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    Volume 9 Issue 21| May 21, 2010|

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The Truth about Lies

Obaidur Rahman

“Everybody lies…everyday, every hour, awake, asleep, in his dreams, in his joy, in his mourning.”
-Mark Twain

Often referred to as the dialect of the Devil, lie or falsehood is simply an assault on the truth that all of us have either contributed to or endured at one point or the other. Even though it was Satan who uttered the first lie, but sadly it has become a way of life for mankind ever since his fall from the heavens. Years and years of this sordid practice and superfluous glamorization of this sinister act, very unfortunately, has made humans, as individuals or groups, somewhat connoisseurs on this art of deception. But thankfully, not all of us are liars, well at least not on a habitual basis. Although the fact remains firm that lying is a sin, some lies are sincere acts of desperation while the rest are systematic distortion of all that is good and pure. But how does one identify a lie or rather know ways to identify a liar? Apart from that primordial yet faithful “instinct”, there are in fact quite a few precise methods that greatly aids in this righteous quest that does not require the backing of modern scientific technology and allows any commonsensical individual to easily realise when someone is lying to them.

By carefully observing particular body language and emotional gestures, one can easily detect whether truth is being distorted or not and vigilantly protect him/herself from being deceived. As the saying goes “Eyes are the mirrors of the soul”, the first step in this regard involves watching the eye movement of a person. The liar will always try to avoid making eye contact. Also, doing the exact opposite, that is if the person stares at the truth-seeker's eyes for a prolonged period of time, then that is a strong indicator that the person is lying because the liar has probably learnt that such quick eye movements are a dead-giveaway and he/she is deliberately trying to control them! Besides, the keen observation of the variations in the direction of the eye movements also makes aware, the “well-read” truth-seeker about what exactly is going on in the mind of the other person right at that moment of time.

When someone looks to the Top-Left when answering a question, this means that he/she is recalling a memory; hence, the person is telling the truth. But if the person looks to the Top-Right, this indicates that he/she is accessing the creative part of the brain (that is an effort to “construct” a Visual Image), and informs the truth-seeker that the individual is probably making up a lie. This particular aspect of body language can be utilized in the following way. Suppose, a person owes you some money. On a day of dire financial need, you sincerely ask the person whether he/she has the money to pay you back. If your debtor answers “no” yet looks to his/her Top-Right (you will witness the person's eyes moving to your left) that means the person just lied to your face and has no intention of returning the amount to you. However, if the person replies negatively, and looks to his/her Top-Left (and this time, to your right), this indicates that the person is telling the truth. Besides, along with excessive blinking, the pupils of a liar dilate a lot when a lie is told. This is because of the adrenalin rush one gets from telling a lie.

Apart from detecting the eye movements, other body language also draws a vivid line between truthfulness and deceit. Liars often try to hide the palms of their hands, which is an instinctive and defensive response to questioning and are likely to play with objects in front of them such as mobile phones, bracelets, lighters etc. This is a subconscious way of attempting to “barricade” themselves from the apparent uncomfortable discussion and relieve the tension of lying. And aside from playing with objects, the liar's hands will also touch his/her own face, throat and mouth quite a bit. People of this nature will tend to touch the base of their nose a lot or scratch behind their ear and very much unlikely to touch his/her heart or chest area with an open hand. Now the reason why a liar would touch his face in that manner is because it's an instinct from birth and simply a grown-up version of the act of covering ones mouth when a lie is playfully told as a child. An interesting fact about lying is that, during the moment of lying, the body can't get enough oxygen, so liars, when telling a lie tend to breath through their mouth instead of their nose.

Liars also have an interesting posture that is people who are being deceitful, feel uncomfortable standing directly in front of the person they are lying to. In general, the physical expressions of the liar will be stiff, which means fewer physical movements, taking up less space, hand, arm and leg movements towards their own body and when faking a smile, the liar will use only the selected facial muscles around the mouth whereas a natural smile involves the functioning of the muscles of the entire face. Throat clearing, pitch changes, shrugging of shoulders, stiff smiles and being fidgety are also some other physical indicators that tells us that truth is being stalled.

As far as verbal context is concerned, a crucial sign of deception is that a liar usually gets defensive whereas an innocent person will go offensive when responding to any accusation. The liar is likely to use the truth-seeker's very own words to answer the latter's question. For example, if asked, “Did you eat the last candy bar?” The liar is likely to answer in the following way, “No, I did not eat the last candy bar.” A statement with contractions is more likely to be truthful, such as “I didn't eat it”; instead of “I did not eat it”. A guilty person is also likely to over-emphasize details, add unnecessary information to the conversations and be nonsensical, all because the mind of a liar is desperately searching for a convincing answer and trying to change the topic of conversation at the same time. If the liar manages to change the topic, he/she would appear visibly more relaxed than before, whereas an innocent person who's telling the truth would want to continue with the dialogue and be puzzled by the sudden change of subject. Also, when a person is lying, his/her tone of voice is generally not consistent with his/her gestures or statements and it is likely that people who are being deceitful would often use sarcasm or humor when answering any accusations.

It is crucial to note that, just because a person is exhibiting one or more of these above-mentioned behaviors does not make that individual a liar. The key here is to understand that this kind of behavior and ways of interaction, are rather useful when it comes to comparing the normal behavior of a person to the way he/she behaves when being interrogated and make an educated guess as to whether a lie is being told.

Categorically speaking, there are dozens of different kinds of lies. No doubt lying is a dangerous disease that corrupts the very essence of everything that is humane. The behavior of lying compulsively is referred as Pseudologia fantastica by psychiatrists and the nature of exaggeration is called Mythomania, both of which have existed since the beginning of civilization. All that protects us from this sinister act is the desire to be on the side of truth. Because at the end of the day it is truth that we all are truly after, and it is the truth that truly sets one free.


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