Photograph by Nadia von Scotti
Busted! Your body lets you down in four glaringly obvious ways when you’re lying. Find out why fibbing just got really, really tricky…
Liar! Sorry, but it’s true. According to a recent study, the average person stretches the truth 11 times… Per week! Whether it’s a little white lie, a cover-your-ass fib or a big, fat whopper of a falsehood, here’s how people can spot when you’re being a phony.
Spotting a phony…
If people are looking for pants on fire to smoke out a liar, it ain’t gonna happen. But there can be ways to tell if someone is fibbing to your face. When spreading falsehoods, the body almost always rebels, leaking small physical signs, says psychologist and lie researcher Dr Paul Ekman.
Your colleague shakes his noggin almost imperceptibly while telling you he didn’t steal your idea and pass it off to the boss as his own. He so did.
As people fib, split seconds of truth often flash across their face before their brain can retake control. Think: mom’s fleeting grimace before she says she really, really likes your new apartment.
Near-constant hand gestures (like pointing, fidgeting or face scratching) in someone who is usually relaxed can be a sign she’s not being honest.
Liars take longer to answer questions than truth tellers and they may pause mid-sentence (making shit up takes time!).
The serious effects lying can have on your body…
Research shows that 95 percent of women both withhold things from loved ones and have lied to someone close to them. But keeping stuff inside – even lies we think are harmless – can cause anxiety, depression and a host of bodily aches and pains, especially if you feel guilty about the deception. While having your confidences exposed – and dealing with the aftermath – is scary, not doing so could be even scarier for your health…
Small deceits handed out to protect someone else’s feelings are pretty benign (for you, at least), since they’re probably not the kind you’ll obsess over. Worst-case scenario: feigning enthusiasm for your friend’s flavourless gluten-free cake gives you minor, short-term anxiety – and may up the odds you’ll have to suffer through the dessert again.
Playing Pinocchio to save face or avoid embarrassment may seem pretty innocuous, but it can become a negative cycle that ripples into all aspects of your life, according to psychologist Dr Deirdre Fitzgerald, who specialises in applied behaviour analysis. Another not-so-glam side effect: diarrhoea. One study found that stress can abuse liars’ immune systems, making them more likely to experience headaches, back pain, and, yes, the runs.
Big fat lies
Yeah, we all know how that one worked out. But back to the point: larger lies can come with major guilt, stress and remorse, especially if you’re telling tall tales to those you feel close to, says Dr Bella DePaulo. The constant threat of being found out – and the pressure to keep your story straight – can initiate the same memory- and-metabolism-destroying cortisol surge seen in secret holders and can lead to depression and anxiety. This doesn’t include the five percent of people who actually get off on getting away with duplicity, says Ekman.