7 Clues Anyone Can Use to Spot a Liar

Updated: Feb. 28, 2024

You know the old saying, “Liars never look you in the eye”? There's actually some truth. Here are a few more science-backed secrets for how to tell if someone is trying to deceive you.

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 Is their face giving it away?

You may think a smile can easily disguise your true feelings, but the expressions that flash across a liar’s face will give away what they’re  really thinking—whether they know it or not. Experts advise paying close attention to hard-to-hide micro-expressions; these clues are often so difficult to detect that even trained experts have trouble discerning them. But you may be able to spot a liar by the red color on their cheeks, since anxiety can cause people to blush. Other ways to tell if someone is lying? Flared nostrils, lip nibbling, deep breathing, and rapid blinking, which hint that the brain is working overtime.

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Does the body language follow the story?

It’s more important to examine a person’s entire demeanor, as there’s no one feature that’s apt to give away how to spot a liar. Honesty is characterized by features that are in sync with one another, so pay attention to posture. Like an animal avoiding detection, a liar may pull his arms and legs inward or keep his movements to a minimum—anything to appear smaller. Liars often shove their hands behind their back because those fidgety digits might give them away.

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How is the person smiling?

How to tell if someone is lying could come down to something as simple as a smile. A bright grin can sometimes mask a person’s true feelings, so look closely at how someone is smiling. You may be able to detect the emotions he or she is trying to hide—such as fear, anger or disgust. A true smile will incorporate both a person’s lips and eyes.

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How is the person speaking?

Although a change in voice can be the tip-off in how to spot a liar, experts say that to be sure, you should also pay attention to a person’s speech rate and breathing pattern—if it either speeds up or slows down, chances are you’re not hearing the whole truth.

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What is the person saying?

Listening to someone’s choice of words is a good way to tell if someone is lying. Liars tend to avoid exclusionary words like “but,” “nor,” “except,” and “whereas,” because they have trouble with complex thought processes. They are also less likely to use the words “I,” “me,” and “mine.” In their attempts to distance themselves psychologically from their tall tales, liars tend to communicate using fewer personal pronouns.

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Are they behaving differently?

Experts believe changes in a person’s baseline—how she generally conducts herself—are worthy of your attention when trying to spot a liar. You should weigh their rate of speech, the tone of their voice, and their posture and hand gestures against what you know, along with the context of the situation. When your husband says “I loved the tie you bought me” while he’s wearing a tight smile that doesn’t reach his eyes, expect to see him in a turtleneck.

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Is the question simple or embarrassing?

It’s normal for someone to look away when asked a difficult question. But when someone avoids your gaze when asked a simple question, you should be suspicious.

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