4 Ways to Catch a Liar
From tense facial muscles to halting speech patterns, body language expert Carolyn Finch highlights four physical signs to look for if you think someone is lying
By Joan Goodchild , Senior Editor
July 27, 2009 — CSO — Most people lie, whether they're covering up something sinister or just embarrassed over a mistake. Research conducted a few years ago at the University of Massachusetts found that 60 percent of participants lied at least once during an observed 10-minute conversation.
If you're trying to get to the bottom of a work incident, or just asking the kids who broke the TV, it's useful to know how to spot a lie (Learn interview and interrogation techniques in How to Spot a Liar).
Body language expert and human behavior specialist Carolyn Finch, who served as a consultant and analyst for media outlets during the OJ Simpson trial, has appeared on CNBC News and the Ellen Degeneres Show. Here Finch gives a rundown of the hallmark physical signs people display when they are trying to put one over on you (Watch the video for Carolyn's analysis and her recall of famous cases of alleged lying).
Obviously these signs don't guarantee that lying is in progress, but they're valuable clues to recognize.
Tense facial expression
When people lie, said Finch, they tend to smile with only the lower muscles in their face. A liar might try and fake a smile to look genuine or at ease. But a real smile uses the entire face, including the eyes.
"You will see smiling that is artificial," said Finch. "It's down here (the lower face) instead of in the eyes."
Hesitant speech and pausing
A liar will speak hesitantly, according to Finch, and often pauses frequently when answering a question. A liar might also repeat words or stutter, she said.
"A person who is pausing is thinking," said Finch. "The eyes go up and around and down to think about what they are going to say next."
A liar might also place a finger in front of their mouth, as if contemplating, when they are about to say something that is untrue.
"When they open the mouth, they may give you whole different story than what they might have said when they were thinking with the finger over their mouth."
Nervous behavior and overemphasis
Other face touches might include nose rubbing or touching underneath the nose, all indicators the person is uncomfortable. And watch hands closely, which are an easy way to spot nervousness.
"Sometimes there is tremor, definitely in the hands," said Finch, who also noted the jaw might shake, too.