Here's How To Tell If Someone Is Lying

It's easier to figure out than you think.

Few things are as useful as being able to detect a lie.

In a recent TED talk,  Noah Zanden, science communicator and chief executive of Quantified Communications explains the basics of the lies we hear every day.

Firstly, you should know that each day you hear anywhere from 10 to 200 lies. Things like "sorry my phone died" and "it's nothing, I'm fine" may not be as significant as "the company was not aware of any wrongdoing," but they are all lies and all share certain qualities. 

To try and discover these lies, we've developed all sorts of methods: torture devices, polygraphs, eye trackers, and more. However, most of these tools can be fooled with enough preparation. 

Zanden's method is a bit different. 


Instead of assuming lies have physiological responses, he uses communication science.

Research has shown that the biggest reason we lie is to paint a better picture of ourselves. Because our conscious mind is only five percent of our cognitive function, sometimes we do things that unwittingly reveal our secrets. Linguistic text analysis has helped discover four different patterns in the subconscious language of deception that can cue you into a lie. 

1. Referencing themselves less.

A liar will usually reference themselves less when telling lies, and write or talk more about others. Often times, they will use the third person.

It's the difference between "absolutely no party took place at this house" (lie) vs. "I didn't host a party here," (truth).

2. Lies tend to be more negative.

On a subconscious level, humans feel guilty about lying even if they don't want to. That guilt will usually transform into very negative language. Instead of saying "sorry, phone ran out of battery," someone might lie "My stupid phone battery died. I hate that thing."

3. Liars keep it simple.

Our brains struggle to produce complex lies, so often times we'll keep it simple. Still, though... 

4. Liars often convolute things with long sentences.

Often times, despite keeping it simple, Zanden says liars will "insert unnecessary words and factual but irrelevant details." 

Check out the video below to hear Zanden apply these tactics to well-known lies:


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