How do you recognize a lie?

How to know if you’re being lied to

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The ability to read a person’s facial expression and determine if they are telling the truth can come in handy and keep you out of trouble. Such a skill can help you know whether to trust a charming stranger you recently met on the street and whether to go on a date with him. Juries often use these lie-recognition techniques in trials, and they are also known to police and judges, which makes their job easier. In order to master the art of lie detection, you need to know something about body language and the meaning of facial expressions – usually people don’t pay attention to such little things. All you need to do is read our article and practice using your newfound knowledge.

  • Usually, if a person is lying, his face will express anxiety – raised up the inner ends of the eyebrows, forming wrinkles on the forehead.

Another well-known sign of a liar is touching the tip of the nose or covering the mouth with the hand. People who lie very often touch their hand to their nose when doing so. This is most likely due to an increase in adrenaline levels in the blood – particularly in the capillaries located at the tip of the nose. This is why there is an itching sensation on the nose. [1] X Source of Information [2] X Source of Information A person who lies is likely to hold their hands as close to their mouth as possible – as if trying to cover their mouth and stop telling an untruth. If a person’s lips are visibly tense or pressed together, it means they are tense and anxious. [3] X Source of Information

  • Watch the eye lids. When a person is lying, or if he disagrees with what he is saying, he closes his eyes for a longer period of time . But for this you need to know how this person blinks in a normal situation, for comparison. If a person’s hands or fingers try to rub or close their eyes, this is another sign of lying, an attempt to “block out” the truth.
  • One should not judge the truthfulness of what a person says merely by the movement of his eyes. Recent studies have shown that eye movements may also be due to other factors. Therefore, such signs are ambiguous. [4] X Source of information [5] X Source of information Many scientists claim that the eyes cannot unambiguously determine whether a person is telling the truth or not.

  • Studies show that some liars make eye contact too often, almost without breaking eye contact. Therefore, investigators usually take prolonged eye contact with a suspect as a sign that he is trying to hide something. When a person avoids eye contact with you, it means they are anxious or puzzled.

Watch your interlocutor’s voice. If he suddenly begins to speak faster or slower than usual, or if the timbre of his voice suddenly rises, it could mean that he is not telling the truth. Stuttering, mumbling, and stuttering are also hallmarks of a liar. [6] X Source of Information

Watch the amount of detail in the conversation. If a person tells you too much and mentions a large amount of detail, such as: “My mother lives in France. It’s very beautiful there, isn’t it? Do you like the Eiffel Tower? It’s very clean and wonderful there!” – this could mean that he is desperately trying to get you to believe the truth of what he is saying.

  • If the person answers right after you ask the question, he may be lying. He may have thought out his answer beforehand and was just waiting for you to ask the question.
  • Another sign of a liar is omitting important facts and events. For example: “I left for work at 7 a.m., and when I came back at 5 p.m., he was already dead.” In this case, the person does not talk about what he did between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. This could mean that he is lying or trying to hide something.

  • A person who tells the truth will respond to accusations with explanations and lots of detail. The liar will only repeat what he has already said and insist on his own.
  • Watch for a delay in answering your questions. An honest answer usually follows immediately after the question-if the person remembers well what happened. The more the person lies – the harder it is for him to keep track of what he says, so he ponders each answer for fear of giving himself away and saying something that contradicts his previous answers. When people look away and look away, it may mean trying to remember events that have happened.

  • Repetition of the same words when answering a question.
  • Avoiding or trying to delay an answer – for example, asking people to repeat a question. Other methods of evading a quick answer – such as when a person says that it’s a great question, or that it’s not easy to answer, that it all depends on what exactly is meant, etc.
  • Liars often avoid abbreviations and emphasize negative particles. For example: “I did NOT do that.” This is an attempt to convince the person that he/she is right or wrong.
  • Incoherent speech, sentences that make no sense, and incomplete phrases are signs of a liar.
  • Using humor or sarcasm to avoid giving a straight answer.
  • The use of “honestly,” “if straightforward,” “not to lie,” “to be accurate,” etc. can be a sign of deception.
  • Responding too quickly or answering a question with exact repetition of sentence structure. For example, the question, “Didn’t you wash the dishes very thoroughly?”, the response is, “No, I didn’t wash the dishes very thoroughly.”

