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NONVERBAL SIGNS OF DECEPTION

            In his classic book Telling Lies (1992 Norton), Paul Ekman noted that people are especially inept at determining from nonverbal signals when they are being lied to. Some of this is due to the fact that dishonesty can range from mere puffing to unequivocal deceit. Despite the fact that no particular nonverbal sign is a certain indication of deception, there are some signals that should cause observers to become suspicious. Some reflect the stress usually associated with lying, while others are deliberately employed by speakers to enhance the credibility of the misrepresentations they are about to utter.

  1. Increase/Decrease in Statement Specificity

            When individuals tell the truth, they fill in little details as they are recalled. When people lie, however, there are no actual details to remember. As a result, they often omit the usual amplifying details, articulating the bare bones of their fabrication. On the other hand, carefully prepared liars may provide an excessive amount of information designed to make their fabrications appear more credible. Specific questions can be used to force minimal detail liars to fill in details they don’t really know or to discover whether detailed statements are really accurate.

  1. Increased/Decreased Gross Body Movement

            When individuals interact, they move their arms, legs, and torso regularly. They rarely sit perfectly still. Under stressful situations, some persons become more fidgety and move their arms and legs at an increased rate. Deceitful people who are afraid of getting caught may exhibit similar movement. On the other hand, some fabricators deliberately minimize their body movements in an effort to appear more trustworthy. As a result, negotiators should be on guard when they evaluate the veracity of statements emanating from individuals who have clearly increased or decreased their gross body movements.

  1. Placing Hand Over Mouth

            Most persons believe that lying is morally wrong. Their consciences bother them when they deceive others. Psychologists have noticed that liars frequently place their hands over their mouths when they speak, as if they are subconsciously trying to hold in the lies they know are morally reprehensible.

  1. Eyes Looking Up to Wrong Side

            When people try to recall past circumstances from memory, right handed individuals tend to look up and to the left and left handed persons tend to look up and to the right. On the other hand, when individuals try to create new images, right handed persons tend to look up and to the right and left handed people look up and to the left. When right handed negotiators look up and to the right or left handed negotiators look up and to the left, this may suggest that they are not trying to recall actual circumstances but are instead creating false stories.

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April 2007