness.
Those who have nothing to hide . . . hide nothing. Freud identified "defensiveness" as a mechanism for resolving conflict between the ID (Instinctual Desire to reproduce) and the SUPEREGO (Social Conscience for doing right and conforming to social mores). Freud is responsible for coining the term: Defense Mechanism
Defensiveness definitely indicates something: While the "defensive" person may not be telling a lie in a defensive moment, he or she is likely living a lie — people who live in alignment with their own inner truth exhibit peaceful emotions, not defensiveness.
5. Physical Defensiveness.
Body Language is guarded. The body of the liar may turn away or fold arms or cross legs to create a defensive shield.
6. Changing the Subject
Liar may try to change the subject to defect attention away from topic tied to their guilty behavior? On the other hand, people will change the subject because they are bored with the topic of conversation. So, is a person Lying or just Being Bored. As the astute observer combines multiple signs of deception, the probability that a person is Lying goes up.
7. Avoiding Straight-forward Seriousness with Sarcasm and Humor
People who use excessive Sarcasm and Humor, may be Lying; hence, they try to cover the seriousness of a sensitive moment with levity? On the other hand, you may be in the presence of a person who tends to be a comedian generally? This is why a BASELINE of behavior must be established first, so a comparison can be made between what you are observing in the moment . . . and how the person is question normally behaves.
8. Contradictory Statements:
Because they are making up a story as they go, Liars slip up with details that don’t match reality. On the other hand, a person be making a honest mistake . . . a misstatement. Observations over time will tell the tale!
9. Contradictory Body Language:
Saying one thing with the mouth, but body language is incongruent. For example a person might say: “Yes, I really want to go with you” (but the non-verbal cues show no excitement for the idea). Also, a Lying Person may do just the opposite (because they are Lying), they contrive excitement with fake smiles and fake enthusiasm as visual evidence to support their Lie.
10. Language is garbled and muddled
This may be a sign of Lying, or it may point to a person merely being inarticulate. Again, if you want to detect signs of Lying, you need a baseline of behavior to which to compare. Remember, some liars are very articulate and verbally smooth — they've learned to be skillful verbally through much practice, to compensate and cover their deceptive intentions.
CONSIDER THE INFLUENCE YOU HAVE UPON A PERSON WHO MAY BE LYING:
When confronted with a direct question “Are you lying to me?” . . . liars will typically become uncomfortable, and do some of the body-language signs of deception; in contrast, an innocent person may simply say “Of course not” — with no defensiveness or hesitation.
Even when a person is NOT lying in a particular instance, if they are “Living a Lie” in their life generally, then the direct question “Are you lying to me” may result in that person taking offense — and becoming "defensive." People who consistently live with honor and integrity do not waste time in taking offense.
So when a person is NOT lying, the kind of approach you make creates a constraint that can bring about Defensiveness — again, the person is NOT lying, but merely responding to YOU in the moment! This partially explains why many false confessions and inaccurate information comes during aggressive interrogation.
People behave IN RESPONSE to the conversational context that constrains them: Because a person is trying not to hurt you, he or she may speak deceptive words so YOU won't get upset or disappointed at a straight-forward answer.
Here's a Sign that is pure baloney: Looking up and to the right. This is a myth conjured up by psychologists hell-bent on finding correlations between Deception and the Brain:
Certain brain-oriented psychologists believe that looking up and to the right triggers the part of the brain linked to the imagination. Conversely, when someone looks down and to the left, he or she is activating the section of the brain associated with memories.
ON AVERAGE, GENERALLY SPEAKING
Nonverbal cues previously identified are Signs of Lying "on average" — this is how many, but not all, people are liable to behave when Lying. Such generalizations will NOT necessarily apply to particular person.
To illustrate, imagine a group of 1000 men and a group of 1000 women, and you know that, on average, the men are 2 inches taller than women. Now, assume that you find out that a person is 5'9". Based on that information alone, can you tell with any certainty, whether that 5' 9" person is a man or a woman? Why not?