Repetition of sentences already said earlier. If the person keeps answering with the same words and repeating sentences that have already been said, he or she is probably lying. When a person comes up with a lie, he usually remembers it as a specific expression or a well-crafted sentence or statement. If you ask him about the same thing several times, he will keep repeating the same thing.

  • Liars know that people like compliments. If your “suspect” in an “interrogation” suddenly starts complimenting you, it can’t help but arouse suspicion. A person rarely pays a compliment just out of the goodness of his heart.

The next sign is perspiration. When people lie, they sweat much more than usual. [7] X Source of information During a lie detector test, for example, sweating is measured. [8] X Source of Information Although sweating by itself does not mean that the person is lying. Some people just sweat more than others. Sweating can also be a sign that a person is nervous or shy. Sweating is usually considered an indicator of whether a person is telling the truth when it is seen in combination with other factors – shivering, blushing, and frequent swallowing.

  • For example, when a person says that he has washed all the dishes diligently and constantly nods his head as if agreeing with his own words, it may mean that he has not washed the dishes very conscientiously. Usually this sign is found in all liars-except those specially trained to lie.
  • Doubt or hesitation before an answer is also a characteristic of liars. A person who tells the truth usually nods before or while giving an answer. When a person is trying to lie, they will hesitate to answer and nod with a delay, as if after a short reflection.

When people are fidgeting, twitching, or twirling various objects in their hands, it means they are nervous or afraid. Liars often twirl objects in their hands or fidget with their handkerchief, and fidget in place all the time.

  • Reversing the body backward. When a person is telling the truth and has nothing to hide, he leans forward to the person he is talking to. If the person is lying and hiding something, they lean backward, away from the person they are talking to. Leaning back can also mean a lack of interest or dislike for the person you are talking to.
  • When people tell each other the truth, they usually subconsciously imitate certain actions of the interlocutor – tilting their heads at the same angle or assuming a similar posture. A person who lies is unlikely to behave in the same way. He will not imitate the movements of his interlocutor, even the opposite – he will do the opposite, tilt his head in a different direction and move differently.

Watch your interlocutor’s throat. If he is constantly swallowing or coughing, he is probably lying. When a person lies, his body produces more adrenaline than usual. So at first, when the person is trying to lie, the glands start to produce more saliva, causing him to swallow often, and then, when all is said and done, the saliva production suddenly decreases dramatically, causing him to cough. His mouth becomes dry (he can burst into a cough). The liar puts his body under great stress, his heart rate increases, and his lungs need more air.

Check the person’s breathing. The liar tends to breathe faster, taking a series of short breaths and exhales, followed by one deep breath. The mouth may appear dry . Again, this is because they are under stress, which makes the heart beat faster and the lungs need more air.

  • Liars often do not make any hand gestures. They don’t point their finger, try not to open their palms, etc.
  • Liars often hold on to something with their hands-the edge of a chair, a table, or some object. Often they squeeze their hands so hard that their knuckles turn white.
  • Liars often rub their hair, fix their clothes, or rub the hem of their dress. [9] X Source of Information
  • Remember the following:
    • Liars often hunch over on purpose to look casual and relaxed. They may yawn or look around the room as if to express their boredom. If a person acts at ease, it is no guarantee that he is telling the truth.
    • It is important to remember that all of these signs may be indicators of nervousness and agitation, rather than deception.

