I’ve always been a fan of watching crime drama and am completely fascinated when my TV heroes manage to spot when their enemies are trying to lie or deceive them. Jack Bauer always seemed to be able to figure it out, sometimes providing a scientific reason why he was able to so easily see through them.
Another show of which I am a massive fan is Criminal Minds, throughout which the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit decode and decipher the multifaceted meanings behind human behaviour and use this knowledge to catch America’s deadliest serial killers.
I’ve always been really intrigued as to whether these tactics for spotting a liar are actually true or not as I expect many other people watching the shows like this are.
Well now a new study by the University of British Columbia in Canada has come up with some really interesting insights about the facial expressions that can give it all away when someone is trying to pull the wool over your eyes!
The study, which is called ‘Darwin the Detective: Observable Facial Muscle Contractions Reveal Emotional High-Stakes Lies’ involved analysing facial expressions of 52 people as they made a moving appeal for the safe return of a missing relative. Half of these people were later proved to be lying, with many of them eventually found guilty of murdering the person they were speaking about – god this really does sound like it came straight out of an episode of Criminal Minds!
Researchers discovered that people’s facial muscles often ‘leaked’ their emotions and that these were significantly harder to control during traumatic and stressful situations. So much easier to lie about the dog eating your homework than denying that the bodies of your victims are buried under the patio then!
Their analysis proved liars were often given away by involuntary small muscle actions that meant they would raise their eyebrows and show the barest hint of a smile. People who were telling the truth would instead be inclined to furrow their brow in an authentic ‘expression of distress’.
Published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour, the study said: “During the critical lie, told by each deceptive murderer, upper face surprise and lower face happiness were likely to be expressed, attributed to the failed attempt to appear sad and leakage of happiness.”
The study, which was led by Dr Leanne ten Brinke will provide valuable insights for psychologists, and behavioural analysis experts, many of whom have always maintained that the human face can often give away significant clues as to what people are actually thinking and feeling.
But Brinke did warn that while the instigators found by the study would be important when trying to catch out a liar, she warned that they were by no means a ‘Pinocchio’s nose’.
She told The Daily Telegraph; “Not everyone will leak their true emotions, and some people are better than others at adopting a false face (such as) psychopaths.”
I’ve always been an absolutely terrible liar and I have only ever tried to tell really teeny-weeny, somewhat insignificant ones! Reading about the findings of this new study reminded of being back at a secondary school and listening to my best friend tell me what a bad liar I was…Funnily enough, the foundation of her argument was based on the fact that I used to raise my eyebrows so much that I looked like a startled cartoon character whenever I tried to tell a fib!!!