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Non-Verbal Clues to Lying Behavior

Non-Verbal Clues to Lying Behavior


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Published by Gregory Cordes
In this paper, I will discuss what is lying, who does it and why. I will discus several lie detection methodologies as well as what circumstances we are most likely to catch a liar. In addition, I will identify lie detection methodologies that do not work. This paper will put special emphasis on non-verbal and facial lie detection models.
In this paper, I will discuss what is lying, who does it and why. I will discus several lie detection methodologies as well as what circumstances we are most likely to catch a liar. In addition, I will identify lie detection methodologies that do not work. This paper will put special emphasis on non-verbal and facial lie detection models.

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Non-Verbal Clues to Lying Behavior

Non-Verbal Clues to Lying Behavior Gregory Cordes General Psychology PSY7220 Social Psychology Winter 2008 jgcordes@comcast.net

Abstract In this paper, I will discuss what is lying, who does it and why. I will discus several lie detection methodologies as well as what circumstances we are most likely to catch a liar. In addition, I will identify lie detection methodologies that do not work. This paper will put special emphasis on nonverbal and facial lie detection models. Non-Verbal Clues in Lying Behavior Introduction What is lying? According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2008), people lie “to make an untrue statement with the intent to deceive” or “to create a false or misleading impression”. While lies are generally socially unacceptable, there are exceptions. For example, Paul Ekman (2001) suggests sometimes a lie is not a lie when we break a promise. If the circumstances under which the promise changes, we are not obligated to fulfill the promise. If I was to promise to pick someone up at the movies, and that person does not go there, I am not obligated to make the trip anyway. Another exception to the rule of lying is failure to remember. If an individual does not recall, there is no intent to deceive. In 2 other cases, lying is not only acceptable, it is keenly encouraged. In warfare, we expect deceit (Ekman, 2001). As Sun Tzu (400 b. c. e.) puts it, “Warfare is one thing. It is a philosophy of deception”. The maxim “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” is unfair, a military opponent is suppose to use guile. Another, lie free zone is gaming (Ekman, 2001). In a game of poker, players are encouraged to bluff and out maneuver their opponents. Misinterpreting and misunderstanding also fall under the lie free arena, because once again, there is an intent failure (Ekman, 2001). In a final area, lying to serve a moral imperative is not morally questionable. For example, extracting a confession from a guilty individual by use of verbal trickery is a perfectly moral use of lying (Rowland & Bailey, 1994). However, traditional police interrogation techniques can cause false confessions (Brehm, S. S., Kassin, S. & Fein, S., 2005). Who does it, and why? Probably everyone does it (Hancock & Chafetz, 1966), and the likelihood of being lied to increases in disproportion to who you are speaking to in terms of relationship closeness (Brehm et al., 2005). That is to say, the more distant a person is in terms of relationship, people are more likely to lie (Brehm et al., 2005). This has the ring of truth - clearly the consequences of lying to spouse are greater than lying to a stranger. It happens to us a lot, about 200 times a day - that is about once every 5 minutes (Geary, 2000). Other research suggests this happens once every 3 ½ minutes (Livingstone, 2005). Why lie? Ekman (2001) identifies 9 motives. People lie to avoid

