Lies are very hard to catch even for experts. Part of this is because we overlook lying for many socially acceptable and justifiable reasons. Still, there are unconscious tells of lying.
To catch lies it helps to know these tells. That is only part of the story. These tells help us understand why lies often work so well on us.
Unconscious Tells of Lying
- General knowledge (i.e. “as you know”) rather than specific knowledge
- Fewer “non-extreme positive emotion words” to describe things (i.e. using more “greats” rather than “goods”)
- Third person pronouns rather than “I”
- Fewer “hesitation words” or utterances (i.e. pauses, “um,” “er”)
- Swear words more often
The odds of people lying go up if they talk about overviews rather than details. They go up when they are very positive. This can be about the subject at hand or things generally.
They rise when people avoid focus on them. Confidence and conviction raise the odds too. Finally, trying to intimidate or impress does too. Those are often the purposes of swear words.
What These Tells Tell about Lies
We like people who make things easy and simple for us. They do not talk about messy details. They talk generally and about big pictures. We do not like people who focus on themselves. We like people who focus on others.
When we like people, we are more likely to believe them. When we merge this likeability with trying to intimidate or impress, we do not question. This protects lies.
All this makes it easier for lies to fool us. It is hard to admit that what we like might be a lie.