    Be careful. Falsehood and deception are not difficult to detect, but it is also easy to make the mistake of seeing deception where there is none. A huge number of different factors can influence a person’s behavior and the manifestation of all of the signs mentioned above. For example, most of these signs can be not only an indicator of deception, but also signs of shyness, nervousness, shame, insecurity. A person who is in a stressful situation may behave strangely and look like a liar and cheater, even if he or she is not. Therefore, in such situations, it is important to observe the person for a long time and monitor their behavior for numerous signs that they are lying, because having one or two such signs is not enough to identify a liar. [10] X Information source Joe Navarro and John R Schafer, Detecting Deception , FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, July 2001

    • Is a person under stress not caused by this particular situation?
    • Perhaps a person’s behavior is influenced by factors such as the traditions and culture of their people?
    • Are you personally prejudiced against this person? Perhaps you expect or want him to lie? Be careful with your feelings!
    • Does this person have experience? Could he be a skilled liar?
    • Does the person have a reason, a motive for telling untruths?
    • Are you good at looking for signs of deception? Do you only think the person is lying? Be objective about yourself and your abilities.

    Try not to thicken the clouds. Let him feel the normal, non-hostile attitude – then he will relax and behave naturally. Never show the person that you suspect him of lying. If he does not suspect anything, it will create a more favorable situation for you to look for signs of deception.

    Determine what is normal behavior for this person. Observe how he behaves when he is not lying. This will help you spot signs of unnatural behavior if the person suddenly begins to lie. Ask him a few general questions and watch his reaction. Ask questions that you already know the answers to.

    Often people who are trying to deceive you will tell true stories, deviating from the topic of conversation in order to avoid answering the question you posed directly. For example, if a person answers the question, “Have you ever hit your wife?” with “I love my wife, why would I hit her?” – it means that he is trying to avoid answering the question directly. He may be telling the truth without answering the question posed. It means he is trying to hide something.

    • Ask the person to tell what happened backwards – starting with the most recent event and in reverse chronological order. This is very difficult to do, even for a professional, experienced liar.

    Look at the liar with disbelief. If he is lying, he will be uncomfortable. If he’s telling the truth, he’ll get angry or upset (pressed lips, lowered eyebrows, lowered stare).

    • Liars try to determine whether you believe them or not. If you remain impartial and don’t give away your thoughts, they will start to worry.
    • If you know how to listen, you won’t interrupt your interlocutor by letting him finish his story completely. This will help identify inconsistencies in what he is telling you.

    Check everything the interviewee tells you. If you can, check all the facts and details he mentions. Talk to possible witnesses, if there are any.

    How to spot a lie: more than 30 eloquent body reactions + useful material on spotting lies

    Writer by profession, philosopher at heart. Exploring the topic of psychology, esoterics, I am a consultant on the archetypes of personality. I have been freelancing for almost 10 years.

    Greetings to you, dear readers!

    “According to statistics, a man lies three times in 10 minutes of conversation” – so begins the most famous series about the lie theory “Lie to Me”, the prototype of the main character in which was Paul Ekman, a major expert in the psychology of emotion and deception. And this phrase is not very far from the truth: according to scientists, a man lies at least 10 times a day. I propose to learn how to recognize a lie and understand the true intentions of the interlocutor.

    About this we will talk about body language and other signs, which we will analyze with you in this article. And at the end I will give useful links to books and courses on profiling, so you can delve even deeper into this subject.

    Theory and types of lies

    First, I suggest that we deal with the term itself. Let’s look at what a lie is.

    According to Wikipedia, a lie is a deliberate distortion of the truth that is intended to mislead someone. Here we would like to add something else: lying also includes withholding some information, embellishing and evading a direct answer.

    All people lie… that’s a fact! And each of us considers this trait to be a negative one. But if we understand it, we are taught to lie since childhood. In psychology there is such a term as social desirability, the meaning of which is that a person always strives to be pleasant, to respond and speak in such a way as to look preferable in the eyes of others.

