Little gestures reveal deception

People often miss subtle non verbal cues that indicate deception. The following is a list of some of these subtle cues.

Throat Clearing

Liars often clear their throats. The fight/flight response causes the need for throat clearing because the moisture usually present in the throat reroutes to the skin in the form of sweat. Sweat cools the body. Sweat also makes the body slippery for easier escape from a predator’s grasp.

Hard Swallowing

The lack of moisture in the liar’s throat due to the fight/flight response causes hard swallows often referred to as the Adam apple’s jump.

Jaw Manipulation

Some liars open their mouths and slide their jaws back and forth. The back and forth movement of the jaw stimulated the slavery glands in the back of the throat. This movement is an attempt to moisten their dry throats due the fight/flight response.

Eye Pointing

The eyes point to where the body wants to go. Liars often look toward the exit telegraphing their desire to physically and psychologically escape the anxiety caused by lying. People who look at their watches telegraph the same message. A person who constantly looks at his or her watch can also signal a desire cut short a conversation. This subtle nonverbal cue is critical, especially when talking with a supervisor. Supervisors are less likely to attend to what you say when they are in a hurry. The best course of action to take is to make an appointment with that person when they can give you their undivided attention.

Feet Pointing

Liars often point their feet toward the door signaling their desire to physically and psychologically escape an uncomfortable situation.

Emphatic Gestures

Liars typically experience difficulty using emphatic gestures such as finger pointing, light hand tapping on a table or forward head movements. Denials combined with emphatic gestures usually indicate truthfulness.

Backward Head Movement

Liars will tend to move their heads slightly backwards when they lie. This subtle gesture is an attempt by the liar to distance themselves from the source of their anxiety. People tend to lean toward the people and things they like and distance themselves from people and things they dislike.

Backward Leaning

Liars often sway their entire bodies slightly backwards to distance themselves from their lie targets. Lie targets cause anxiety because of the fear being caught by the lie targets.

Suprasternal Notch

The suprasternal notch is the indentation at the base of the neck. This is one of the most vulnerable parts of the body because any infiltration of the suprasternal notch can interfere with normal breathing. When liars feel threatened, they sometimes cover their suprasternal notch to psychologically protect themselves against the threat of discovery. Women who wear necklaces, often grab, tug, or pull at their necklaces as a means to protect their suprasternal notch.

Subtle nonverbal cues that indicate deception can provide additional support to determine if a person is telling the truth or lying. Remember, no one nonverbal cue determines veracity. Nonverbal cues are more effective when they occur in clusters and clusters of clusters. The best way to determine veracity is to compare what a person said to objective facts. Absent objective facts, detecting deception remains a difficult task. In reality, honest people often say and do things that make themselves look dishonest and liars often say and do things that make themselves appear truthful. In the end, a preponderance of evidence determines truth from deception.

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© Copyright 2014 Jack Schafer, Ph.D., All rights Reserved.
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John R. “Jack” Schafer, Ph.D. is a professor at Western Illinois University in the Law Enforcement and Justice Administration (LEJA) Department. He is a retired FBI Special Agent. He served as behavioral analyst assigned to FBI’s National Security Behavioral Analysis Program. He authored a book titled “Psychological Narrative Analysis: A Professional Method to Detect Deception in Written and Oral Communications.” He also co-authored a book titled “Advanced Interviewing Techniques: Proven strategies for Law Enforcement, Military, and Security Personnel.” He has published numerous articles on a wide range of topics including the psychopathology of hate, ethics in law enforcement, and detecting deception. Dr. Schafer earned his Ph.D. in psychology at Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, California. Dr. Schafer owns his own consulting company and lectures and consults in the United States and abroad.