punishment against themselves or others. On the other hand, lying to obtain a reward is common. Another motive is to avoid physical harm, when punishment is not the harm. Avoiding embarrassment, getting out of uncomfortable situations, maintaining privacy, and exercise control over others also makes the list (Ekman, 2001). In terms of gender, is there a difference in how women and men lie? Pease and Pease (2001) suggest there is a difference in how men and women lie. Women do it more, better, and are superior lie detectors. The authors suggest the reason women are superior at lie detection is because they are better at detecting subtle changes in body language (Pease & Pease, 2001). The suggestion women lie more has the ring of truth, in relationship aggression - the ability to make a convincing lie is a handy tool in a women’s verbal arsenal, especially in the application of relationship aggression (Brehm et al., 2005). How do we categorize liars? Dimitrius and Mazzarella (1999) tell us liars come in 4 flavors. Most of us are occasional liars, we feel uncomfortable with deceit. In this case, nonverbal clues just pour out of us. But, in the other 3 categories, the frequent, practiced and professional liar, I will discus later - the clues tend to dry up. Lie detection methodologies. Dry mouth is probably the oldest lie detection method, for the ancient Chinese the inability to spit out a mouthful of rice powder (Kleinmuntz & Szucko, 1984). Ancient Bedouins would force a suspect liar to lick a high iron - a burn on the tongue would evidence guilt (Kleinmuntz & Szucko, 1984). Most of us cannot detect a liar any better than chance (Ekman, 1996). There are several reasons for this. For most of us there is no reward for catching liars. Many times our relationship with the victimizer is too fleeting. Perhaps the really bad liars did not make the evolutionary grade (Ekman, 1996). But, some of us are good at lie detection, for example nearly 1/3 of United States Secret Service score 80% at lie detection, with none scoring at a chance level (Ekman, 1996; Ekman, O’Sullivan, & Frank, 1999). There are techniques that to detect whether someone might be lying. Lieberman (1998) suggests there are several signals in verbal exchange that show deceit. These include, using your words in making a point, adding information until the liar is certain you have bought the line, stonewalling, liars often offer their beliefs instead of providing a direct answer, and implying an answer. In addition, liars sometimes take longer to respond, have outlandish reactions, tend to leave out pronouns, speak in a mechanical voice, garble, and commit syntax and grammar errors. A liar may engage in stalling, this may take the form of a request such as “Can you repeat the question”, “would you be more specific”. Lieberman (1998) suggests many times a liar will attempt to change the subject, and be calmer when the subject changes. The liars may use sarcasm or humor to deflect interest, or offer an alternative answer, that is to say, not answer the question, but answer a different one. A liar may use a known fact to support a questionable story, or tries to be on your side by pointing out something someone else has wronged you. There is a possibility the lie may be so outrageous, it would be unlikely anyone would believe it at face value. Many times, a liar’s answer sounds much like a question (Lieberman, 1998). The sound we make in our voice is telling. When people decrease their pitch in speech, this tends to evidence stress, while high pitch speech indicates excitement (Geary, 2000). In contrast, Ekman (2003) finds voice pitch rises when people lie. Fluctuations in voice we cannot hear are telling - fluctuations as a result low blood flow to the vocal chords because of muscle tension in the neck as a result of stress (Geary, 2000). This is not a binary relationship, a yes or a no, but works in degrees. That is to say, even if the individual bares some degree of guilt, fluctuations show an inconsistency (Geary, 2000). Tone plays apart, but volume does too. Sometimes people lower their voice when lying, if they must lie they prefer to do quietly (Dimitrius & Mazzarella, 1999). Many times liars will increase their rate of speech. In addition to speech, the language liars are different. Liars avoid complex speech, they tend to avoid words as “but” and

