FORGET everything you thought you knew about how to spot a liar — new research from the University of Michigan suggests we’ve all been getting it wrong for years.
A recent study conducted by a team of researchers into what lying really looks like used 120 real-life court cases sources from The Innocence Project as test subjects and found the hallmarks of a fibber are different to what we thought.
Rather than sweaty palms and avoiding eye-contact, liars were much more likely to stare a person straight in the eye and use their hands more than those telling the truth. They also grimaced or scowled using their whole face more often and would use words like “um” to fill the space between sentences.
University of Michigan’s professor of computer science and engineering Rada Mihalcea said the study focused on real-life cases because it’s impossible to create a setting in a laboratory that will give people enough incentive to lie convincingly.
“The stakes are not high enough,” she said. “We can offer a reward if people can lie well — pay them to convince another person that something false is true. But in the real world there is true motivation to deceive.”
The experiment used machine-learning techniques to create software that analyses words and gestures to tell the fibbers from the truthful. Tests showed the software was able to pick the difference 75 per cent of the time while humans got it right just over half.
Assistant professor of mechanical engineering Mihai Burzo said the study shows just how bad people are as lie-detectors.
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“There are clues that humans give naturally when they are being deceptive, but we’re not paying close enough attention to pick them up. We’re not counting how many times a person says ‘I’ or looks up. We’re focusing on a higher level of communication,” she said.
Typical signs of a liar include keeping eye contact, grimacing, scowling, nodding and waving their hands around in gesticulation while using filler words like “um” and “ah”. Meanwhile those telling the truth would frown, raise their eyebrows, close their eyes and open their mouth more often.
It’s thought the research could be used by mental health professionals, security agents and in court cases. The plan is to use it as part of a bigger project that uses thermal imaging to take body temperature and heart rate into account.