    For example, we were taught not to shout when we want to, to praise our grandmother’s gift even if we did not like it, to say that the soup was not too salty, that the person looks great, that you are all right… That is, we were taught to lie right and left. We deceive because the bitter truth often borders on tactlessness, and lies sometimes help to ensure security and maintain relationships.

    As adults, we lie in order to appear better, enhance our reputations, get what we want, gain an advantage or a financial advantage.

    Experts consider lying to be a very high-level mental ability. Lying convincingly is also a talent. Many of us admit that we cannot lie, and in part they are right. At the moment of voicing an untruth, a person needs to keep many facts and details in his head, which must not be mixed up. And then to repeat them if they are asked again. Not everyone is capable of this.

    You can see from the example of small children how unconvincing a person can be in their deception. It is as if you can see right through them, especially if they are your children. Nevertheless, they learn quickly and improve their “talent” with age.

    Psychologists distinguish several classifications of lies. For example:

    • Unconscious. It happens because of the peculiarities of our perception. What we do not have time to remember, we invent, fantasize and do not even notice that we are not telling the truth.
    • Deliberate. This is a deliberate lie to achieve certain results. For example, to avoid conflict, not to hurt loved ones, or to get easy money.

    Lying can also be active or passive. In the first case, we intentionally distort the truth, while in passive lying we simply evade or withhold important information.

    Some experts also distinguish the pathological type of lying, when a person invents a whole life with achievements, status, connections, in order to seem more advantageous in the eyes of others.

    By what signs you can recognize a liar

    Let’s move on to the practical part and learn what nonverbal body signals and other signs can give away deception.

    In the eyes

    How to identify a liar by his eyes:

    • A person who recalls events that really happened in the past is said to look to the left or in the upper left corner. And those who try to embellish or make things up, look to the right. Keep in mind that if a person is left-handed, the exact opposite will be true for them.
    • A liar tends to blink more often than a person who tells the truth. In doing so, he closes his eyes for longer periods of time.
    • Also liars often rub their eyes with their hands or cover their eyelids with the palm of their hand, as if trying to cover the truth.
    • It is believed that liars avoid long eye contact and tend to look away. However, many experts believe that a sign of lying is, on the contrary, too frequent and prolonged staring into the eyes of the interlocutor. This is how a liar tries to “prove” his sincerity. If a person hides his eyes, most likely he is confused, worried or puzzled.
    • There is also a theory that women who are trying to deceive often look up, and men – liars tend to look down.

    By facial expressions.

    Let’s consider what facial micro-expressions may indicate that you are being told an untruth:

    • Lying is not an innate property of man, we acquire it in the process of life experience. Therefore, very often in moments of lying our body experiences stress. The complexion changes, the skin turns red or pale, the eyelids may twitch slightly, the blinking is accelerated, the inner ends of the eyebrows rise up, forming wrinkles on the forehead.
    • You can also pay attention to the emotions and how they match with what the person is saying. For example, if he says how happy he is to see you, but his smile is a fraction of a second late, apparently the interlocutor is not entirely sincere. The same if he talks about his sadness, but the emotion on his face does not confirm it.
    • Another marker is the frequency of changes in facial expressions. Experts say that on average a person’s facial expression changes every 10 seconds. If it happens more often, it could be a sign of lying.
    • An unnatural, porcelain smile, tight, compressed lips or biting the lips – all those things can also tell us that you are faced with a liar.


