Facial Expressions and Deception: How to Spot When Someone is Lying

Facial Expressions

Deception Detection using Facial Expressions and Health

We’ve all seen it in the movies: a detective focusing intently on a suspect, analyzing every move, every quirk of the face, to detect when someone is not telling the truth. In reality, facial expressions and other nonverbal cues can provide valuable insight into someone’s credibility, but only when read with the right techniques. Understanding how to detect lies through reading body language and facial expressions can help improve communication, deepen relationships, and avoid misunderstandings. We’ll also look at how facial expressions and deception can be detected in health care settings.

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Detecting Lies through Facial Expressions

In a research study1, scientists observed the differences in facial expressions between liars and truth-tellers. The researchers found that liars showed more fear, discomfort and worry in their facial expressions. They had higher levels of eye contact, but at the same time showed less mouth movement. When telling lies, people often try to avoid eye contact because they feel guilty and uncomfortable. However, they also try to keep their facial expressions in check, which may account for less movement.

Nonverbal cues that Signal Deception

In addition to facial expressions, there are other non-verbal cues that may indicate deception. Liars may squirm, fidget, or shift their posture in order to avoid being questioned. They may also pass a hand over their mouth or eyes in order to communicate discomfort. These behaviors are known as “elicited behaviors,” as they are typically elicited by a question or a stressful situation.

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Detecting Lies in Health Care Settings

It is important to be aware of how to detect facial expressions and other nonverbal cues in a health care setting. Liars in this setting may be more likely to show signs of guilt, fear, or deception. For example, a person may appear to be nervous or uneasy when questions are asked about their health. They may also be evasive in their answers or avoid answering questions directly.

What You Can Do to Read Facial Expressions Better

The ability to read facial expressions and detect deception can be improved with practice. In order to read facial expressions more accurately, focus on the eyes to detect micro-expressions. Micro-expressions are brief, involuntary expressions that last for only a fraction of a second. They may indicate deceit or other negative emotions. You can also pay attention to subtle changes in body language, such as fidgeting or avoiding eye contact.

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Learning how to read facial expressions and other nonverbal cues can help you detect lies and prevent misunderstandings. It can also help you improve communication in a health care setting by detecting deception more easily. By understanding how to detect subtle cues that signal deception, you can enhance your ability to detect lies and make more informed decisions in your personal and professional life.

1. Christopher M., & Eidelman, S. (2018). Detecting deception from facial expressions: A cross-cultural comparison. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 18(3), 379-399. doi:10.30935/psychotherapy.1803.560