Post No.: 0454
Common tactics that people might use if they’re lying or want to conceal the truth include – wasting your time or trying to buy time (e.g. by questioning the question that’s just been asked of them to buy themselves a few more seconds of thinking time), changing the subject, or deflecting from answering your questions by any means they can think of (e.g. via aggression, threats, name-calling, bullying or harassment).
Counter-allegations/counter-claims may also be attempted – liars or people who have done wrong tend to try to turn defence into offence (often by also changing the subject to do so) in order to aggressively deflect attention away from them and the issue that they don’t want others to talk about or explore any further. These counter-allegations may be flimsy or they may actually be fair – but person B doing something wrong shouldn’t distract us from investigating and punishing person A if person A did something wrong. Person B shall be investigated separately.
They may attack a straw man i.e. argue against something that wasn’t said or even implied (e.g. someone accused of sexual harassment defending himself by counter-attacking on the grounds of being picked on for being rich and others are just ‘jealous haters’ or it’s ‘politically motivated’). They might try to discredit you as a person (so not discredit your arguments but you as a person), or attempt to crowd out your claims with their own propaganda (because their aim is to avoid or delay answering your questions and to shut out your inquisition and discussion of the evidence and ultimately get you off their backs). And they might try to physically avoid you (although this sign is far more ambiguous).
These above tactics are also frequently deployed when people have lost an argument on intellectual grounds. For instance, people often start raising their voices when they still think they’re correct but their arguments aren’t convincing. Or even when they know they’re beaten, people with bloated egos in particular don’t want to believe that they’re intellectually inferior to whomever they’re arguing against so they may try to turn the tables in order to protect their reputations and (fragile) self-esteems (e.g. by flatly accusing dissenting journalists and news outlets as being the ‘fake news media’).
People who are about to lie tend to tense up or exhibit gestures that attempt to control or cover up their anxiety, nervousness or cognitive strain for having to formulate a fib – so they may exhibit sudden restlessness such as fidgeting or bouncing up and down on their chair, hand clenching, foot tapping, gaze aversion or laughter. These aren’t alone reliable signs of lying however.
People who are lying don’t tend to assertively commit to and own their statements – so they may say, “I think”, “Sometimes”, “Maybe” or, “From what I can remember” or other hedged responses to simple ‘yes or no’ questions. They might also spin elaborate stories that they subsequently cannot remember and repeat, and hence their stories change.
…So if you want to be better at lying – relax, don’t avoid the questions, keep the story close to the truth and keep it simple and memorable, and most of all rehearse it like a salesperson or actor by telling the story over and over again. (But erm, please understand that I in no way condone this behaviour – woof!)
One utterly unreliable yet over-relied method for detecting if someone is lying is by asking them to, “Look straight into my eyes and tell me you didn’t do it”! However, can we tell some things about a person by looking at their eyes?
Yes we can because emotions and feelings are typically conveyed through our bodies, and the facial expressions that have been most frequently expressed by a person can become in a sense etched upon their faces over time (e.g. if someone has scowled a lot or has lived a tough life). There’s also the facial feedback effect (e.g. if you voluntarily lift your chin to look down at people, you’re going to automatically start feeling a tad supercilious). Therefore if someone is pulling a certain expression, they’re going to likely be feeling the corresponding emotion.
But a few problems with concluding too much from looking at people’s eyes is that some people are master manipulators, some have physical eye problems or were just born with certain eyes (hence it may be a racist judgement that therefore speaks more about ourselves!)
There’s also a common myth about people lying if their eyes look in a certain direction. <_< This might indicate cognitive processing (i.e. thinking) but not necessarily lying – they could be seriously trying to remember the genuine events that happened rather than thinking of a fabricated story to conceal the truth. There are a lot of other body language myths such as crossed arms signalling defensiveness when it could be merely a self-soothing gesture. Information can be gleaned from a person’s body language (e.g. people tend to push away from things they don’t like and pull towards things they do like) but we can jump to conclusions far too readily.
Some people, who maybe work in certain professional roles, after they learn about body language, start to over-exaggerate and contrive their body language in a way that looks unnatural and distracting, such as repetitively placing their hands in a steeple position in order to look more confident and commanding, because that’s what they had learnt from somewhere. Politicians may learn to present their palms facing up whenever they make important points to imply that they’ve got nothing to hide and that they’re humble, yet when we trace their track record for honesty and humility, they’re found wanting. A few politicians in the UK have been mocked for their highly unnatural ‘power stances’! They’ve learnt about body language and their aim is to try to portray a certain image to subconsciously influence us, and so it’s our aim to try to consciously see through it!
