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Can You Spot a Liar?

Ferreting out deception is harder than you think. Most people don't have a clue when even their best friends lie--despite all the signals.

The ten young men on the videotape look believable enough. Each appears for two minutes, first stating his deeply-held opinion on a controversial social issue--such as capital punishment--then explaining why he holds that view. But half of them, it turns out, are lying.

Pretty sure you can spot a liar? Most people think they can. Paul Ekman, a psychologist at the University of California in San Francisco, has shown in study after study that most people can't. On tests they identify lies correctly only slightly more often than they would if they simply guessed randomly.

Even groups one might expect to be good lie-catchers score poorly. Police officers, judges, FBI and CIA agents, psychiatrists, and lawyers are all little better at detecting lies than plumbers or bus drivers.

The truth is, liars often provide a variety of verbal and nonverbal clues that signal their deception--and it's still hard to catch them at it.

These signals, some of which can pass in a split second, indicate the leakage of emotions that the liar would rather keep hidden: guilt, anger, fear, embarrassment, or "duping delight," the glee some liars feel at deceiving their targets.

No one of these signals is proof that someone is lying. Rather, expert lie-catchers look for clusters of verbal and nonverbal signals and evaluate their meaning in each case.

It is particularly hard for most people to spot deception among those they know best. "When you're in a relationship, you have certain motivations to see your partner in a particular way, and you especially don't want to think they are lying to you," says Bella DePaulo, a University of Virginia psychologist.

DePaulo has found that people's most serious lies involve betrayals of romantic partners. And in the most impressive falsehoods, people actually lived a lie. DePaulo found one long-divorced woman who had told her co-workers for 20 years that she had to go home and cook dinner for her husband. Given the average person's skill at detecting lies, they probably believed her.

VISUAL CLUES:

* EXPRESSION OF ANGER, FEAR, DISGUST, OR EMBARRASSMENT

* SHAKING THE HEAD

* AVOIDING EYE CONTACT

* TOUCHING THE FACE, ESPECIALLY THE NOSE

* LICKING THE LIPS

* FOLDING OR CROSSING THE ARMS

VOCAL CLUES:

* SHUTTERING

* THROAT CLEARING

* LAUGHING INAPPROPRIATELY

* ERRORS IN GRAMMAR OR PRONUNCIATION
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Title Annotation:it is very difficult to recognize lies, although some visual clues are presented
Author:GOODE, ERICA
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Sep 6, 1999
Words:398
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