Psychologist reveals how to spot a liar

ALL of us lie all the time. Yes, even you.

Professor Timothy R. Levine, who has researched deception for more than 20 years, discovered that people tell on average one or two lies every day.

And researcher Robert Feldman found that strangers meeting face-to-face are liable to tell three fibs within just 10 minutes, reports The Sun.

So the chances are you lie much more than you think.

Telling your colleague that you're fine when you've been crying in the toilets for 20 minutes - that's a fib.

Sure, it's not on par with: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," (one of the most infamous lies of all time from ex-president Bill Clinton), but it's also not true, is it?

And telling a lie is only half the story - spotting one is incredibly difficult. "Everyone thinks they can spot a liar," says forensic psychologist Mike Berry.

"But studies have found we detect lies only 48-60% of the time, and those who spot them 60% of the time are trained experts." What kinds of liars should you look out for, and how should you deal with them? Follow our lie low-down.


You don’t need a polygraph test to be able to tell when someone is lying.
You don’t need a polygraph test to be able to tell when someone is lying. News Limited

"Lies are usually told to gain a connection," says clinical psychotherapist Jerilee Claydon.

"A fundamental human quality for survival is to maintain relationships, so if the truth doesn't appear to be working, we often lie."

This can be to protect your own or others' feelings or to maintain your social status. Yep, like those Instagram posts about having the best holiday ever in the resort from hell.

"How many parents have lied to their children about their art, saying: 'Yes, that looks just like Daddy!' when really it looks like the back of a bus?" says Mike.

"Sometimes we lie because people want to hear it, such as telling someone their pet died immediately after being hit by a car rather than it suffering."

DO … Assess why the person may have told the lie. "Are they embarrassed, insecure or fearful of revealing the truth? Before calling someone out, question if there's anything to be gained by doing so," Jerilee says.

DON'T … Tell a white lie if someone consistently asks you the same question. "You'll have to remember it over and over," Mike advises.

"And don't let someone else's lie go when it could be dangerous, like: 'Anna's only had a glass of wine,' when you know she's definitely not OK to drive."


Donald Trump was busted telling a few fibs about his inauguration in January.
Donald Trump was busted telling a few fibs about his inauguration in January. AP Photo - Carolyn Kaster

These people can't help but tell fantastical fibs, even if they're ridiculous - it's the joy of the telling that gets them going.

Take Donald Trump claiming that more people turned up to his inauguration than Obama's - something a simple photograph disproved.

"Compulsive liars usually hurt no one but themselves," Ian says.

"Unless they end up in positions of real power."

DO … Identify the person's reason for telling the lie.

"Locating this weakness will often empower you, giving you the opportunity to render the lie insignificant," Jerilee says.

For example, bragging is often a sign of insecurity.

DON'T … Take it personally.

"More excessive forms of lying are associated with mental health issues," Jerilee explains.

"A compulsive liar's behaviour is more habitual than intentional, learned as a coping skill in childhood."

Consider collecting evidence of the lie, then gently suggest they seek help.


Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale in a scene from the 2004 film Catch Me if you Can
Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale in a scene from the 2004 film Catch Me if you Can News Corp Australia
"Pathological liars are cold and calculating and lie with specific, self-serving goals," Ian says. "Often called 'psychopathic liars', they are manipulative, charming, credible and egotistical.

They lack the honesty bias we all possess that tells us being mostly honest is good, and use that for their own gain." Frank Abagnale, played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can, was one.

DO … Use this checklist. Is he/she narcissistic, selfish, obsessive, controlling, impulsive, aggressive, jealous, manipulative, deceptive, isolated, temperamental, angry? Has he/she had many jobs and moved a lot?

DON'T … try to "fix" them yourself. Pathological lying can be a symptom of a personality or behavioural disorder and needs proper psychological help.

A version of this article originally appeared in The Sun.

Topics:  donald trump editors picks lying psychology

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