File photo. Picture: cinnamon_girl, Flickr
File photo. Picture: cinnamon_girl, Flickr

How your gut can spot a liar

By Daily Mail Time of article published Mar 27, 2014

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London - Ever had a funny feeling that someone was not being totally honest with you?

That gut instinct is probably worth following as it is better at spotting liars than our conscious mind, researchers say.

Automatic associations can be more helpful as logical awareness may hinder our ability to detect fraud, they added.

This could be because we tend to seek out behaviour supposedly typical of liars, such as averted eyes or fidgeting.

Study author Dr Leanne ten Brinke said: “Our research was prompted by the puzzling but consistent finding that humans are very poor lie detectors, performing at only about 54 percent accuracy.”

She said that figure is barely better than simply guessing if someone is lying.

The psychological scientist added: “We set out to test whether the unconscious mind could catch a liar – even when the conscious mind failed.”

For the project at the University of California, 72 subjects watched videos of ‘suspects’ in a mock-crime interview. Some had stolen a 100 dollar bill from a bookshelf while others were innocent.

However, all claimed they had not taken the money, meaning one group was lying, reported the journal Psychological Science.

When asked, the subjects only correctly picked the liars 43 percent of the time and the truth-tellers 48 percent of the time.

But the researchers had also employed widely-used behavioural reaction time tests to examine more intuitive reactions.

These results showed that participants were more likely to unconsciously associate deception-related words – such as untruthful, dishonest and deceitful – with the liars.

The subjects were more likely to associate truthful words – such as honest or valid – with the suspects who were being straight.

A second experiment suggests that people may have some intuitive sense, outside of conscious awareness, that detects when someone is lying.

Dr Brinke said: “These results provide a new lens through which to examine social perception and suggest that - at least in terms of detection of lies - unconscious measures may provide additional insight into interpersonal accuracy.” - Daily Mail

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