This is the problem with "averages" and "generalizations." This means you cannot consistently apply generalizations from a large group to make claims about specific individuals. Remember, there are tall women and short men, and all sizes in-between. Hence knowing someone's height, by itself, is not conclusive information for trying to a person's gender. In the same way, the previous body-language cue for "lying" will not always apply.
Why Do People Lie?
To serve themselves for their own personal gain: to get what they want which includes:
1) Avoiding trouble; the trouble that a Liar may have caused in the first place.
Lying is about selfishness: a way of living that is opposite to that which brings true self-fulfillment and happiness in the long run. We lie at the price of our integrity and honor -- our quality of character -- the only thing we do take with us when mortal flesh dies and our eternal soul lives on.
The following are superficial non-verbal cues that may indicate that a person is lying. I say “may” because unless a baseline for behavior is established, you cannot discern whether the cues characterizes behavior outside of that person’s norm.
For example, certain people may have allergies that cause them to rub their eyes or nose -- which can be a nervous twitch indicating a lie - but in this case, it indicates allergies.
Most lie detecting experts agree that a combination of body language and other cues must be used to make an educated guess on whether someone is telling the truth or a lie.
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The following Principles from Dr Matt's book, Changing Your Stripes,
All Your Troubles are in The JAR. Betrayal is a word to describe moments when a human being is out of harmony with his or her own sense of truth. As Shakespeare expressed, "To thine own self be true, therefore thou canst not be false to any man." Betrayal means being false to yourself as well as to others. When you go against your own sense of goodness, you lose Life's inherent harmony; inner conflict is created and outward signs seep to the surface.
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A thorough understanding of the tell-tale signs of betrayal can provide awareness sufficient to catch yourself and correct your course. The patterns are predictable and observable; they are consistent signs central to the aim of Un-Doing! Seeing these signs in yourself provides a huge clue . . . to what you need to Un-Do:
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Instead of owning response-ability, the person in betrayal typically tries to explain away the troubles at hand: Justifying self while Accusing others is a tell-tale pattern of those trapped in betrayal; they also become embroiled in Resenting emotions and rationalize, "because others have made me miserable . . . begrudging my abusers is what anyone would do in the same situation." Indeed, most "anyone" would begrudge their abusers, but being average is not our aim. Changing Your Stripes is about excellence!
It's hard to See in the Dark. As the sun sets beyond the horizon, its light grows gradually dimmer. With the onset of darkness, the ability to see become increasingly impaired. Like physical vision, our spiritual vision is also obscured as we leave the Light of Innocence; for it is from the abundance of the heart that the eyes see. When our heart is out of harmony, we cease to see clearly. Diminished vision is the unavoidable result of walking in the shadows of betrayal. Because we no longer see through innocent eyes, we perceive a different world. We see differently, not because the world has changed, but because we have changed.
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When caught in the trap of betrayal, we encounter the connected consequence of diminished vision; betrayal and blindness always occur together. People will not even attempt to correct a problem if they don't think they have a problem—yet they do . . . and are blind to it!
Einstein's Mind Bind. Impaired perceptions inevitably lead to flawed solutions. With clouded vision and confused thinking, betrayers cannot "figure" their way out of their problem. The reason why people do not, and sometimes cannot, find their way out of a problem is explained by a conundrum I call, "Einstein's Mind Bind." In short, you can't change your mind, . . . using the same mind that needs changing; neither can you fix a situation, using a mind that needs fixing. Here's how this bind of the mind . . . was stated by Einstein:
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Thus, in order to solve any problem, . . . a paradigm shift is required! A shift from the way of thinking that was capable of creating a problem in the first place, . . . to a way of thinking that can perceive a new perspective. Further, thinking that you can solve Life's most important problems with your "thinking" . . . is itself a problem. When confronted with a crucial issue, people often say, "I need to figure things out . . . I need a strategy." Using your head is a good approach for solving problems of algebra, but not for solving problems of anguish. Indeed, the mental mind-set used to create a problem cannot be used to solve it!