    If you have to look closely at the facial expressions and gaze, the gestures are obvious and hard to miss. What signs will be indicative of lying:

    • The person often covers her mouth with her hand, rubs her eyelids, scratches her neck or throat, or touches her ears. A woman may involuntarily curl a strand of hair with her fingers, a man may rub his palms together or stroke his leg. Objects of interest during a conversation may be various things: the liar often rubs the collar of clothing, cuffs, buttons, pen, jewelry, etc.
    • Lying often causes us to touch our nose. It is believed that when we tell an untruth, the level of adrenaline in the blood rises, particularly in the capillaries that are located at the tip of the nose, which causes some itching.
    • It is also helpful to watch your interlocutor’s head movements. If he nods during his talk, it may indicate that he seems to agree with his words.
    • His gestures seem to be artificial, theatrical, and his gestures do not match his usual behavior. If a person is usually quite emotional and used to involving his hands in conversation, in a moment of insincerity he will be stingy with gestures. And vice versa, a liar who is not used to gesticulating will actively use these movements for expression.
    • Also liars often tend to hide their hands from the interlocutor, putting them in pockets, behind his back, etc.

    By analysis of words

    Deception can be calculated also on how and what a person says, with what intonation and at what rate says the words, how he answers questions, etc. Let’s analyze the most pronounced signs:

    • The interlocutor begins to speak at an unnatural pace: too fast or slow, swallowing words, stammering, stammering.
    • An excessive abundance of details in the story may also be an indication of lying. In this way, the person is trying to make the other person believe what he or she is saying.
    • A defensive posture is another marker. When you are desperately trying to convince, responding with sarcasm and other attacks, evading a direct response, changing the subject, and in response to accusations of insincerity only repeat what has already been said (read memorized), know that you are dealing with a liar. A person who is telling the truth will not make excuses or prove that he is right, but will only begin to explain and give new arguments.
    • Lying can be indicated by too long pauses before answering your question, as well as re-interrogation in order to buy some time to come up with an answer.
    • If a liar is asked the same thing, he will use the same words and expressions in the story. This is because the person usually creates a blank statement for the lie, which is often also rehearsed.
    • Sudden compliments, humor and sarcasm instead of an answer, oaths of sincerity, and exact duplication of the words of a question (“Sure you didn’t go to your friends yesterday?” – “I sure didn’t go to my friends yesterday!”) can also indicate untruth.

    By body language.

    In addition to gestures, other signs will help to catch a liar: the posture, behavior, and body signals. Let’s analyze them in order:

    • When a person lies, his body produces adrenaline, more saliva is excreted and then the salivary glands output sharply decreases. Because of this, the interlocutor may alternately swallow excess saliva and cough because of the lack of saliva.
    • Fidgeting in the chair, excessive sweating, pulling back the collar of the clothes to cool, shallow and frequent breathing will also indicate insincerity.
    • Another sign is a closed posture. When a person crosses his arms on his chest, takes an uncomfortable body position, puts his foot on his leg, his movements become narrow, constrained, he tries literally to move away from the interlocutor, the body deflects back.
    • It is also not uncommon to observe the liar artificially attempting to assume a relaxed posture: he or she deliberately hunches over, yawns, and looks around the room, trying to create the impression of relaxation.
    • Lack of imitation may also not speak in favor of the speaker. Unconsciously imitating the actions of the person we are talking to is a normal way of expressing our interest. We tilt our head to the same side, put our hands in the same way, and turn our torso. The liar is focused on his own body movements, and therefore ceases to behave naturally and does not duplicate the actions of the opponent.

    In correspondence.

    To determine a lie without seeing or hearing the person is not an easy task. But if the person you are talking to is familiar to you, some signs can still lead to suspicions. For example:

    • If he begins to write too long and complex sentences in response, although short one-syllable phrases are more characteristic of him;
    • If before he always wrote without punctuation marks, and then suddenly he started to put commas and use capital letters;
    • too long typing means that the person is trying carefully to select words or make up a story;
    • some signs in writing are similar to the usual verbal speech, for example, if the person in a letter or on the phone evades a direct answer, at the slightest suspicion tries to insult, defend himself, unskillfully justify himself.

    How not to confuse the truth with deception

    In fairness we would like to add a fly in the ointment and let down a little bit those who after reading all the above-mentioned facts decided that now no cheater can escape from him.

