We are all liars. We always have been. It’s in our history. Shakespeare did it, the Bible tells stories of liars and our politicians do it every day.

According to Pamela Meyer, author of “Lie Spotting, Proven Techniques to Detect Deception,” on average, a human will be lied to between 10-200 times per day. Now, yes, most of those are white lies, but they are still lies nonetheless.

There are many reasons people lie. It could be to impress someone in particular, to protect another’s secrets, to stay out of trouble or even to save another from the bitter truth.

During a TED talk Pamela Meyer gave in 2011, she shares scientifically proven traits of a liar and how to spot one, and I think her insights are valuable.

1) Formal Language
People tend to go toward more formal language than non-formal language when they are lying. For example, the word “didn’t” may be said as “did not.” The phrase “couldn’t have” may be said as “could not have.” The list goes on. In an effort to make their lying statement as clear as possible, they gravitate toward clear and proper speech.

2) Distancing Language
A good example of this is Bill Clinton’s famous phrase, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Already we see, not just the formal language of “did not,” but he called Mrs. Lewinsky “that woman.” People tend to separate or distance themselves from the subject while lying rather than confronting the subject head on.

3) Freezing Upper Bodies
Due to the common conspiracy that liars tend to fidget while lying, a liar tends to hold their upper bodies incredibly still. They aren’t exactly statues, but it will seem as though they are forcing their body to not fidget and remain completely still to compensate for their conspiracy.

4) Eye Contact
Again, there is the assumption that people tend to look around a lot while lying and avoid eye contact. Well, that’s not entirely true. Many liars will actually hold their eye contact with the other person a little too much, again, in order to compensate for that assumption.

5) Fake Smiles
Smiling is a common symbol of honesty and friendliness. Because of this, liars tend to fake smiles in order to show fake honesty. These smiles are easy to spot if you look at the cheeks and the eyes. During a fake smile, the cheek muscles tend to tighten a little too much and the smile will be slightly smaller than a normal grin. During an honest smile, the cheeks are more relaxed and the smile is in the eyes. There is a friendlier feeling rather then just teeth shining at you.

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  1. Hi Natalie, what is your opinion when one hears something that someone has said and uses the words, Thy work, we thank Thee, Thine only or Thou hast? Would you consider this a perfect example of people tending to go toward using “formal” language when they are lying?


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