New Study reveals that Men Mimic Body Language when Lying
In an interview with the New Scientist, Sophie Van der Zee from Rotterdam’s Erasmus University said that “Liars often deliberately change their behaviour into a way they think truth-tellers behave. But this particular copycat behaviour is something they wouldn’t even try to manipulate because they don’t realise they’re doing it.” This discovery may be helpful when detecting deception using lie detector tests.
Encouraged to cheat
The research involved studying 50 male students who were set a task of completing what they were told was an easy wooden puzzle. Each of them was allocated 5 minutes. However, the researchers knew that it wasn’t a simple puzzle and would take more time to complete.
The participants were told by Ms Van der Zee that the solution to the puzzle was “hidden” within the room. She then encouraged them to cheat. But they were asked not to tell Ms Van der Zee’s boss that she’d told them how to.
Afterwards each student was recorded explaining how they had solved the puzzle to another male student. Those who kept their word not to expose Ms Van der Zee were recorded telling lies.
All participants were equipped with wireless accelerometers so that movements of their wrist, head and chest could be noted.
The results revealed different body movements in men who weren’t lying to those they were telling lies to.
Copying body language when lying
However, the men who told lies had a tendency to mimic the movements of the man they were conversing with.
Researchers reached the conclusion that the liars subconsciously copied those listening to them because thinking about their own body language was more difficult when concentrating on lying.
The technology picked up the nuances which were not visible with the naked eye. But what couldn’t be determined by the accelerometer was whether the listener or the liar adjusted their body language first.
To learn more the entire study can be accessed by clicking here.
More deception research
Over the past few decades a lot of deception research has been undertaken. One particular study of interest came out of the University of Michigan in 2015
The researchers watched 120 clips from the media of high profile court cases. The object was to get a greater understanding of the way people behave when telling lies versus when they are being honest. The results showed the following body language when lying:
- Liars are more likely to gesture with both hands than people who are being honest. In 40 percent of the lying clips people gestured with both hands. In the honest clips only 25 percent used both hands.
- Dishonest people have a tendency to put their hands in their pockets when lying to you or hide them under the table. They often face their palms away from you – a sign that subconsciously they are holding something back. These signals have been noted in fraud detection for many years.
- Shuffling feet, rocking back and forth and cocking the head to the side may also signify deception.
- People may start to itch if they are being dishonest and feel tingling in various parts of the body that often causes them to fidget.
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Many people believe that nervousness may cause some of the aforementioned behaviour and that it will affect a lie detector test. It won’t because during the pre-test interview the polygraph examiner will take note of your nervousness and account for it during the test.