Liar, liar, pants on fire

There’s a weird piece of Deceived Wisdom that emerged from so-called Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) that suggested that one could somehow tell whether a person was lying by looking at their eye movements. Turns out, unsurprisingly, that it’s nonsense. All that guff about looking up to their right when you’re fabricating a tale and down to the left when they’re recalling a truth? It’s nonsense.

Research published by Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire and colleagues in the journal PLoS ONE today lays the deceived wisdom bare. “The results of the first study revealed no relationship between lying and eye movements, and the second showed that telling people about the claims made by NLP practitioners did not improve their lie detection skills,” noted Wiseman.

“A large percentage of the public believes that certain eye movements are a sign of lying, and this idea is even taught in organisational training courses,” team member Caroline Watt of the University of Edinburgh says. “Our research provides no support for the idea and so suggests that it is time to abandon this approach to detecting deceit. The researchers are now calling on the public, the media and organisations who claim credence for NLP and eye-movement lie detection to abandon this nonsense.

No need to hide your lyin; eyes, after all Glenn.

(2012). The Eyes Don’t Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming, PLoS ONE, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040259.t003

5 thoughts on “Liar, liar, pants on fire”

  1. @ Peter Haigh
    Don’t confuse Micro Expressions with Eye Movements. Lie to Me is based on Paul Ekman, who kind of discovered these Micro Expressions as a universal non verbal language, which is the same, all over the world, no matter what culture your from, whereas body language and eye contact have different meanings in different cultures.

    I never believed Eye Movements to be a tell to see if someone’s lying.

  2. So Tim Roth’s character in Fox Network’s Lie to Me was all rubbish!!
    What about Simon Baker’s character on CBS’s The Mentalist
    I feel so cheated!

  3. It’s incredible that something so misleading should have been presented to the public as fact in popular science books. Publishers need to be far more rigorous about insisting on having research backing for new ideas. Something like this could have impacted on real relationships in a very negative way.

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