Magazine article Work & Family Life

Think You Can Spot a Big Liar? Think Again

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Think You Can Spot a Big Liar? Think Again

Article excerpt

Paul Ekman's students should know better than to tell him a lie. A psychology professor at the University of California at San Francisco, Dr. Ekman is the author of the book Telling Lies (Norton) and an expert in the study of "high stakes" lies. For years he's been testing the lie-detecting abilities of people from all walks of life-and most of us, he says, are pretty bad at it. Here are some of Dr. Ekman's findings:

There's no single clue (such as a lack of eye contact or clearing your throat) that indicates for sure if someone is lying. The best lie-catchers among us look for a mix of verbal and nonverbal signals: shifts in pitch, pauses, flashes of anger and other so-called "discrepant emotions."

Police officers, trial lawyers, judges, forensic psychiatrists and even FBI and CIA agents are not significantly better than the rest of us at spotting a liar. …

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