As long as the head is disconnected from the heart, betrayers will solve their problems in precisely the wrong way. Beset with a blinding mental block that breeds more perplexity, people afflicted with Einstein's Mind Bind (which is everyone to some degree) are more prone to problem-making, than problem-solving.
Some might suggest you have a disease, a psychological disorder, when really you're just doing and feeling dis-ease because of a spiritual dis-order: You've lost Life's inherent harmony.
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By choosing to resist the spark of inner goodness that guides, Life's inherent harmony is lost. Through our own conflicted thoughts and feelings, Life spontaneously lets us know that we walk in darkness. And when in darkness, we lack the clarity of vision that is amply enjoyed in the Light. Through darkened eyes we misperceive our world. Every solution contrived by our head ends up wrong, and will continue to be wrong as long as the head is out of harmony with the heart. When you're blind and in betrayal; the tell-tale signs of the JAR provide you, . . . a corrective clue.
Self-justification has been a tell-tale sign of betrayal for a few millennia: "If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me" (Job 9:20). People who fall in the trap of betrayal feel an itching need to rationalize their contribution to a quagmire. Betrayers invest much time and energy into telling anyone who will listen, why they are justified in their attitudes, actions, and emotions; they assemble a self-justifying facade so they won't look bad, . . . when really they have been bad.
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It is precisely because of inner imbalance that people get involved in a Justifying pattern. Justifying is only useful to those who are out of balance. Rationalizing has always been easier than admitting mistakes; it is the road of least resistance, and least effort. It is the crowded course traversed by a mediocre majority.
Telling Stories: Anxious vs. Honest. People who betray their intuitions of innocence have a story to tell! But not all who have a story to tell are betraying themselves. Some stories are just . . . stories. With no inflamed emotion, some stories explain events and occurrences with straightforward frankness; no blame, no irritation, no resentment exists in the telling of an honest story. It is a story that explains and may even entertain. This type of story will mostly go away the following day . . . for it has no reason to stay. That is, unless you really like it, then you might file it away . . . and enjoy it on another day.
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The anxious story yearns to appear convincing, it seeks to be backed by facts; it needs to be lined with logic. The anxious story clings to factual evidence to compensate for the inner insecurity of the storyteller. The anxious story requires airtight logic to make secure, an inherently insecure story.
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Conversely, the honest story is more or less succinct and needs no long, involved logic. Because they have no inner turmoil to resolve, people who tell an honest story speak candidly with no agitated edge of emotion. The honest story does not try to manipulate or pretend, and it may even be a little awkward or goofy. It is not premeditated or polished, because honest storytellers have no motive to appear impressive. The Honest Story will BE, whatever it IS because "that's the way things happened."
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A False Solution: Blame as Balm. When spinning self-justifying stories, we portray someone else or something else as being at fault. But what good does this do? To think that Blaming Others might bring relief is the accuser's misleading illusion! Even if others are completely blameworthy, motives of revenge, resentment, and rationalization only serve to poison the heart of those who harbor inflamed feelings. In the name of justice and closure, betrayers embark upon a crusade of accusation against offenders. But when such a crusade is cankered with accusing emotions, blame brings no healing balm to a wounded soul — instead, fretful feelings make the wound wider!
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Because other people have wronged us—or we imagine that they have wronged us—therefore, our plight must be their fault. We falsely conclude that we are justified in harboring hatred towards offenders. While perpetrators may be directly responsible for causing abrasions and intrusions beyond the perceptual participation and choice of the abused, yet those victimized by misfortune still have Response-Ability; they author all responses of word, deed, mind, and emotion—to include the response called resentment.
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Re-Sending Negative Energy. Resenting other people, or situations, is a re-occurring activity: After someone has been mistreated and the opportunities of a new day arise, instead permitting fresh feelings to invigorate, the resenting person engages in re-sending negative energy. Choosing to re-send resentment is today's decision that squashes tomorrow's opportunities.
