HEALTH & WELLNESS

Here are the dead giveaways to spotting a liar

Have you ever bent the truth? Maybe embellished a résumé or failed to mention an after-work outing to your significant other? That fib may have bailed you out of some explaining you didn't want to do.

But what if you're on the receiving end of someone else's lies? Then what?

Experts who study deception detection know what cues to look for when spotting a likely liar. Body language is often one big giveaway, says Lena Sisco, former Guantanamo Bay interrogator and author of "You're Lying."

"The majority of people will do these things, like avert eye contact and get fidgety, but not everybody does," she says.

If you suspect someone is telling a tall tale, watch out for face touching and nose wiping.

"The nose begins to itch, so they start touching and rubbing it all the time," she says. "When we're nervous, blood starts rushing to our nose. We call it 'the Pinocchio effect.'"

Something else about the nose — it heats ups during a lie. Though researchers don't fully understand the phenomenon, they think it may have something to do with how much "mental effort" it takes to craft a lie, according to professor Emilio Gómez Milán, who teaches in the department of experimental psychology at the University of Granada in Spain. In a statement, he said, the more intricate a lie becomes, the more mental effort it takes, and scientists can use instruments that detect temperature changes in the nose.

A 2014 survey conducted by KRC Research, a proprietary market research firm based in Washington, D.C., gathered data on 500 people 18 and older designed to uncover the extent to which people stretch the truth.

According to Amanda Leech, research manager at KRC, the most common lie involved someone covering up where they've been.

"Your friend might not be where they say they are," says Leech, adding that 35% of adults polled have lied about their whereabouts.

Experts say there are two types of liars: everyday liars who feel nervous when lying (sweaty palms give them away) and "super liars" who show no signs of nervousness.

Super liars deliver their lines with finesse and manage to outsmart law enforcement experts.

Think spies.

"They pass polygraphs continually, because they're living a lie … they get off on lying … there's no cortisol being released in the body," says Sisco. "They have no physiological response to stress. And they get calmer, they speak more clearly, they're charismatic, they're feeling good when they lie."

Can you spot a liar? Watch the body language, experts say. Here are six signs that someone might not be telling you the whole truth.

Six ways to pick out a prevaricator

Liars often:

Avoid eye contact.

Look down when speaking.

Angle their body away from the person they're speaking too.

Omit critical information.

Get fidgety or agitated when pressed for details.

Touch their faces, especially their nose.

Less apparent to the eye: Their heartbeat skyrockets and their pulse quickens.

Tips for confronting a liar

What should you do when suspected fibs don't add up?

Until you have evidence of an untold truth, avoid sweeping accusations, says Lena Sisco, author of "You're Lying."

"Never accuse someone of lying because you're going to ruin rapport and ruin the relationship, personal or professional," says Sisco.

Try using "non-accusatory language," which helps build dialogue so they "let their guard down," says Sisco. She suggests neutral statements such as, "I think you're not comfortable telling me the whole truth."

Ask yourself, "Did I make it difficult for them to fess up?" Consider a question such as "Have I made you feel uncomfortable so you don't want to tell me all the information?" suggests Sisco.

Lastly, employ the power of suggestion. Try telling them they are truthful and honest.

"Once they realize you called them truthful and honest, they think, 'Hey, I guess I have to be truthful and honest,'" she says.

health@latimes.com

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on January 23, 2016, in the Features section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "How to spot a liar - Tired of tall tales? Experts say there are some dead giveaways that reveal when someone is fibbing." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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