“however” (Anonymous, 2004). On the other hand, words as “do” and “walk” are common in an attempt to divert attention. Liars use more words conveying negative emotion, and do not make compelling remarks (Anonymous, 2004). Interestingly, people without the ability to understand words at all, aphasics, do better at determining whether someone is lying than most people (Etcoff, Ekman, Magee, & Frank, 2000). There is some evidence liar’s own words entangle them. Grice’s cooperative principle states writers should strive to achieve quality, tell a provable truth – quantity, provide only sufficient information – relation, the writer should stay on topic – and manner, avoid ambiguity (McGowan, n.d.). Inexperienced writers do violate Grice’s maxims more when writing falsely than truly (LaFond, n. d.). From time to time we have all seen this, a lengthy utility rate hike notification that sounds like they are doing us a favor by increasing the cost. There are several ways liars set us up for a lie. Liars use sound psychological principles to set us up (Lieberman, 1998). For example, the liars will tell you they are just like you, people like the familiar. They will offer you a gift and rely on reciprocation. In other cases, when you have already invested in something great, they will offer you something in addition that is small. They will ask you to do a little something, then using lies, salami slice their way up. Some will tell you everyone is doing it, rely on obedience to authority by wearing a uniform or laboratory coat, or tell you it is rare (Lieberman, 1998). Darrel Huff (1993) says lying with statistics is easy - it is simply a matter of how you frame the numbers, define average, or scale the chart. Lieberman (1998) suggests another method of lie detection, one we can anchor in Pavlovian psychology. This particular strategy is an attempt at getting the truth. Lieberman (1998) suggests you ask a series of questions you know the target will answer truthfully. At specific points, anchor the truthful response with a gesture, one that is not too obvious. Intermittently, condition the individual in question with the anchor whenever you are sure the answer is correct. Then, use the gesture when you ask a question you are not sure the individual will answer truthfully (Lieberman, 1998). This method might work with small sins, but I do not see anyone confessing to murder with this device. With regard to criminal investigations withholding “guilty knowledge” is essential tool in law enforcement (Rowland & Bailey, 1994). Simply put, law enforcement does not release all information relevant to a crime. Determining whether a suspect has “guilty knowledge” is vital tool in establishing guilt. Law enforcement uses “guilty knowledge” to validate confessions (Rowland & Bailey, 1994). The flip of “guilty knowledge” is “guilty innocence”. We would expect physicians to know what a stethoscope does - otherwise, we would have to doubt the veracity of their professional claim. Another methodology is to look for fallacies of logic. There are 42 fallacies of logical at the disposal of the liar. These include attacking the person and not the argument - claims or actions of another are inconsistent and therefore untrue - appeals to a false authority - appeals to emotion, fear, flattery, novelty, pity, popularity, ridicule, spite, tradition, threat of rejection – begging the question – bias sample – shifting the burden of proof – self interest – composition – confusing cause with effect – division – false dilemma – gambler’s fallacy – genetic failure to name a few (Dell’Amico, 2008). What are the best circumstances to catch a liar? According to Ekman (2001), there are several circumstances when a liar is vulnerable. For example, when the liar has never told this particular or type of lie, if the lie is high stakes, or the risk of severe punishment exists. When the interviewer is open-minded and does not come to conclusions too quickly, if the interviewee speaks as much as possible, and when both share a common cultural background. The interviewer must understand the difficulties and how to interpret non-verbal clues to lying behavior (Ekman, 2001). Methodologies that do not work. The eyes do not have it, polygraphs are

questionable at best, and torture is a sure method to get a lie. “Look straight in to my eyes and tell me the truth”, is not an effective method of determining whether someone is telling the truth (Ekman, 2002; Lawson, 2006). We can relegate this technique to the dust bin. Polygraphs have enjoyed a long reputation as a lie detection technique. But does it work? There are several problems with polygraphs - polygraphs measure physiological symptoms of arousal (Ekman, 2001). Polygraph theory suggests if the arousal is greater for a question after a baseline question, this shows deception. How does it know the arousal is a result of fear or guilt, it does not, the arousal might be the result of contempt, or anger at having the question put forward. Polygraphs are inherently flawed - they will measure arousal but cannot determine what causes it. Cohen and Swerdlik (2004) suggest polygraphs fail in part because most states require no more than 2 weeks training to qualify for licensure. In fact, the human factor necessary to determine what is the cause of arousal is ill qualified to make that determination. Torture is a time tested method of getting at the truth, but does it work? Not according to one senior military interrogator, what they get is either the truth or an attempt to end the torture – a lie (Office of Communications, 2006). Discussion Non-Verbal Methodologies. Lieberman (1998) suggests a number of non-verbal clues to deceit. For example, liars tend to time words poorly with gestures, make mechanical head movements, and words do not match gestures. There are 4 nonverbal gestures a liar is likely to make (Geary, 2000). Illustrators will do something to emphasize their point, lifting a finger for example. Manipulators tend to touch and tap, face touching is especially important because in may indicate an attempt at hiding facial expression. Micro-expressions are fleeting changes in expression that tend to occur when an individual is repressing a true emotion. I will discuss micro-expressions in more detail later. The liar might also employ an emblem, a gesture without meaning (Geary, 2000) - a shoulder shrug for example. Occasional liars employ a number of lying leakages including, wandering or shifty eyes, fidgeting, rapid speech, voice change, shifting on one’s feet back and forth, nervousness, furrowed-brow, sweating, shaking, face covering, lip and teeth licking, leaning forward and inappropriate familiarity (Dimitrius & Mazzarella, 1999). In addition, changes in voice might include tone, volume, or pattern of speech. Unlike the occasional liar, the frequent liar lies regularly and does not feel any compunction about it. For the frequent liar, there is still lying leakage, but it is subtle. Dimitrius and Mazzarella suggest focusing on the internal consistency of the frequent liar who is apt to get sloppy, make contradictory statements or logical fallacies. Habitual liars do not even know they are lying. They move from situation to situation where individuals cannot detect their deceit if limited by the circumstance, but their internal inconsistencies are obvious when we observe them from one context to the next. The professional liar is the most difficult to identify because they are practiced. Their lies are well thought out – their answers consistent, logical, and at the ready. Abrupt changes in behavior tend to be the key in deciphering dishonest behavior. On the other hand, honest people tend to greet us with openness and an honest smile (Dimitrius & Mazzarella, 1999). Exactly, what does and honest smile look like? The chief characteristic of an honest smile is the orbicularis oculi, the muscles at the outer corners of our eyes – a facial expression causing “crows’ feet” (Geary, 2000; Ekman, 2001). According to Ekman (2001) smiling tells a great deal about our state. Facial Models. Ekman (2001) posits the highest reliable “hot stop” of lying leakage occurs in the face. For example, Lieberman (1998) suggest the mouth is telling when a liar feigns emotions such as surprise, awe, and happiness. The smile has a unique quality - it takes only one muscle to show happiness (Ekman, 2001). We can spot a smile 300 feet away, and find it hard not to reciprocate. There are 18 honest smiles, all characterized by the contraction of the

