Spotting a liar is tougher than you think - some can even become president. Case in point: Richard Nixon. (Photo : REUTERS/Peter Morgan)
Can you spot a lie when you hear one? If you think you know how to tell when someone is telling the truth or not, you may have to think again. A new study has found no link between lying and eye movements.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) has long claimed that you can tell if a person is lying by looking at their eye movements. If a person looks to their right, they are more likely to be lying - or so it was thought.
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"A large percentage of the public believes that certain eye movements are a sign of lying, and this idea is even taught in organizational training courses. Our research provides no support for the idea and so suggests that it is time to abandon this approach to detecting deceit" said co-author of the paper Dr. Caroline Watt.
To test this theory, Professor Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire, UK and Dr. Caroline Watt from the University of Edinburgh, UK filmed participants as they lied and then asked them to try and tell if someone was lying.
"The results of the first study revealed no relationship between lying and eye movements, and the second showed that telling people about the claims made by NLP practitioners did not improve their lie detection skills," said Wiseman.
Finally, they looked over footage from high-profile press conferences involving victims of a crime or those appealing for missing relatives to see the relationship between eye movements and lying.
"Our previous research with these films suggests that there are significant differences in the behavior of liars and truth tellers," said Dr. Leanne ten Brinke. "However, the alleged tell-tale pattern of eye movements failed to emerge."
In a previous study, Dr. Brinke also showed that those who ranked highly in emotional intelligence actually overestimated their abilities to spot a lie. Another study showed that muscles in the upper face may reveal more than we care to.
The best way to spot a lie may be, after all, just simply listening.