So although most of the time it’s unconscious, we can learn about and deliberately control our body language. Probably the most common one is learning to maintain enough eye contact even though one is lying. It’s thus hardly foolproof and one mustn’t jump to conclusions about people’s personalities or trustworthiness based on how their eyes look or react. A lack of eye contact and looking in certain directions are not reliable indicators of lying.
Some people naturally self-monitor their body language more than others. Using the index finger of your dominant hand, draw a capital letter ‘Q’ on your own forehead – if you drew the tail on the right side of your forehead (so you can read it) then you’re said to be more of an introvert and generally bad at lying; but if you drew the tail on the left side (so someone facing you can read it) then you’re said to be very aware of how other people perceive you and are in turn better at lying.
Since some people are quite aware of their own body language thus are quite conscious of restraining it – listening carefully to the words people use, the choice of language and the way they speak or write may therefore be far more reliable?
Liars tend to be more vague and use the same words over and over again. There’s usually a lack of key details, explanations are shorter in length, and there are increases in hesitations and pauses. People may try to place more psychological distance from their deceit by using fewer self-references such as ‘I’ and failing to describe their feelings on the matter. They might claim that their memory is faultless, when sometimes we do genuinely forget tiny pieces of trivial information unless directly asked about them. As awfully broad generalisations – women lie more with ‘feelings’ and detect lies that are based on ‘feelings’ better, and men generally lie more with ‘facts’ and detect lies that are based on ‘facts’ better.
Instead of being purely descriptive, fake hotel reviews or exaggerated property descriptions rely more on superlatives to describe the experiences or objects (e.g. it was ‘amazing’ or ‘comfortable’, or using exclamation marks at the end of sentences, in order to try to make something sound more ‘great!’) Deceptive writing often contains exaggerated language. Well in any context generally, phrases that are adamant and the use of superlatives and fancy adjectives shouldn’t, on their own, persuade us – so someone saying, “That person is a very, very bad person. An abominable, ghastly cretin” or, “That’d be fantastically, disastrously stupid” without explaining anything more specific and substantial as evidence or logic should never be persuasive. But this kind of rhetoric is often persuasive enough for those who have a bias they’re merely confirming.
People may over-compensate though, hence fake reviews of experiences may consequently include the words ‘I’ and ‘me’ quite frequently to try to enhance the impression that these reviewers were there when they weren’t. Irrelevant, external or peripheral aspects to the hotel are also emphasised (e.g. references to one’s partner, business or vacation). If objects are genuinely great then people tend to just describe what the specific features are because they speak for themselves (e.g. a granite kitchen surface, a heated pool). Fake reviewers also don’t tend to spend a lot of time writing their impressions – thus if lots of short, positive reviews are posted within a short period of time, be wary.
In most contexts, peer reviews appear more authentic and honest than expert reviews. Regular punters (or so we assume they are) don’t get special treatments and thus are more like us. And when there are numerous reviews for something, we assume that their average must be fair. Consumers tend to trust what’s popular as a heuristic and rely on peer reviews, especially the average number of stars something receives, because it reduces the personal effort to do deeper research. Other shortcuts employed when scanning reviews are to distrust perfect ratings because they look too good to be true (e.g. a 4.8 average rating is trusted more than a 5.0 average rating). The number of reviews is also a factor (so a 4.3 average rating can be more attractive than a 4.4 average rating if there are more reviewers for the former than the latter). The first and last ratings may also be paid more attention than those in the middle because people look at the first several reviews then skip to the few last ones, or vice-versa, because that’s how people convince themselves that they’ve conducted ‘thorough’ research(!)
But like anything else that’s reduced to simple numbers (or stars in this case), the system can be gamed by businesses to present a dishonest picture. Even purchases labelled as ‘verified’ don’t guarantee that their corresponding reviewers will be independent and honest. Some reviewers get paid in money or products to write fake reviews online – they’re paid to buy those very products (hence they’ll show as being ‘verified’ purchases) to then post biased reviews about them.
Overall, it’s immensely difficult to spot lying, which therefore reasserts what was last stressed in Post No.: 0294. If we were good at reliably detecting deception then lies would get culturally selected out because they’d be pointless to attempt – but the opposite is true! Automated AI-generated reviews will make it even more incredibly difficult to detect which reviews are real and which aren’t – although AI will also be used in the furry fight against fraud too; yet we shouldn’t ever expect these to be 100% accurate (and this includes regarding the false positives too).
All these above potential signs of lying are each ambiguous hence it’s best to look for clusters of signs. This still isn’t foolproof compared to deducing logical flaws, contradictions and verifiable untruths from declared statements, but spotting some of these signs can be useful to prompt us to search for harder evidence, or at least proceed cautiously, if some suspicions are raised.