Detect liars using body language | Sunday Observer

Detect liars using body language

22 November, 2020

One sometimes sees more clearly in the man who lies than in the man who tells the truth. Truth, like the light, blinds. Lying, on the other hand, is a beautiful twilight, which gives to each object its value. - Albert Camus

A minister wound up the service one morning by saying, “Next Sunday I am going to preach on the subject of liars. And in this connection, as a preparation for my discourse, I should like you all to read the 17th chapter of Mark.” On the following Sunday the preacher rose to begin his discourse and said, “Now then, all of you who have done as I requested and read the 17th chapter of Mark, please raise your hands.” Nearly every hand in the congregation went up. The preacher then said, “You are the very people I want to talk to. There is no 17th chapter of Mark!”

This episode shows that some of us, if not all, are liars. We tell lies when we do something wrong. Those who are involved in fraudulent activities are professional liars. You will not find a child who has never told a lie. This applies even to adults. In courts witnesses lie under oath. Politicians are well known for telling lies at election rallies. Public servants tell lies when they want to go on leave. Traders tell lies to sell their goods. Match-makers tell lies when they recommend a man or a woman who is waiting to get married. It seems that lying is prevalent in every society. Liars are least concerned about religion or morals. They lie in order to get what they want.

Since lying is a psychological problem, psychologists have paid much attention to it. They tell us that communication through body language has been going on for thousands of years, but it has been studied scientifically only during the past 30 years. Albert Mehrabian, Professor of Psychology of t U.C.L.A. and author of Silent Messages says a person’s non-verbal behaviour generally has more bearing in communicating feelings and attitudes than do his words. Ray Birdwhistell, Professor of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania says less than a third of communication takes place through spoken language. Sigmund Freud once noted how an actress slipped her wedding ring off and on while talking to her lover. His conclusion was that she was an adulteress.

Identifying liars

So far, scientists have not invented a machine or any other method of identifying liars. However, body language seems to give us certain clues when somebody tells us lies. We are quite familiar with the three wise monkeys who hear, speak or see no evil.

The hand-to-face actions they depict indicate human deception. When a person sees, speaks or hears untruths or deceit he will try to cover his mouth, eyes or ears with his hands. Even children cover their mouths when they utter lies. If a child does not want to listen to a parent’s warning or scolding, he will cover his ears. Similarly, when he does not want to see something such as an accident or a venomous snake, he will cover his eyes with his hands. When he becomes an adult he will repeat the hand-to-mouth gestures in a more refined way.

Psychologists have identified five common gestures when someone is lying. If you know them well, you will be able to detect liars quite easily. Like children, adults too will cover their mouths when they utter lies. Sometimes, instead of covering their mouths they will press the thumbs against their cheeks. They are simply obeying the instructions of the brain which tells them that the deceitful words should be suppressed. I have seen some adults have the habit of covering their mouths with a few fingers instead of the hands.

Most adults are smarter than children. When they utter a lie, they will give a fake cough instead of covering their mouths. There have been instances when witnesses used to give a fake cough to cover their dishonesty. However, a judge will at once notice his body language. From today you can practise the art of detecting lies and liars. Next time, when someone uses the mouth guard while speaking to you, be sure whether they are telling the truth or a lie. Similarly, if he sees you covering your mouth, he will come to the conclusion that you are telling lies.

You can also identify a liar when he touches his nose. You will note that nose touching is a sophisticated version of the mouth guard gesture. I have noticed that most women touch their noses when they tell lies. Sometimes they will give a light touch just below the nose before telling a lie. Psychologists say when you tell a lie the subconscious instructs you to cover your mouth. However, as the mouth cover is quite obvious, a liar would touch his nose quickly. Well, what happens if you have an itchy nose? If you have an itchy nose, you will deliberately rub or scratch it. But a liar does not do so. He will only touch his nose lightly. Nose-touch can be used by the speaker and the listener as well to hide their lying.

Now, we come to the third gesture. That is the eye rub. Like the wise monkey, a person can rub his eye to block out the deceit. When a criminal gives evidence he will rub his eyes vigorously or look away from the counsel. Sometimes he will look at the floor before telling a lie. The problem is that a woman may rub her eyes even when she is telling the truth. This is simply done to avoid smudging her eye makeup.

The fourth gesture is the neck rub. I have seen many subordinates scratching below their ears when they speak to a superior officer. They usually do so when asking for favours. The neck rub is a sign of doubt or uncertainty. They do not know what the outcome would be. Sometimes you scratch your neck when you do not agree with someone.

Ear rub

The fifth gesture is the ear rub. When you rub your ear, you are telling the listener that you are not prepared to hear evil. Children very often resort to the ear rub when they do something naughty. Sometimes, a child will rub the back of the ear or pull at the ear lobe. He is telling the listener, “enough is enough.”

The ability to interpret gestures will help you to gauge people. The gestures discussed above show that a person is lying. When a person starts lying, his brain will react and sends out certain signals. One who knows the gestures will try to hide them. Although major body gestures can be suppressed, they cannot hide their micro body gestures such as muscular twitching, expansion or contraction of pupils, perspiring at the brow, flushing of the cheeks or increased eye blinking.

Having identified several ways of detecting liars, let’s try to find out how to identify those who tell the truth. Throughout history the open palm has been associated with truth. If you walk into a court, you will note how people give evidence.

A witness would hold his palm in the air to indicate that he is going to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. Children hide their palms when they tell lies. However, you can tell a lie with your palms open. When this happens, there are other body gestures that will confirm that you are lying.

Daniel Goleman in his Vital lies, simple truths says, “It was Paul Ekman, an expert on reading facial expressions, who first suggested why the face is probably the least leaky nonverbal channel – and the best liar. A person’s ability to deceive, he proposed, depends on several aspects of the channel he uses. In general, greater that channel’s sending capacity, the more deceptive it can be.”

We are living in a world where dishonest people outnumber honest souls. Therefore, you have to master the art of detecting liars using their body language. Always remember that a lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on!

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