Lie Detection: An Overview

Get started for free

Lie Detection Through the Ages: Is the Problem With the Techniques or the Assumption?

From medieval torture devices to sophisticated brain scanners, lie detection methods have come a long way in our quest to uncover the truth. However, none of these detection methods are considered reliable enough to be used in a court of law. What if the problem isn't with the techniques, but the underlying assumption that lying spurs physiological changes?

Communication Science & Linguistic Text Analysis

A more direct approach to lie detection uses communication science to analyze the lies themselves. On a psychological level, we lie partly to paint a better picture of ourselves and our fantasies. Although our conscious mind only controls about 5% of our cognitive function, the other 95% occurs beyond our awareness and can leave subtle clues.

The literature on reality monitoring suggests that creating a false story about a personal topic takes work and results in a different pattern of language. Linguistic text analysis has identified four common patterns in the subconscious language of deception:

1. Liars reference themselves less when making deceptive statements, often using the third person.

2. Liars tend to be more negative in their language.

3. Liars explain events in simple terms.

4. Liars use longer and more convoluted sentence structure, inserting unnecessary words and irrelevant but factual sounding details.

Examples of Deception

Let's look at some famous examples. Seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong denied taking performance enhancing drugs in a 2005 interview, but in a 2013 interview he admitted it. His use of personal pronouns increased by nearly three quarters, highlighting the contrast between his denials and admissions.

Former senator and U.S. Presidential candidate, John Edwards, denied paternity of a child in a long-winded statement, never calling the parties by name. However, when later admitting paternity, he issued a short, direct statement calling the child by name and addressing his role in her life.

Applying Lie Detection Techniques

We can apply these lie spotting techniques to our everyday lives. While some lies may be harmless, they can still be spotted with telltale clues such as minimal self-references, negative language, simple explanations, and convoluted phrasing. Knowing how to spot these clues can help you avoid overvalued stocks, ineffective products, or terrible relationships.

Get started for free