How to Tell If Someone Is Lying: 8 Strategies

  • A liar may avoid giving specific details of a situation and respond with short, uninformative answers.
  • Contrary to popular belief, liars may also fidget less and look directly at you while lying.
  • You can also repeat your question before answering it to give them more time to think.

It can be hard to tell if someone is lying to you — especially if you don’t know them well. And some of the cues you may have heard about — like people fidgeting or looking away — aren’t actually good indicators of a lie.

But there are certain language patterns, like repeating your question or shorter answers, that are more reliable indicators that someone is lying.

Here are eight science-based ways to tell if someone is lying.

1. Your answers to questions may be shorter

If you ask a liar a question, they will often give you a shorter, more blunt answer than someone telling the truth.

In a small 2012 study, participants were trained to detect lies using the ACID (Assessment Criteria Indicative of Deception) method, which suggests that truthful answers are longer and livelier than lies. Before training, people spotted lies 61% of the time, and after training, their accuracy increased to 70%.

However, response length is not always a hard and fast rule. “The length of a response doesn’t tell us much unless we know the person and how verbose they usually are,” says Samantha Mann, a researcher at the University of Portsmouth who studies how to spot deception.

That’s because “people vary greatly in how much they talk, whether they lie or tell the truth,” says Mann.

But encouraging someone to talk more can help you determine if they’re lying. A liar is more likely to reveal himself in a longer story, while an honest person may provide evidence that what he is saying is true.

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For example, when someone is telling you about their day, encouraging them to say more—like saying they went to a store when it’s actually closed that day—can lead to a slip-up.

2. You avoid giving specific details

“Liars may be less inclined to pick up on what we call ‘verifiable details,'” Mann says. Verifiable details are details that can definitively prove their story is true or false, including:

  • Exact times of the events
  • names of specific places
  • Names of the people they met
  • Your exact route to a location
  • The specific words they used in a conversation

It’s normal to forget some information, especially when you’re asking about something that happened further in the past. But if your interviewer seems intentionally vague or brushes off questions about details, it could be a sign that they’re lying.

3. You may fidget less

Most people expect a liar to be fidgety,” Mann says, but in some cases he actually moves less than a fortune teller.

According to Mann, there are probably two main reasons for this:

  • People aren’t usually aware of how much they’re moving, but when you’re lying you might be more aware of your body language. Because of this, liars may try harder to control themselves and avoid restless movements.
  • Lying can require you to think more than telling the truth because you need to remember the lie, avoid telling the truth, and make up details when necessary. This intense focus can keep your body calmer “since all the energy goes to the brain,” Mann says.

4. You don’t look away while thinking

People often expect liars to avoid eye contact during a conversation, but that’s not always the case, Mann says. “If anything, liars are more likely to try to hold the gaze, even if they don’t maintain it,” says Mann.

People who tell the truth often look away while pondering the answer to a question, probably to help them focus.

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In contrast, liars may avoid looking away because they are more aware of their own eye contact and whether or not they appear dishonest.

“People who tell the truth don’t work as hard to look good,” says Kevin Colwell, a psychology professor at SCSU who studies polygraph and forensic techniques.

Liars can also keep an eye on you to see how you react to their story and whether or not you believe them.

5. They repeat the question before answering

If you ask a liar a question, they’re more likely to repeat that question to you before answering, while truth-tellers are less likely to do so.

This may be because they haven’t thought of their lie yet, or they may need to invent a new detail in their story.

Repeating the question before she answers can give them time to think about what you’re asking and come up with a believable story.

6. You have specific nervous tics

Liars are generally less prone to fidgeting, but there are a few specific behaviors that can be associated with lying. This can include:

  • They engage in behaviors like straightening their hair
  • They gesture to themselves when speaking
  • They purse their lips when asked a tough question

However, there is some doubt as to whether nervous behavior can tell you if someone is lying. Some experts argue that nonverbal signs of lying are unreliable, and that paying attention to behavior will not help you spot a lie.

“A psychic can also be nervous or emotional about whatever information they’re relaying,” Mann says, which can also lead to exhibiting nervous behavior.

7. You start speaking slowly and then speed up

When a liar answers a question, they often begin with a lengthy pause and slowly tell their story. Speaking more slowly can give them time to come up with a narrative or make up details as they walk.

You can also use this extra time to observe your reaction as they speak so they can adjust what they say based on your reaction.

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Once the liar has a clear idea of ​​his story, he often suddenly quickens his speaking rate. This may be because they think that speaking too slowly is suspicious, so they speed up their speech once they are able to.

This transition from slow to fast can be done in just one set. People who tell the truth are less likely to exhibit these dramatic changes in speaking rate.

8. You repeat the exact same story every time

When you ask someone to repeat their story, “honest people have a memory-enhancing effect from the extra attempt at recall,” says Colwell.

This means that when retelling a true story, new details are often added that were not included the first time.

“Liars don’t want to contradict themselves or do anything to challenge what they’re saying,” says Colwell, so they’re less likely to add details to a story like where they were or what they were thinking.

“Liars try to tell the same story in the same order every time,” says Colwell.

The ACID method from the aforementioned study states that misleading answers tend to be more rigorous and carefully worded, and less likely to change through retelling.

Insider snack

It’s not easy to spot when someone is lying, but there are certain signs to look out for, such as: Things like avoiding details or repeating the exact same story can help you tell when someone isn’t telling the truth.

But it’s important to remember that these signs — especially nonverbal cues — aren’t definitive proof that someone is lying to you.

“Just because a person makes constant eye contact certainly doesn’t mean they’re being honest, or if a person seems fidgety and nervous or behaving in weird ways, that certainly doesn’t mean they’re lying,” Mann says.

The most important thing you can do is “ask for more information — the more information you get, the more likely you are to find out whether you’re being told the truth or not,” says Mann.

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