The (almost) infallible lie detector

And it’s not a machine, it’s human and there are in fact thirty of them! Whittled down from a cast of thousands, Professor Maureen O’Sullivan from the University of San Francisco, went searching for the people who could spot lies better than a polygraph (60-70% acccuracy). The ‘wizards’ as she calls them have developed their skills by themselves over the years and were able to spot the liars in virtually all the cases presented to them.

They claim to look for clues in flickering facial expressions as well as general body language and voice tone. The plan is try to break down what these people are doing and teach it to those who need to be able to detect lies, such as police officers. But as Aldert Vrij, professor of social psychology at the University of Portsmouth, points out – will they be able to explain exactly what they are doing?

It seems likely to me that accurately detecting people’s lies is the kind of skill picked up implicitly through years of experience. It may be difficult to teach others the fundamentals in a short amount of time.

> From BBC News

About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 15 October 2004

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