Body Language

by Mary-Louise Angoujard

Detecting dishonesty

How can I tell when people are lying? (Does it really mean someone is lying when they scratch their nose?)

Our body language reflects our inner thoughts and/or attitudes, either overtly and/or covertly. If Beth tells Tom ‘I am working on the Freedom account’ and Tom is happy for her, his verbal response and his body language will be congruent (in other words, they will match). If they then go on to discuss the subject further, Tom will be able to communicate freely because he is not trying to hide his real mental attitude.

If Tom is really not happy about this for some reason (say, he wanted that account for himself, or he knows something about the Freedom account that he wants to hide, or he has other negative thoughts or feelings on the topic), he can fake a reaction in his overt body language. However, subtle signs will begin to leak through. If he continues to discuss the subject positively when he is actually experiencing negative thoughts or reactions, his words, tone of voice and body language will start to become incongruent.

Key point

If someone wants to lie to us – or disguise their true feelings – they would usually like to appear to be completely relaxed and sure of themselves. However, their non-verbal language will indicate the truth of the matter by small micro-movements and signs that suggest the opposite.

Some obvious signals can be controlled: Tom can refrain from folding his arms in front of himself, frowning, raising or lowering his chin. He can paste an interested, positive expression on his face – but only to an extent. For example, he can smile and raise his eyebrows, perhaps open his eyes a little wider. He can nod in order to appear interested. However, the unconscious signals he would display, if the interest were not real, would give Beth the impression something was amiss. Unconscious signals to give Beth this impression (although unless she is trained in synergology, she would not know the reasons why) could include Tom’s head, shoulder, arm and hand positions, movements of the hands, movements of the feet or legs and facial expressions.

Typical signals

Synergology provides the following possible signs of lying – or masking the truth in some way. Please note that no one single signal in and of itself is proof of a lie; you must be able to detect at least eight of the following signals during a 10-second period to be quite sure a lie is being told (or something is being hidden).

No-one will demonstrate all of these indications at the same time, but where eight of the items are present at the same time, we can be quite sure that, on some level, a lie or deception is taking place. Don’t expect to see big gestures or attitudes that are very obvious, but rather look for small micro-movements of communication.

  • The person will look at you more with their right eye than with their left eye.
  • He will make unconscious gestures more with the right hand than with the left.
  • He will have an unconscious tendency to hide his palms.
  • If he is telling you things that aren’t true, his gestures will be more in the direction to his right than to his left.
  • If he is afraid of being found out, the white of his eye above the iris will be quite visible.
  • The eyebrows will be raised rather high.
  • The axis of the head will tilt away from you rather than toward you.
  • After having spoken, the person will draw their lips in.
  • He may start to cough a bit.
  • His voice may become weaker.
  • He will quite possibly avoid eye contact.
  • He will stop blinking his eyes with the usual regularity.
  • If he is taken by surprise, when he is called upon to give an answer, his eyes may turn to the upper right, if he is of occidental origin, or to the left, if he is not.
  • If he is seated face to face with you, then he is likely to position himself leaning more on his left elbow than on his right elbow.
  • The positioning of his legs will be in the direction away from you or toward the door.
  • There’s a possibility that he will itch in the zone of the back.
  • You may see nose-scratching – not just quickly, but during several seconds – and this would be primarily under the left nostril.
  • As with all negative emotion, the exterior of the upper left eyelid is likely to be a little more closed so that the left eye will seem smaller than the right eye.
  • The two sides of the face may appear more asymmetrical than usual, particularly in the area of the upper lips.
  • The pupils can often be contracted rather than dilated.
  • He can appear to be picking lint or brushing dandruff off his clothes.
  • His jaw can appear to be retracted.
  • He may have his hand in front of his mouth.

In synergology, studies have detected more than 100 signs possibly expressing an emotion that is masked or a lie, but none of these signals is sufficient in itself for you to be sure that someone is lying or masking the truth. As we have said, it is necessary to see at least eight signs during a period of 10 seconds in order to be absolutely certain that a lie or an untruth is being told. This is why very often, in synergology, studies are done with slow-release video images and, in fact, in this case these eight signs are all perceptible in a period of just one second.