How to tell when someone’s lying

May 11, 2011 by Editor
Professor of psychology R. Edward Geiselman at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been studying for years how to effectively detect deception to ensure public safety, particularly in the wake of renewed threats against the U.S. following the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Detecting a liar

Geiselman and his colleagues have identified several indicators that a person is being deceptive. The more reliable red flags that indicate deceit, Geiselman said, include:

* When questioned, deceptive people generally want to say as little as possible. Geiselman initially thought they would tell an elaborate story, but the vast majority give only the bare-bones. Studies with college students, as well as prisoners, show this. Geiselman’s investigative interviewing techniques are designed to get people to talk.

* Although deceptive people do not say much, they tend to spontaneously give a justification for what little they are saying, without being prompted.
* They tend to repeat questions before answering them, perhaps to give themselves time to concoct an answer.
* They often monitor the listener’s reaction to what they are saying. “They try to read you to see if you are buying their story,” Geiselman said.
* They often initially slow down their speech because they have to create their story and monitor your reaction, and when they have it straight “will spew it out faster,” Geiselman said. Truthful people are not bothered if they speak slowly, but deceptive people often think slowing their speech down may look suspicious. “Truthful people will not dramatically alter their speech rate within a single sentence,” he said.
* They tend to use sentence fragments more frequently than truthful people; often, they will start an answer, back up and not complete the sentence.
* They are more likely to press their lips when asked a sensitive question and are more likely to play with their hair or engage in other “grooming” behaviors. Gesturing toward one’s self with the hands tends to be a sign of deception; gesturing outwardly is not.
* Truthful people, if challenged about details, will often deny that they are lying and explain even more, while deceptive people generally will not provide more specifics.
* When asked a difficult question, truthful people will often look away because the question requires concentration, while dishonest people will look away only briefly, if at all, unless it is a question that should require intense concentration.

If dishonest people try to mask these normal reactions to lying, they would be even more obvious, Geiselman said. Among the techniques he teaches to enable detectives to tell the truth from lies are:

* Have people tell their story backwards, starting at the end and systematically working their way back. Instruct them to be as complete and detailed as they can. This technique, part of a “cognitive interview” Geiselman co-developed with Ronald Fisher, a former UCLA psychologist now at Florida International University, “increases the cognitive load to push them over the edge.” A deceptive person, even a “professional liar,” is “under a heavy cognitive load” as he tries to stick to his story while monitoring your reaction.
* Ask open-ended questions to get them to provide as many details and as much complete information as possible (“Can you tell me more about…?” “Tell me exactly…”). First ask general questions, and only then get more specific.
* Don’t interrupt, let them talk and use silent pauses to encourage them to talk.


In my job, I’m constantly looking for ‘tells’ to see if people are telling the truth or lying (or somewhere in between). The emotional mind gives a lot of information away without our conscious awareness. Human beings have exquisitely tuned emotion-detecting radars. To find out more about how to use your radar to live a more satisfying life, visit for a FREE copy of my award-winning self-help book, Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought.

For those interested in turning down the volume on anger, visit my new online anger management site

All the best,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self, Inc.

Award-winning author, blogger, anger management expert

Upper-Class Has Difficulty Reading Emotions of Others

From the ubiquitous… 

Upper-Class People Have Trouble Recognizing Others’ Emotions

ScienceDaily (Nov. 23, 2010) — Upper-class people have more educational opportunities, greater financial security, and better job prospects than people from lower social classes, but that doesn’t mean they’re more skilled at everything. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds surprisingly, that lower-class people are better at reading the emotions of others.

The researchers were inspired by observing that, for lower-class people, success depends more on how much they can rely on other individuals. For example, if you can’t afford to buy support services, such as daycare service for your children, you have to rely on your neighbors or relatives to watch the kids while you attend classes or run errands, says Michael W. Kraus of the University of California-San Francisco. He co-wrote the study with Stéphane Côté of the University of Toronto and Dacher Keltner of the University of California-Berkeley.

To learn more about HOW to read emotions properly, visit for a FREE copy of the award-winning book, Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought by U.C. Berkeley-trained emotion expert, John Schinnerer, Ph.D. Just share your email address and name for a free, instant PDF copy of the 216 page book!

