“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes” – Mark Twain
Warning, this can be dangerous knowledge: it sure got me into a lot of trouble. Let me explain, about eight years ago, one of my in-laws came to me and confronted me with some horrible gossip. Unfortunately I did not have the pleasure of sinning in the manner she suggested: someone had told her a lie.
I tried to teach her how to read others eye accessing cues to find out whether her sources were telling the truth so she didn’t inadvertently spread malicious gossip. But, she did not believe that it was possible to detect a lie via eye movements and vocal tone. I finally gave her a book on NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). Well, to make a long story short, few of my in-laws have spoken to me since! Of course no one likes a know-it-all, especially a kill-joy who destroys the latest round of gossip.
“Lying is done with words and also with silence.”- Adrienne Rich
We all know that the brain is organized into two hemispheres: the left side is credited with logic and analytic skill while the right side is more creative and artistic. This is why right handed people are said to be more analytic while left handed people are more artistic.
Taken one step further, a person’s eyes will glance to his or her right (the creative side) when they are using their imagination (as one must do when they are telling an outright lie). Conversely, one will glance to his or her left when they are telling the truth (the analytical side) when they are remembering the details of an experience.
Now, generally a person’s eyes will move in way that will betray his or her thoughts. If a man looks up and to his right he is constructing a visual image. In other words, he is visualizing something that doesn’t exist (i.e. imagining an intimidating authority figure standing right there in his underwear). If a woman’s pupil moves upward and to her left, she is remembering a visual memory (i.e. the drag queen who wears the same dress to a party that she did…and he made it look better so she left).
On the other hand, if one’s eyes tend to move to the side they are remembering sounds. If a girl’s eyes tend to move to her right side, she is imagining what something may sound like. If a guy’s eyes glace sideways to his left, he is remembering an actual conversation.
Looking downward generally denotes inner talk. If your friend is looking downward to his right he is remembering a feeling. To his left, he is thinking intently about something.
offers an interactive website that can help you practice and memorize the most common eye accessing cues. This chart will apply to most people you meet (about 85% of the population respond this way).
This does lead me to a second warning: the eye accessing cues may be reversed on left-handed people or the very few right handed people with superstitious parents. Luckily, there is a fool proof method to detect a lie in these cases.
What I like to do is ask a question to determine which direction the person glances towards when they are telling the truth. Of course, they will tend to look in the opposite direction while telling a fib. There is one caveat, though, if they are imagining something that didn’t happen it will look like they are telling a lie. For instance, if your dearest swears that he didn’t sleep with the neighbor, but looks up and to his right, he may well be imagining the experience.
My favorite method is to notice something unique that the person has and ask where they obtained it. Such as, “Hey Fred, that’s a nice watch (or necklace, ring, toupee, whatever). Where did you get it?” The initial direction that they look will probably be to the side that denotes truthfulness, unless you ask about the toupee and he insists it’s his real hair (honestly, though, bald is beautiful).
Or you could ask your friend to use his or her imagination. Maybe, something like “What would say if you won the lottery?” Then you can see what side (right or left) that person glances towards in the middle of a lie. Most people, though, will glance to his or her right when using their imagination.
There are numerous body language cues that are use to detect lying. A touch to the nose which says that something is unbelievable (but before you get irritated…it could simply mean that the person cannot believe that they are talking to a wonderful person like yourself). It is said that a liar’s body language is stiff (but then, the person could have a social phobia or be nervous around you). Also, vocal tone tends to get noticeably higher when one is lying (or he or she could have a frog in his or her throat). There is a guide to lie detection written by John J. Webster. It details the role of body language in lie detection rather than eye accessing cues, but, it is still a very good resource.
Personally, I find that using eye accessing cues is the most accurate lie detection tool.
Just remember, most people lie for a reason; to avoid embarrassment, to spare feelings, or avoid punishment. If you find that a lie was told, sometimes it is good to explore why the person felt the need to lie to you in the first place.
Wishing you the best of success,