Lying Can't Be Determined from Eye Movements, Study Finds

By Perry, Susan | MinnPost.com, July 23, 2012 | Go to article overview

Lying Can't Be Determined from Eye Movements, Study Finds


Perry, Susan, MinnPost.com


It's taken four decades, but somebody has finally gotten around to investigating the idea that you can tell whether a person is lying or not from his or her eye movements.

And the new study thoroughly debunks it.

Not that there weren't skeptics all along. In fact, the entire 1970s personal development movement -- Neuro-Linguistic Programming - - that launched the notion of a link between eye movements and lying has itself been called (among other things) "nonsense" and a "pseudoscience."

But now a team of British and Canadian psychologists, publishing earlier this month in the journal PLoS One, have clearly demonstrated that there is no connection between the direction of our gaze and whether or not we're telling the truth.

People are not lying when their eyes dart up to the right. Nor are they necessarily telling the truth when their eyes dart up to the left.

Three experiments

The researchers conducted three experiments to come to this conclusion. The first involved 32 right-handed people, aged 18 to 56. (NLP literatures claims the eye movement/lying relationship is strongest in right-handed people). These volunteer participants were told to hide a cell phone, and half were also told to lie about it when asked during a subsequent videotaped interview. All of the participants' eye movements were later coded by independent reviewers (with the audio turned off so the reviewers wouldn't know who was telling the truth or not). The experiment found no difference in the patterns of eye movements between the participants who lied about hiding the cell phone and those who told the truth.

In the second experiment, the researchers decided to see if 50 people (aged 18 to 73) who were trained to look for eye patterns would succeed where the neutral reviewers had failed. They told the participants which eye movements were associated with lying and which with truth-telling and then asked them to watch the previously taped interviews and determine whether the person was lying or not. …

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