“How to Spot a Liar” Article

While on the comcast homepage this morning, we came across a news piece entitled “How to Spot a Liar”. Within the article, there were various “tips” on how to detect lies, and a list of “suspicious behaviors” to keep an eye out for.

How accurate do you think this information is and what did the author get right or wrong? See the complete article below:



6 responses to ““How to Spot a Liar” Article”

  1. Russ Conte says:


    I searched and found the original (?) article here:


    though that article was found on several other web sites as well.

    The one piece in the article that I trust is that there is no foolproof way to detect lying. Bingo. After that, the clue to look for mixed signals is OK – good, but not great. I find the list of suspicious behaviors to be, well…. suspicious. For every behavior that is an indicator of lying, I can show someone who does exactly the same but is telling the truth.

    The article is intended to help people getting a job. I work on the other side of the desk – I’m an employer. Let me tell you how employers detect lies. It’s nothing like that article at all. Every single applicant – without exception – signs consent forms allowing us to run background screens and drug screens. If the person writes one thing on the application, but the background screen says otherwise, they can be terminated for falsifying their application. We check work history (as best we can). If they say they worked at XYZ Company from January 2001 – September 2006, but the company says it was January 2001 – March 2004, we’ll ask the candidate for proof, but absent any proof, they’re out of there. If a person fails a pre-employment drug screen, well, you can imagine how that goes. If they deny any criminal background on their application but it turns up, they are terminated prior to starting due to falsifying their application. Virtually all of this is guided by policy, and a security team at Corporate that is available to answer any questions, and be sure that each applicant is given fair and equal treatment by the staff.

    In other words, employers rely mainly independent evidence. Sure, I’ll check an applicant’s body language, I’ll use statement analysis, I’ll look for microexpressions (which are NOT necessarily a sign of deception, obviously), and all of that can yield some very fruitful results. Using just those, I’ve been able to get people to admit to lying on their application, they’ve admitted crimes to me, and much more. My technique is simplicity itself. I am trustworthy, an absolutely straightforward person, and (like Ekman) perceive myself as a person who does not lie, and I have no need to lie. So I start with a great relationship with the candidate, and that makes the rest a lot easier. It’s not about techniques or specific behaviors (like averting eyes), it’s about developing trust and confidence, and having objective evidence (such as background screens) as collateral. And if the application does not work out for someone (and that’s frequent) then I’ll recommend other places to them where they may be able to find a job given the truth that we both now know and the brief relationship we’ve established. But my backup is the independent evidence of courts, reference checks, drug screens and so forth. Not my intuition or best guess that they are lying because they lowered their voice and averted eye contact when I asked why I left their last job. That’s an example of how major companies are detecting deception in 2010 🙂

    Russ Conte

  2. I have been teaching Deception Management for over a decade – all primarily based on peer review research by Ekman, Vrij, and MANY more.
    I am constantly asked “What is the one item to look for?” I always respond with – there is no ONE item. However in realtion to this article and many others like it, I see the idea of setting a baseline as vitally important but frequently never mentioned in any writeups. When it is mentioned, I have NEVER seen anyone suggesting that a baseline needs to be reset at times in a longer interview as the demeanor, emotions, and situations change as the interaction continues.
    As russ indicates independent evidence is great to rely on, however, the ability to spot focal points to elaborate on can generate many of those “independent” pieces of evidence that would otherwise be missed.

    Dr. David A Camp

  3. Student says:

    I think it’s impossible to be on guard all the time and look for deceptions, also it’s impossible for us to be 100% sure of what we “see” is true, but this knowledge might be helpful

  4. Russ Conte says:

    In reply,

    ” I have NEVER seen anyone suggesting that a baseline needs to be reset at times in a longer interview as the demeanor, emotions, and situations change as the interaction continues.”

    I have not read of this before, either. It’s an interesting idea, I’d appreciate more information. My impression of a baseline is that it does not change, so this is a new idea to me, one that is worthy of investigation.

    ” the ability to spot focal points to elaborate on can generate many of those “independent” pieces of evidence that would otherwise be missed.”

    Agreed. Keep in mind that as an employer I have several things to help me make my decision – signed forms, resources for screenings and a security team at Corporate. These are not normally available in other contexts. So in any other situation where none of those resources are available to me, then I look for all the other signs and signals that followers of this blog know about. I’m also extremely careful not to accuse anyone of anything, but I’d rather go in with an open mind, and see where the evidence leads.

    I’m not interested in catching liars, as much as I am in building healthy relationships. I find that I can use the same techniques for either catching liars, or building friendships. The techniques (for example statement analysis or reading micro expressions) are neutral. I’d much rather use these techniques as a very high level of emotional intelligence. I’m afraid that as Ekman has said, if I go around like Cal Lightman, I won’t have any trusted friends. So I’d rather use the skills to understand people much better, and to be the best friend and employee/employer that I can be. If I spend all my time looking for lies, or accusing people of things just to judge their reaction and see if they are lying or hiding something, then I’ll miss a lot of the wonderful people around me. This is a long way of saying that I agree with what Student wrote 🙂

    Russ Conte

  5. Justin says:

    A baseline certainly should be reset during a lengthy interview. The stress level of people in an interview situation will likely change based on the flow. For example, if an interviewee arrives with a higher than normal (for that person) level of stress you will see physiological signs of that stress that have nothing to do with deception. If the interview progresses positively then the stress levels will likely decrease which also decreases physiological factors associated to that stress. Should the interview take a negative turn then the opposite is true. The interviewee could very well be telling the truth but since his/her stress levels have increased due solely to the direction the interview has taken, the physiological signs of that stress can be taken as deception if a new baseline is not set. Anytime someone is in an interview/investigation/interrogation-type setting their stress levels will be different than is normal for them. As they become more or less comfortable those levels change and his/her baseline must be reset.

  6. Dee Dee says:

    This is a respond to Russ Conte. Not to come off as offending or in a bad way but in what your writing it easy to tell your lying lol actually its funny. When you lie yu tend to go into detail when not needed or not possible … for example when you say you look for micro expressions and you explain what it is breifly and say abviously you dont know what your talking about and at the end of your article you say looking at suspicious acts in a person is not necessary your telling the truth cause you rely on backround checks … but its obvious yu dont look at microexpressions simply cause it nearly impossible to spot that out with out time of practice and to spot those out a very close observation is need with technology when your able to pause it and zoom in. You might wanna check out The tv show Lie to Me I highly reccomend it. If you want to learn how to dectect a lie or almost be able to tell whats on somebodies mind check it out … cause you sir are a BIG FAT LIAR loll … any one interested check it out !

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