Experts have taken their cue from a study at the University of California, Los Angeles which states that effective communication is 55 percent dependent on non-verbal behavior, 38 percent on tone of voice, and only seven percent on words—all of which must be congruent when conveying a message.
Here are some of the red flags identified by experts, including former agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
People experience stress and discomfort when they lie. As a result, their eyes tend to blink rapidly, stay shut for more than a second, or dart back and forth. These gestures are either a defense mechanism or a subconscious attempt to find a way out of an unwanted situation, according to former FBI agent Mark Bouton in his book How to Spot Lies Like the FBI.
Bouton added that people who lie tend to look to their right. He said that when right-handed people look to the left, they are trying to recall incidents, sounds, smells, and sensations. When they look to the right, however, they are trying to access their imagination and invent stories.
Liars may try smiling to feel less tense. The smile, however, comes off forced and insincere. Bouton noted that a genuine smile causes the skin around the eyes to wrinkle. Liars also tend to purse their lips to keep their mouths from drying—another physical effect that comes with the pressure of concealing the truth.
Voice and Speaking
Body language experts use a method called norming to identify how people naturally speak or behave. During this process, patterns in body language, facial expression, and talking speed are identified. According to FBI criminal profiler and crime analyst Gregg McCrary, voice or demeanor changes when a person is not telling the truth.
Touching the face in certain ways are among the telltale signs of dishonesty according to former CIA officers Philip Houston, Michael Floyd, and Susan Carnicero in their book Spy the Lie. Covering the eyes and nose, for instance, is an attempt to cover up lies.
Relationship therapist Barbara Mitchell also identified unnecessary physical action, such as cleaning one’s glasses and tidying up one’s surroundings, as signs of restlessness among people who lie to their loved ones.
Face and Head
Sweat appearing on the forehead, cheeks, or nape can give away deception, said Bouton. The way the head moves can also show the disconnection between a person’s words and thoughts. When people tell the truth, they will often nod in agreement to what they say. Otherwise, they might shake their head to disagree with themselves.
Body language, verdicts, justice
Reading body language is a valuable lesson that trial consultant Dr. Jason Bull, protagonist of the American legal drama Bull, knows all too well.
In the episode The Necklace, Bull warned his client that the jury might charge him guilty if he kept on dressing up like a punk at court. The client was also cautioned against hiding information in the courtroom, where being proven a liar even by partly concealing the truth could seal his fate for the worse.
Dr. Bull’s unfolding saga continues to expose the many twists and turns of the American justice system. In each case he handles, he finds himself working at the backstage to help his clients appear as convincing as they are truthful on the witness stand.
Bull airs every Wednesday, 9:00PM, same day as the US, first and exclusive on RTL CBS Entertainment.