Lies told by Mouth and Emotion:
Feelings that are False: BRIAR Emotions. When people are being true to their own sense of truth, they display peaceful emotions in their bodies and upon their faces. Integrity of character is evidenced by a calm and contented countenance—an absence of agitated emotions. In betrayal, the tell-tale signs of Justifying, Accusing, & Resenting are expressed outwardly, but what brews beneath all accusing, self-excusing words are anxious and unsettled emotions:
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While the lies from our lips are more obvious, lies can also be "told" without words. Resentful and accusing emotions are nonverbal lies that we live; wordless emotional lies that are more subtle and insidious. As we harbor irritated and tense emotions, we are entangled in the thorns of the BRIAR.
The BRIAR represents Lies that we "tell" via Emotion.
B = Bothered Blaming & Bitter
These unsettled emotions openly show in our very countenance; they reveal our betrayal of Truth. Because these feelings are false, . . . we are Being False as we harbor them. BRIAR Emotions are yet another set of tell-tale signs that signal the loss of Life's inherent harmony.
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In Contrast to Pure White. Visualize a canvas of pure white, the kind of canvas that an artist uses to paint a portrait. Think of your life as a collection of colors being painted upon this clean, clear canvas. With every word you think and every deed you do, the portrait of your life is painted, and in contrast to pure white, any tint or shade less than white is obvious and conspicuous. Against an immaculate backdrop, you are able to see . . . with perfect clarity, how some motives and emotions fall short of pure white.
In your mind's eye, imagine that all loving words and deeds possess the unsullied shine of bright white. The purity of love would have no hint of darkness, not even the slightest shade of gray. Every word, deed, thought, or emotion that is "less-than" pure white, is a shade of betrayal:
Pure Love Less-than-Love
calm approachable impetuous edgy
Shades of Betrayal: Less-than-Love. When we are being less-than-loving, the portrait we paint upon the white canvas is clouded by confusion; instead of vivid hues of red, blue, and green, a quarreling collision of colors makes the muddied shades of black and gray. Thus the portrait of our Life loses clarity . . . and beauty. Against the backdrop of bright white, even the subtlest shades of gray are easily exposed.
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Foul-Able Feelings: A Sign of Leaving the Light. Feelings are fundamentally of two types: feelings of Light and feelings of darkness; emotions of Bright White and emotions of black and gray. Again, emotions are Life's exclamations . . . that point to moments and matters that need attention—what to reinforce in Bright White moments, and what to avoid when black and gray emotions arise. Emotional feelings "kick in" as a function of how you perceive your world; thus, if your perceptions are incorrect or impure, you will generate body physiology in support of a "false alarm."
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The most important function that foulable feelings serve . . . is to let us know we have left the Light. Negative emotions can be useful exclamation points that help us correct our course; however, they are only helpful if we hear and heed their warning, otherwise the experience of feeling negative emotions is just one more useless, needless occurrence of Self-Inflicted Suffering. Listening to what anxious emotions are willing to teach is one way that Life is Self-Correcting.
A thorough understanding of the tell-tale signs of self-deception can provide awareness sufficient to catch yourself and correct your course. The patterns are predictable and observable; they are signs central to the aim of Un-Doing! Seeing these signs in yourself will provide a huge clue . . . to what you need to Un-Do:
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When caught in the trap of betrayal, we encounter the connected consequence of diminished vision; betrayal and blindness always occur together. People will not even attempt to correct a problem if they don't think they have a problem--yet they do . . . and are blind to it! Thus, having an intellectual awareness of the tell-tale signs of betrayal is a good start in "seeing" beyond the blindness. Intellectually identifying the tell-tale signs can be quite easy; the harder task is "seeing" the full implications of these outward signs and humbly admitting one's betrayal. Even though there is intellectual acknowledgment of tell-tale signs, yet we will continue to be blind as long as we remain in betrayal. Clear vision only comes with harmony of heart. (Changing Your Stripes, pages 194-200)
Changing Your Stripes is a