orbicularis oculi including the felt, fear, contempt, dampened, miserable, enjoyable-anger, enjoyable-sadness, enjoyable-surprise, enjoyable-excitement, enjoyment contempt, Chaplin, flirtatious, embarrassment, qualifier, compliance, coordination, and listener similes. On the other hand, Ekman (2003) characterizes false smiles by the lack of “crows’ feet” and people who produce false smiles tend toward dishonesty. But, does this hold up experimentally? Yes, and strongly (Ekman, 2001). Individuals engaged in lying behavior tend to produce more false smiles than honest ones (Ekman, 2001). Interestingly, we can make judgments about an individual very quickly from an honest smile, and be right (Flora, 2004) in a process called “thin slicing” thought by some psychologists to be an evolutionary self defense mechanism (Flora, 2004; Gladwell, 2005). There is some evidence to support this notion. People who are asked to make rapid judgments as to whether someone is lying can accurately determine who is lying 74% of the time (Vrij, Evans, Akehurst & Mann, 2004) In addition, other facial clues provide some indication of veracity, including pupil dilation, blinking, blushing, tearing, blushing and blanching, mistakes in timing and location, and asymmetry (Ekman, 2001). There are several ways to detect false emotions. Our faces betray us, for example the absence of a forehead expression is a reliable method of determining whether someone is faking fear or sadness (Ekman, 2001). Negative emotions correlate with asymmetric facial expressions, in one experiment 75% of subjects show an asymmetric expression when viewing an unpleasant film (Ekman, 2001). As I described earlier, micro-expressions are brief. The value of these expressions is when the look does not match with what the speaker is saying (Ekman, 2003). For example, the friend that flashes an angry-enjoyable micro-expression and then looks at us with a non-Duchenne smile, a “crow foot” free smile, and tells us what a wonderful time they had on vacation may be less than truthful. Also, an expression that is smooth is more likely to show the true emotional state of the individual (Ekman, 2003). Let us look at the eyes one more time. While looking straight in the eye is not a method to assure veracity, eye direction does give us some indication as to what the individual is thinking about (Lieberman, 1998). For right handed individuals, recalling information causes them to look up and to the left, up and to the right for lefties. However, right handed people look up and to the right when imaging something, up and to the left for south paws. By watching the eyes, you get information as to whether the person you are speaking to is recalling something from memory, or just making it up (Lieberman, 1998). Are non-verbal lie detection clues infallible? No, reliability of non-verbal clue lie detection is merely better than chance. For the most part, non-verbal lie detection falls under the category of projective testing. There are 3 reasons for this, first facial asymmetry is difficult to see in real time, sometimes the liar does not show a micro-expression and the last Ekman describes as Othello error (Coughlin, 2002). Just as a liar may fear detection, truth tellers may fear they do not sound credible (Ekman, 2001). Conclusion Many things that seem to fit the definition are in fact, not lies (Ekman, 2001). Lying is a remarkably common human behavior - for the most part it is harmless, unless the stakes are high as in the commission of a crime (Geary, 2000). Men and women lie, but women are better a detecting lies (Pease & Pease, 2001). Some people are inherently better at detecting lies than others (Ekman, 1996). Liars use a variety of strategies - the strategies themselves clue us (Lieberman, 1998). There are a variety of physiological symptoms of lying, including micro-expression, emblems, illustration, and manipulations to name a few (Ekman, 2001). Lying even changes the way we write (LaFond, n.d.). The best circumstances for catching a liar are when the liar does not have the benefit of practice effect (Ekman, 2001). Many lie detection techniques do not work, including looking straight into the eyes (Ekman, 2002; Lawson, 2006), polygraphs (Cohen & Swerdlik, 2004), and torture (Office of Communications, 2006). Non-

