Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Aubrey. Aubrey Wonders, “How do you tell if someone is lying?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Aubrey!
As you get off the bus and head toward the house, you can't help but notice how perfect the weather is today. The Sun is out, there's a nice breeze, and the temperature is just right. You can't wait to grab a snack and then play outside with your friends.
As you raid the refrigerator in search of a delicious treat, your mom tells you that you can't go outside to play with your friends until you finish your homework. Uh oh! You know you have a pile of homework to do, but you really want to play with your friends.
You slowly turn around, glance to your right, and cheerfully proclaim, "I got all my homework done at school! See you later!" Unfortunately, your mom could double as a detective, because she immediately knows you've just told her a little white lie.
As you head to your bedroom to get started on your homework, you WONDER how she knew that you were lying. Does your mom have a spy camera in your classroom? Did the teacher call home to tell her you had homework? Probably not!
Instead, your lie was probably written all over your face. It may have even been obvious in your tone of voice, your posture, or your gestures. Although moms are particularly good at spotting lies, just about anyone can learn how to spot some of the tell-tale signs of when someone's lying.
You don't need a lie detector machine to tell if someone is lying. Experts, such as detectives, need to be skilled in determining when someone is telling the truth.
Over time, these experts have learned to look for certain things that can tip them off to when someone is stretching the truth. There are dozens of things to look for, but we'll take a look at just a few of the most useful strategies here.
If you've ever told a lie — and let's be honest (pun totally intended!), everyone lies now and then — you may have noticed that it can make you uncomfortable. That discomfort can manifest itself in many different ways physically.
For example, one tell-tale sign of lying is gaze aversion, which is a fancy way of saying that you break off eye contact. Looking away from the person you're talking to may make you feel less guilty.
Another physical sign of lying is non-congruent gestures. If you shrug your shoulders or shake your head while making a statement, your body may be subconsciously telling the truth while your mouth says the opposite.
Perhaps the most hard-to-conceal physical sign of lying is your facial expressions. Have you ever heard the phrase "it's written all over your face"? There's definitely some truth to that statement.
People trained to detect lies look for facial expressions known as microexpressions, which are extremely brief facial expressions (approximately one twenty-fifth of a second) that represent a concealed emotion.
For example, if something makes you mad, but you pretend it doesn't, a quick flash of anger may cross your face before you fake a smile to cover it. If someone catches that microexpression, they might know you're lying.
Experts caution, however, that microexpressions don't always conceal lies. Sometimes people just try to hide their emotions for any number of reasons. This is a good reminder that not all physical reactions you may see means someone is lying.
That's why it's important to use your brain, too! Think about the things you're told. Do you notice inconsistencies in their story? Does their story seem illogical or contain parts that just don't make sense? If things don't seem to add up, they probably don't.
Experts also recommend listening to your gut. You usually know those closest to you very well. A sudden change in expected behavior can be a powerful signal of dishonesty.
Don't worry if you can't tell when someone is lying, though. Even though there are many signs and signals you can look for, it's not as easy as it sounds. Experts say most people aren't very good at detecting lies. That's why it takes experts many hours of training to learn how to do it well.