Monday, October 10, 2011

Tells of a Liar

Ever want to hint to your readers that one of your characters is lying without blatantly telling them? Throw in those tiny details that may be unnoticed at first, but when readers think back they’ll scream Why did I not catch that?

I present to you the tells of a liar. The following techniques are used by police, forensic psychologists and security experts.

Body Language:

~Physical expression is limited and stiff. Hand, leg, and arm movements are toward their own body (the liar takes up less space)

~Avoid making eye contact

~Hands touching face, throat, mouth. Scratching the nose or behind the ear

~Facial expression is limited to the mouth, the entire face isn’t involved (forced/faked expression)

Emotional Gestures:

~Timing is off between emotional gesture/expressions and words (Example: someone saying “You’re the best!” and then smiling rather than smiling at the same time the statement is made.)

~Timing of emotion and emotional gesture is irregular. Emotions are delayed, stay longer than natural and then stop suddenly.


~Subconsciously placing an object between self and another person

~Becomes defensive

~Uncomfortable facing accuser. Will turn head or body away

Verbal Clues:

~Using part of the question in the answer. (Example: Accuser asks, “Did you take my book?” The liar will answer, “No, I did not take your book.”)

~Responses with contractions are more likely to be truthful. (“I can’t go with you tonight.” Instead of, “I cannot go with you tonight.”)

~Words may be garbled/spoken softly. Grammar and syntax may be a bit off. In other words, sentences will be muddled instead of emphasized.

~A truthful statement will emphasize the pronoun as much or more than the rest of the sentence. Liars sometimes leave the pronoun out altogether and speak somewhat monotonously.

Have fun sneaking these into your scenes!

Any other tells of a liar? Post them below.


  1. This is awesome - I knew of some of the non-verbals because of theatre classes in university, but wow! Great list :)

  2. Magic.

    I'd like to think I'm really good at spotting liars but maybe I'm seeing only what I want to see?

  3. Fun! I've heard that when someone is telling the truth they tend to give specific details to prove themselves, whereas a liar gives short, vague responses. :D