Can Liars Be Detected?

Real-world application.

Posted Nov 30, 2019

Can we tell when someone is angry? Is it possible to detect anger in their words, tone, expressions, and mannerisms? Can we tell when another person is happy by their words, vocal tone, expressions, and mannerisms? Can we observe love, contempt, and worry? The answer is yes, most times. By observing others, we can often tell a lot about the emotions behind their words and actions. This is also true when someone is being dishonest or lying.

Most of us realize when we are not being truthful, and this concern can manifest itself into various combinations of variant words, vocal tones, expressions, and mannerisms.

Empirically, I present no university research studies, but rather a real-world application from my 21 years as a police officer on the street and as an undercover SVU detective. This application served me well in both settings.

Can humans reveal they are lying or being deceptive?

During my career, I learned a great deal about human behavior and, more particularly, those who chose to lie to me, which, by the way, happened often. Police officers encounter more than their share of liars, and such it was with me.

It began innocently enough as I interviewed victims, witnesses, and suspects. I discovered differences in responses to the same questions not once, but many times. Why the differences in response to the same question?

After some time observing people, it became apparent that certain indicators seemed to correspond to those who, I would find out later, lied to me. I continued to observe and noted the consistency. Of course, human behavior being very complicated, this was not a 100 percent accurate assessment, but there was an observable pattern, and, statistically, it was more correct than not.

Continuing to observe individuals as I would talk with them, this behavior change continued to be apparent. I learned to come back later and redirect my question in another format in order to see if I would get a similar response. Most often, I did.

I was able to use this assessment effectively and could, more often than not, determine when someone was being deceptive or lying to me.

It is laughable now, but it was some time later that I would realize that much research had already been performed regarding human behavior pertaining to deception and lying. I would also discover that other law enforcement officers and agents were using these techniques, and this included some government agencies.

Is it possible to detect anger, happiness, worry, love, contempt in others? Yes, and so with my experience, it is possible to do so with most who are being deceptive and lying.