One experiment used volunteers who worked at a university. Some had graduated from college and others had not; researchers used educational level as a proxy for social class. The volunteers did a test of emotion perception, in which they were instructed to look at pictures of faces and indicate which emotions each face was displaying. People with more education performed worse on the task than people with less education. In another study, university students who were of higher social standing (determined from each student’s self-reported perceptions of his or her family’s socioeconomic status) had a more difficult time accurately reading the emotions of a stranger during a group job interview.

These results suggest that people of upper-class status aren’t very good at recognizing the emotions other people are feeling. The researchers speculate that this is because they can solve their problems, like the daycare example, without relying on others — they aren’t as dependent on the people around them.

A final experiment found that, when people were made to feel that they were at a lower social class than they actually were, they got better at reading emotions. This shows that “it’s not something ingrained in the individual,” Kraus says. “It’s the cultural context leading to these differences.” He says this work helps show that stereotypes about the classes are wrong. “It’s not that a lower-class person, no matter what, is going to be less intelligent than an upper-class person. It’s all about the social context the person lives in, and the specific challenges the person faces. If you can shift the context even temporarily, social class differences in any number of behaviors can be eliminated.”

To life, love and laughter,

 John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder of Guide to Self, Inc. Hot blog on the latest in anger management tips, tools and tricks

@johnschin Follow john on Twitter

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Association for Psychological Science.
Journal Reference:
1. M. W. Kraus, S. Cote, D. Keltner. Social Class, Contextualism, and Empathic Accuracy. Psychological Science, 2010; 21 (11): 1716 DOI: 10.1177/0956797610387613

Relationships Affected By Your Goals – Better Than Others or Improve Self?

From the magnificent…

John Schinnerer Ph.D. personal goal setting

Your View of Personal Goals Can Affect Your Relationships

ScienceDaily (Nov. 22, 2010) — How you think about your goalswhether it’s to improve yourself or to do better than others — can affect whether you reach those goals. Different kinds of goals can also have distinct effects on your relationships with people around you, according to the authors of a paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

People with “mastery goals” want to improve themselves. Maybe they want to get better grades, make more sales, or land that triple toe loop.

On the other hand, people with what psychologists call “performance goals” are trying to outperform others — to get a better grade than a friend or be Employee of the Year. Both kinds of goals can be useful in different contexts. But P. Marijn Poortvliet, of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, and Céline Darnon, of France’s Clermont University, are interested in the social context of these goals — what they do to your relationships.

For a FREE copy of the award-winning self-improvement book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought, simply visit and enter your name and email address for instant access to your very own PDF copy! Change the world by changing your self! 

Poortvliet’s work focuses on information exchange — whether people are open and honest when they are working together. “People with performance goals are more deceitful” and less likely to share information with coworkers, both in the laboratory and in real-world offices he has studied, Poortvliet says. “The reason is fairly obvious — when you want to outperform others, it doesn’t make sense to be honest about information.”

On the other hand, people who are trying to improve themselves are quite open, he says. “If the ultimate goal is to improve yourself, one way to do it is to be very cooperative with other people.” This can help improve the work environment, even though the people with these goals aren’t necessarily thinking about social relations. “They’re not really altruists, per se. They see the social exchange as a means toward the ends of self improvement.” Other research has found that people with these self-improvement goals are more open to hearing different perspectives, while people with a performance goal “would rather just say, ‘I’m just right and you are wrong.'”

It’s not always bad to be competitive, Poortvliet says. “For example, if you want to be the Olympic champion, of course it’s nice to have mastery goals and you should probably have mastery goals, but you definitely need performance goals because you want to be the winner and not the runner-up.”

But it’s important to think about how goals affect the social environment. “If you really want to establish constructive and long-lasting working relationships, then you should really balance the different levels of goals,” Poortvliet says — thinking not only about each person’s achievement, but also about the team as a whole.

Some people are naturally more competitive than others. But it’s also possible for managers to shift the kinds of goals people have by, for example, giving a bonus for the best employee. That might encourage people to set performance goals and compete against each other. On the other hand, it would also be possible to structure a bonus program to give people rewards based on their individual improvement over time.

Original article can be found by clicking here.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Association for Psychological Science.

Journal Reference:
1. P. Marijn Poortvliet and Céline Darnon. Toward a More Social Understanding of Achievement Goals: The Interpersonal Effects of Mastery and Performance Goals. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2010; 19 (5): 324 DOI: 10.1177/0963721410383246

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self, Inc.  Excellent blog on the latest anger management tools