How do you know when someone is lying to you? Do you even know when someone is lying to you? What does it look like to see the truth leak out of someone? These questions, and more, were asked and answered last month at the 2016 ACFE Fraud Conference Asia-Pacific in Singapore. Cliff Lansley, body language expert and CEO of the Emotional Intelligence Academy (EIA) and Paul Ekman International, took attendees through an interactive keynote presentation with probing questions that yielded somewhat surprising answers. As he said to begin his session, “We don’t catch lies when we get to the truth. I am going to teach you to see the truth as it leaks from the human.”
Lansley is the Chair of EIA Group, which owns Paul Ekman International plc (PEI). The EIA Group specializes in using science to develop programs in emotional awareness and deception. He has been featured as a behavioral analyst expert for ITV's documentary "Lying Game - Crimes that Fooled Britain" and also for the BBC.
Lansley asked the group to discuss the question, “What is a signal that tells you someone is lying?” and received responses that seemed to correspond to much of what we think to be true. Too much detail, perspiration and eyes looking up to the right were a few of the responses. But, according to Lansley, these are not scientifically confirmed as indicators of deception. “Perspiration can increase for three reasons,” he said. “An aggressive interview where you feel like a suspect, fear of not being believed or fear of being caught in a lie.” Only two out of three of those reasons meets the criteria for a reasonable cause for suspicion.
He also explained that looking up and to the right is not a reliable indicator either. “Left is memory and right is creating something visual. These are theories that don’t help. You could be constructing a theory, not lying.”
As for too much detail, that can be misconstrued as well. “It’s the quality, not the quantity, of detail,” he said. “Everything will be rich in detail when emotions are high.” This can become especially true during polygraph tests. He said the reason why we see so many false positives is because those tests respond to all emotions like stress and anxiety. “Peaks of lying are difficult to see during the peaks of overall anxiety,” he said before reminding the audience that polygraph tests have proven to be only 62 percent effective.
So, what does work? How do you as an examiner begin to know when the truth is leaking out of someone? Lansley highlighted the following six channels to pay attention to when evaluating the ABC (Account of the story; Baseline; and Content):
- Interactional style
He advised attendees to look for indicators in these six areas that are inconsistent with the ABC. “Make sure you watch behavior during the question before you even finish,” he said. “If my wife asks me, ‘Where were you last night?’ I know where she is going even before she finishes, so I am already strategizing how I am going to respond.”
He also said to pay close attention to the first half of the first second when a question is asked. That is our pre-conscience. It is when we have no control and act on reflex. As many of us have heard in interviewing best practices, establishing a baseline is crucial to then noticing anything diverting from that baseline. Lansley said people have ticks that will be inconsistent with the baseline. “When you see an indicator, you notice it. Once you get indicators in your system, you will notice it,” Lansley said.
Just like with any skill, spotting the truth or indicator of deception takes practice and continual use. Once you begin to flex and exercise these tools like muscles, you will see the strength of your own observation.