Pamela Meyer, the author of “Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception,” gave one of the most popular TED talks ever recorded back in 2011.
At the 2017 TED talks, she offered an in-depth training workshop on the key ways to spot liars. Many of the takeaways from the workshop involved body language and the subtle hints people unknowingly give when they’re lying.
Meyer is the CEO of Calibrate, a company that trains executives and government officials in the analysis of deceptive behaviour. While she listed at least a dozen behaviours to watch out for during her workshop, she ended by highlighting four key body language hotspots.
They are: the tentative shoulder shrug, micro-expression leakage, “duping delight,” and saying no while nodding yes.
The shoulder shrug is self-explanatory — it indicates doubt while someone is attempting to tell a convincing (and untrue) story. Micro-expressions, however, are a little harder to notice. They consist of the tiny movements in a person’s face that indicate fleeting emotion. A liar might momentarily show contempt for a disliked person discussed while being interrogated, for example.
“Duping delight” is the name Meyer gives to the phenomenon of someone smiling inappropriately due to the gravity of the question being asked of them. She says it’s also important, however, to recognise when people are smiling because they’re actually happy. You might already know the signs of this — crow’s feet around the eyes, symmetrical smile, lip corners pulled up.
Saying no while nodding yes is another sign that someone might be lying, according to Meyer. If someone is asked whether they stole an object, for example, they might say “Of course not,” while also nodding their head. In this case, they’re accidentally revealing the truth through body language.
Meyers stressed that before using any of these lie-spotting techniques, it’s important to observe a baseline — to establish someone’s normal behaviour in order to notice when they do something out of the ordinary. To do this, she says, make sure you’re in a quiet room with visible exits and ask basic questions, like “How are you?” and “How are the kids?”
Check out Meyers’ 2011 TED talk below:
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