Can You Spot a Liar?

Known for his creativity, Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, conducted one of the largest psychology experiments at the end of the UKs National Science Week in 1995.

In this experirment over 41,000 people participated in answering a simple question – which story was true and which was false.  You see, Wiseman interviewed a well known commentator, Sir Richard Day, and asked him to share with the audience one true story and one false story about his favorite Movie.  After telling two stories claiming describing why each movie was his favorite, participants could then vote on which story was true and which was false.

The result?

Well, this is where it gets interesting.  Those who voted provided their answers from learning of the interview from one of three ways – the watched it on TV, they listened to it on the radio, or they read about it in the paper.

The ability to tell the truthful story from the false story was very different depending on the medium you learned about it.

“Radio listeners detected the lies 73.4% of the time, newspaper readers 64.2% and television viewers 51.8%. This supported the prediction that visual cues would reduce individuals’ ability to detect lying.”

So be wary of your abilities especially when checking visual cues – you are little better than chance at predicting lies from truth.

Study Details Click Here

2 thoughts on “Can You Spot a Liar?

  1. Cristy De La Cruz

    This is very interesting research. But it seems to contradict the idea that 75% of communication is non-verbal, since people were *less* likely to be able to detect liars via visual cues. Either that or the people were “practiced” at lying (I think all actors would qualify) and they could moderate their non-verbal clues to deceive their audience. However, this does bode well for my daily diet of MPR as my preferred form of news. Thanks for posting, good food for thought.

    • toddfonseca

      Great comment Cristy. Research shows in general that people are only 54% able to spot a liar. While most communication is non-verbal, we still have a hard time lie detecting and research further shows if someone has some training in body language but don’t use clusters, their ability to detect lies actually goes less than 50%. Mostly because non-verbals nervous behavior gets viewed as lies. Overall, lie detection is challenging and appropriate use of body language signals requires looking for clusters and not just one offs as well as having not just a normal baseline, but emotional baseline. Take these with verbal clues and statement analysis and the ability to detect lies goes up!

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