verbal lie detection is a projective test, however – work in brain research holds the possibility lie detection may become standardize. Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, researchers have found several structures in the brain directly related in deceit (Langleben, Schroeder, Maldjian, Gur, McDonald, Ragland, O’Brian & Childress, 2002). These structures include the superior frontal gyrus, the anterior cingulate cortex, the anterior parietal cortex, the left pre-motor and motor (Langleben, et al., 2002). The future of lie detection may reside in brain science. References Anonymous. (2004). Psychology graduate student research lie detection. Retrieved on January 20, 2007 from http://media.www.roundupnews.com/media/storage/paper474/news/2004/09/09/news/psych ology. Brehm, S. S., Kassin, S. & Fein, S. (2005). Social Psychology (6th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. Cohn, R. & Swerdlik (2004). Psychological Testing and Assessment (6th ed.), New York: McGraw-Hill. Coughlin, K. (2002, October 6). Face the facts: Your expression gives you away. Star-Ledger, p. 17. Dell’Amico, M. (2008). The nizkor project: Fallacies. Retrieved on February 28, 2008 from http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies. Dimitrius, J. & Mazzarella, M. (1999). Reading people. New York: Ballantine Books. Ekman, P. (1996). Why don’t we catch liars? Social Research, 63, 3, p. 801-817. Ekman, P., O’Sullivan, M. & Frank, M. G. (1999). A few can catch a liar. American Psychological Society, 10, 3. Ekman, P. (2001). Telling lies. (2nd ed.) New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Ekman, P. (2003). Darwin, deception and facial expression. Annals New York Academy of Sciences, 1000, p. 205-221. Etcoff, N. L., Ekman, P., Magee, J. J., & Frank, M. G. (2000) Lie detection and language comprehension. Nature, 405. Flora, C. (2004). Snap judgments. Psychology Today, May/June. Geary, J. (2000). How to spot a liar. Retrieved on August 28, 2001 from http://www.time.com/time/europe/magazine/2000/313/lies.html. Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink. New York: Back Bay Books. Hancock, R. & Chafetz, H. (1966). The compleat swindler. New York: The Macmillan Company. Huff, D. (1993). How to lie with statistics. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Kleinmuntz, B., & Szucko, J. J. (1984). Lie detection in ancient and modern times. American Psychologist, 39, 7, p. 766-776. Langleben, D. D., Schroeder, L., Maldjian, J. A., Gur, R. C., McDonald, S., Ragland, J. D., O’Brian, C. P, & Childress, A. R. (2002). Brain activity during simulated deception: An event-related functional magnetic resonance study. Retrieved on January 20, 2008 from http://ww.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6wnp-457vfvm-Y&_. Lawson, W. (2006). The eyes don’t have it. Psychology Today, 39, 1, p. 24. LaFond, L. (n.d.). Telling truths or titanic tales: The interrelatedness of Gricean maxims. Carolina Working Papers in Linguistics, 1, 1. Lieberman, D. J. (1998). Never be lied to again. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. McGowan, T. (n. d.). Grice’s cooperative principle. Retrieved on August 24, 2007 from http://www.acs.appstate.edu/~mcgowant/grice.htm. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2008). Lie. Retrieved on February 24, 2008 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary. Office of Communications (2006). Rethinking the psychology of torture. Georgetown University, Retrieved on February 3, 2007, from http://explore.georgetown.edu/documents/20647/?PageTemplateID=11. Pease, A. & Pease, B. (1998). Why men don’t listen and women can’t read maps. New York: Welcome Rain Publishers.

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