Four Cues That Signal Someone Is Lying
Christopher Philip

For years people have been trying to uncover a few simple nonverbal cues that indicate lying but have come up short. You can read more starting on Chapter 16 of my book if you want to learn more about the specific cues that have been uncovered in prior research.

David Desteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, conducted a thorough study and found four non-verbal indicators that, taken together, are generally linked to liars.

As Desteno outlines the temptation is to “look for one ‘tell’ that indicates someone can’t be trusted. Is it a false smile? Shifty eyes? The reality, though, is that any single cue is ambiguous. If someone touches her face, she might subconsciously be trying to hide something — or she might have an itch. To accurately infer another’s intentions, you need to look for a set of cues — gestures that together can more accurately predict or reveal motivation.”

Through his study, he found four main cues indicating lack of honesty including touching hands, touching the face, crossing arms, and leaning away. Taken individually, they don’t mean much, but in concert, they often betray the liar. Desteno cautions that if a person is versed in body language and knows he’s being watched, that the cues won’t be of much use to the body language reader.

Here’s how Desteno and his colleagues identified the four key nonverbal cues (with the help of a robot, of course):

David Desteno is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and author of “The Truth About Trust: How It Determines Success in Life, Love, Learning, and More”


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