Science reveals the keys to detecting a lie

For years, the theory has gained popularity in psychology that when it comes to detecting signs that the person talking to us is lying, it is good to look at the expressions on their face. In other words, it is necessary to take into account the non-verbal language expressed through facial gestures to know whether someone is telling the truth or not.

The idea is that there are signals, called facial microexpressions, that appear in different places on the face and are so inconspicuous, automatic, and involuntary that they reveal aspects of the person’s true intentions and motives.

However, a recent study challenges this idea by pointing out that when it comes to spotting lies, the less you see the other person’s face, the better. Which means Stopping paying attention to these visual cues can be helpful in getting closer to the truth..

A study focused on lie detection

This investigation was favored by political issues: proposals aimed at not allowing witnesses to the trials to wear pieces associated with the Muslim religion such as the niqab, which covers the entire head and leaves only the eyes of the woman uncovered. .

In other words, we wanted to see to what extent the reasons for banning it were reasonable and based on objective facts related to how we can come to detect lies. Therefore, a number of research teams from the University of Ontario and the University of Amsterdam have coordinated their efforts to examine this topic in the laboratory.

How was the experiment carried out?

The study involved two types of experiments in which a number of volunteers were asked whether more than one female witness was telling the truth in a mock trial. To make things more realistic, each of the witnesses was shown a video showing someone stealing a bag or not, so that each of them only sees one of two versions of what could have happened: or he had stolen. , or not. In addition, they were told that they had to testify about the behavior they had seen and half of them were made to lie about what had happened.

During questioning at trial, some of the witnesses wore hijabs, which covered parts of the head but left the face exposed; others wore said nicab which only revealed the wearer’s eyes, and others wore clothes which did not cover the head. These essays were filmed and then shown to students in Canada, the UK and the Netherlands. They had to find out who was lying and who was telling the truth.

The results: the less you see, the better you know who is lying

The results, published in the journal Law and Human Behavior, were astounding. Interesting way, students were more adept at spotting lies when it came to judging women with almost their faces covered. In other words, it was easier to be right about what women thought when they wore the hijab and, to a lesser extent, the niqab. Women who had no part of the head covered were always “uncovered” to a lesser extent than the others. In fact, it happened to them that he recognized them as witnesses who lied by pure chance, since the success rate did not take off significantly by 50%.

This not only went against the logic that we make more precise judgments as more information became available, but it also indicated that negative stereotypes about Muslim women did not lead to more judgments. or less favorable towards them.

Possible explanations for this phenomenon

What do these results mean? One way to interpret them is to assume that the non-verbal cues that we take into account (albeit unconsciously) to judge the veracity of what we hear distract us more than anything else, Forcing us to draw false conclusions in order to rely on irrelevant information.

Therefore, the barriers that cover facial expressions force us to turn our attention to more reliable and relevant sources of information, such as tone of voice, frequency with which grammatical errors are made, voice tremor. , etc. . Indeed, some students directly placed themselves in a position where they could not see the screen on which the video was being viewed when it was their turn to detect possible lies from veiled women, so as not to be distracted.

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