The Science of Lie Detection



Hi! Welcome to this week’s training. I’m Sherri Wilson, an educator, strategist, and introverted entrepreneur that empowers other introverted entrepreneurs the art of persuasion and influence. And, today, let’s have some fun! I’m going to take you into my bonus module of my online course on lie detection! 

Half a truth is often a great lie.
— Benjamin Franklin

Most of us can spot lying 50% of the time without training but with training, we can 90% of the time. Whether it’s your kids, your clients, your spouse, your friends or anyone else, spotting deception can come in pretty handy. But I want to let you know that spotting deception doesn’t necessarily mean lying in the way we think of lying. It can mean someone is holding back because they don’t want to hurt you. Use this training to ask more questions to uncover anything hidden that you feel could bring harm to your business or professional relationships. But don’t assume the person is being a liar for lying’s sake. 

Baseline Behavior

First step is to observe what’s called “baseline behavior.” This is posture, gesturing, facial expression, and voice volume and tone in a non-threatening and non-stressful conversation. Ask yourself: 

  • How does he hold his body? His posture? Is he relaxed? Does he fidget? 

  • Are his gestures stiff or relaxed? A lot or a little?

  • Is he really expressive in his face and gestures? Or more subdued?

Red Flags

Once you have that baseline (or you might know it already if you’re close to the person or know him well), now look for red flags after shifting the conversation to the issue at hand where potential deception could occur.  

Red flags are any change in baseline behavior plus:

  1. Any change in baseline behavior.

  2. Lack of congruence between words and body language. For example, words do not match micro-expressions. Or nodding “no” but saying “yes” and vice versa.

  3. Out of sync emotions with words.

  4. Self-soothing gestures IF not normal.

  5. Pursed lips (a sign of holding something back).

  6. Disbelief expression with the sadness expression following.

  7. The phrases “swear to God” or “to tell you the truth.”

  8. Loss of volume when talking and vocal tone wavering is a big sign. The voice wavers 95% of the time when lying.

  9. Touching the nose is a HUGE sign if different from baseline because when a person lies, the sinus tissues in the nose swell with increased blood flow and can itch.

  10. An increased error rate when talking like mispronunciation of words, stuttering, and stammering (if not normal).

  11. Using “um,” “er,” and “ah” can be a sign if not normal because he’s pausing slightly to fabricate his story.

  12. Correcting sentences with, “I mean…” unfinished sentences, coughs, omissions and other variations from normal conversation.

  13. Leakage is a big sign of deception. Leakage is subconscious lower body movement like fidgeting and is hard to control except by expert liars.

  14. Broken eye contact can be a sign but most often it’s NOT. Instead, good liars learn to keep eye contact and TOO MUCH can be a sign of deception.

  15. One common gesture used when lying is the hand shrug as if indicating helplessness.

  16. Touching the eye, licking the lips, drumming the fingers, and gripping the armrests can be signs.


Once you recognize red flags, you need to look for clusters of them. One red flag isn’t enough. Say the person you’re speaking to scratches their nose. Well, if there aren’t at least two more red flags, then their nose probably itches. 

Two Techniques

Finally, I want to give you two techniques that people who are lying use: The Well Technique and the Land of Is technique.

A lie told often enough becomes the truth.
— Vladimir Lenin

The Well Technique. If you ask someone a direct question and he begins with, “Well,” there is a high probability he’s not being truthful or giving an answer you might not expect. This only works with “yes” or “no” questions. If used with open-ended questions, it can indicate your client is thinking about the question and his answer.

The Land of Is. This is the land between truth and deception—half truths, excuses and suppositions—and then using semantics to avoid the truth. Answers will be deflections instead of “yes” or “no.” If you see this, ask a simple “yes” or “no” answer question.

There’s more but this is enough to get you started. I highly recommend watching video of known lying. Two of my favorites are Ted Bundy’s Florida trial when he was first questioned by his lawyer and is more comfortable and then when he’s cross examined and then Bill Clinton when he denied having sexual relations with that woman. Slow his down so you can see his facial expressions. I was surprised to learn that politicians lie better than serial killers. 

You can also get together with friends and have a lie detection party. Get in groups of three and play the two truths and a lie game and see if you can spot it. 

Well that’s it! Pass this on to any parent, spouse, business owner or human for that matter! It doesn’t take much to help you spot deception, which will give you an edge in business dealings and negotiations especially if you’re a naturally trusting person. I’m not. But many of you are.

Sherri Wilson