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10 Ways to Spot Someone Who Is Lying

by  MONYA DE, M.D., M.P.H.
author image Monya De, M.D., M.P.H.
Monya De, M.D., M.P.H., is a graduate of Stanford University and the University of California at Irvine and Berkeley. She practices internal medicine and integrative medicine and writes the Practice Notes blog for the Center for Health Journalism. Her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, The Economist, Medical Economics and more. Follow her on Twitter @medjournalist.

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10 Ways to Spot Someone Who Is Lying
If you look closely enough, you can tell when most people are lying. Photo Credit: jacoblund/iStock/GettyImages

If you look closely enough, you can tell when most people are lying. The concept of body language changing during a lie spawned an entire television show, “Lie to Me.” Even “Bachelorette” winner Jordan Rodgers has faced scrutiny for his lack of eye contact with his damsel while proclaiming his devotion. Others caught in a lie, like Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, have been known to obscure their eyes behind sunglasses during interviews to hide that “tell.” Let’s take a look at how lying can affect the body.

1. Liars Sweat More
The increased psychological stress of lying makes perpetrators sweat like pigs. Photo Credit: Twenty20/@kamicatzen

1 Liars Sweat More

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has ever said “the dog ate my homework” or “my sister broke it.” The increased psychological stress of lying initiates a fight-or-flight response in the body that sends the sweat glands into overdrive.

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2. Liars Use Fewer Words
The brain needs to think hard to keep lies straight. Photo Credit: Twenty20/@nina_p_v

2 Liars Use Fewer Words

Researchers agree that this stunting of previously fluent and expressive language has to do with the higher “cognitive load” of lying. Meaning: The brain has to think hard to keep these lies straight, so it downshifts all the fancy communication to as few words as possible to get the lie out.

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3. Liars’ Faked Pain Expressions Vanish
You can tell when people are faking pain. Photo Credit: Twenty20/@sussialfredsson

3 Liars’ Faked Pain Expressions Vanish

Research published in Current Biology found that when people were faking pain, their open mouths closed more quickly than mouths of people in actual pain.

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4. Liars Seem Happy When They Should Be Sad
Liars exhibit emotions that betray their true feelings in their facial expressions. Photo Credit: ArthurHidden/iStock/GettyImages

4 Liars Seem Happy When They Should Be Sad

Remember in the film “Gone Girl,” when Ben Affleck’s character gets attacked by people who think he looks or acts too happy? It’s because we as humans are on alert for incongruence. Liars exhibit emotions that betray their true feelings. It might be an inappropriate smile when the liar is supposed to be sad or a tense mouth while congratulating an ex-girlfriend on her engagement.

5. Liars Cross Their Limbs
Crossing your arms is a protective gesture that can indicate uncertainty or fear. Photo Credit: Twenty20/@meganmeza

5 Liars Cross Their Limbs

Crossing arms or legs is a defensive, protective gesture. It can suggest uncertainty or fear. It’s important to remember, however, that not all limb-crossers are liars ― some may simply feel threatened.

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6. Liars Have a Hormone Surge
Too much cortisol makes it hard to get to sleep. Photo Credit: Twenty20/@criene

6 Liars Have a Hormone Surge

The stress hormone cortisol creates that fight-or-flight response in the body. Body hair stands on end and sweating ensues. It’s harder to sleep. Too much cortisol all the time can also cause fat storage and weight gain. Telling an occasional white lie won’t cause this, but a chronic liar or someone caught in a web of deception could conceivably gain weight and suffer from insomnia as a result.

7. Liars’ Eyes Don’t Lie
Liars have a hard time making eye contact. Photo Credit: Twenty20/@alaskangeles

7 Liars’ Eyes Don’t Lie

In addition to having difficulty with eye contact, liars’ pupils can enlarge up to three times their normal size during a lie. Scientists are interested in using this effect to catch people who are faking memory loss or who are lying about not recognizing a criminal in a photo.

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8. Liars May Secrete Pheromones
Pheromones are chemicals released into the air and environment, which can lead those nearby to be suspicious or wary around a liar. Photo Credit: Twenty20/@heatherdeffense

8 Liars May Secrete Pheromones

British researchers suspect there is a unique pheromone secreted by people who are lying. This could be a game changer for law enforcement and national security efforts.

9. Liars Have High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is common in liars and can be detected by a lie-detector test. Photo Credit: Twenty20/@ElenaT

9 Liars Have High Blood Pressure

All those stress hormones scream “danger” to the human body. Reflexively, blood pressure goes up. This can be easily detected in a lie-detector test. However, the lie detector can be fooled. Something as simple as having a lot of caffeine or being dehydrated before the test can make it more difficult to detect the difference in answers to “Do you have two hands?” and “Did you murder your boss?”

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10. Liars Breathe Fast and Shallow
Does the person seem out of breath? Photo Credit: Twenty20/@nikoletta21

10 Liars Breathe Fast and Shallow

Take a look at a suspected liar’s chest and mouth. Is the chest rising and falling faster than usual, even though he hasn’t been exercising? Is she licking her lips from dry mouth? Are her lips pursed from shallow breaths?

What Do YOU Think?
What do YOU think? Photo Credit: Twenty20/@jeff_cop

What Do YOU Think?

Can you spot a liar a mile away? Do you think looking for body clues helps? Do you know any compulsive liars? How do you deal with them? Tell us in the comments!

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