    In fact, as stated by many experts in the field, the methodology of lie detection by non-verbal behavior carries more risks than constructive and real benefits.

    Researchers have repeatedly proved that the stereotypical view of most people about the signs of lying does not coincide with the real behavior of liars. After all, it can diverge from one person to another and from one circumstance to another, and it may not speak of deception at all, but of something else. For example:

    • People suffering from a runny nose or other abnormalities of the sinuses can touch the nose.
    • Rubbing the eyes can be due to allergies. And the direction of the gaze is caused by many other factors.
    • An unusual manner of speaking may indicate a high degree of embarrassment, insecurity, emotional lift or a bad mood.
    • Sarcasm and attacks in response to suspicion are not only characteristic of liars, but also simply of irascible and temperamental people.
    • Sweating doesn’t mean anything, either. Perhaps the room is stuffy, the person is under stress, or is physiologically prone to excessive sweating.
    • The closed posture and the desire to distance himself from the interlocutor can talk not about deception, but about the arrogance or disinterest in the conversation.

    Before you try to accuse a person of lying, remember other important nuances:

    1. You need to know the person well. What he is like in everyday life, how he speaks and behaves in his usual and comfortable conditions, how he acts in stress, what he does and looks like when he is embarrassed, etc.
    2. Non-verbal signals also differ depending on the extent of the lie. Experts mention the so-called high stakes, when the fate of a relationship, health and serious “punishments” are at stake, and the low stakes, when people fight, laugh and forget. A person in these two options will behave very differently.
    3. As professional profilers say, in order to unravel untruths, ideally you should form questions in a special way, and also film the respondent on camera to be able to discern the smallest changes in his body language on still images.

    You might be interested in taking emotional intelligence tests. You’ll find out how well you know your emotions and whether you can correctly interpret the reactions of others.

    How liars were exposed in ancient times

    The issue of catching liars has been relevant at all times. In ancient times, when there were no polygraphs or expert profilers, there were original methods:

    • In the East, rice flour was poured into the suspect’s mouth. If after a certain time it was dry, the person was considered guilty. It was not taken into account that dry mouth could be caused by simple fear and stress.
    • Another procedure was to tie a donkey in a darkened room and smear paint on his tail. The suspected liar had to enter the room and stroke the tail of the animal. If the donkey screamed, the person was recognized as a liar. It was believed that the one who committed the crime would be afraid to go near the donkey, lest the animal shouted, and his hands would remain clean.
    • In African tribes, the “culprits” were identified by smell. A sorcerer would perform a special dance and sniff out the subjects, and then draw a conclusion as to which of them had committed the crime under investigation.
    • Also in ancient times, the method of measuring the pulse was used to identify unfaithful wives. A specially trained person put his finger to the artery of the suspect, and then she was asked questions mentioning the names of potential lovers. This is how to determine who would have the greatest reaction in the form of a rapid pulse.

    Useful Materials on Lie Recognition

    What books to read on the subject of lie detection:

    Even more publications with descriptions you will find in our separate selection of books on profiling.

    Of the interactive training programs, I can recommend the Human Reading Course from Wikium Profiling. It’s 20 online tutorials that include exercises, practical techniques, facial micro-expression recognition simulators, and quizzes. Through this course, you’ll learn how to identify falsities in spoken and written speech, and how to predict people’s behavior. Now the course with a discount costs only 1 990 rubles.

    Another course – Profiling: understanding the psychology of people from 4brain. It lasts for 5 weeks, during which you will learn to decipher gestures, facial expressions, analyze your actions, discover hidden emotions and stop attempts to manipulate you. There are 20 sessions, each taking 30 to 40 minutes. In the process, you can ask questions to the curator. Now the training costs 1,990 rubles.

    Other paid and free courses on profiling I gathered for you in a separate publication.


    We have considered the main signs of lying, as well as we have analyzed why they should be treated critically. When trying to use what you have learned, always ask yourself:

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