How to detect a liar?

  • Jul 26, 2021
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How to detect a liar?

How many times did you doubt that someone was lying to you? Knowing if your interlocutor is sincere can be very useful in various life situations, especially when it comes to making decisions. Or to see if the person we are going to choose as a collaborator, employee or babysitter is telling us the truth about himself / herself. It is very important to know if the partner, a friend or a co-worker is sincere or is lying. In this Psychology-Online article we suggest 6 guidelines on how to spot a liar. We will see why people lie, what pathological liars are, and the attitudes of a lying person.

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  1. Understand why we lie
  2. Observe facial expression
  3. Be attentive to the typical phrases of lies
  4. Ask in detail
  5. Recognize a pathological liar
  6. Know your background

Understand why we lie.

We all tell lies from time to time, and for various reasons; even to avoid hurting a person's feelings or to try to get out of an embarrassing situation. Knowing what the motivations are for different types of lies helps us discover when a person is lying.

Above all, care must be taken not to confuse the lies told in certain circumstances in which they are necessary, with lies told in all situations, even when they are really useless.

One of the causes may be mythomania, the tendency to tell lies in a systematic and pathological way. But not all who betray are pathological liarsOtherwise the world would be full of sick people. The variety of lies and types of lies is very wide, but let's look at some examples of possible motivations. If you ask yourself "why is he lying to me?", Here are the most likely answers:

  • So as not to offend the sensitivity of others.
  • To respect childhood fantasies.
  • So as not to hurt At the couple.
  • To improve your image.
  • By shyness.
  • To exonerate and avoid punishment.
  • To defend privacy.

Observe the facial expression.

Traces of lies appear on the face. The proof that a feeling expressed by the face is really authentic can also be had by evaluating the coherence between all the facial expression signals (eyes, nose, mouth, etc.) and consistency with involuntary gestures made by other parts of the body (hands, arms and legs) to check if they are congruent with each other or not. The most sincere gestures are those that cannot be controlled and that are done inadvertently. Some examples are:

  • Avoid gaze
  • Eyes that drop or leak
  • Eyes that look far away
  • To blink
  • Suddenly shaking your head
  • Breathing heavily
  • Clear throat or swallow
  • Hide lips

Be attentive to the typical phrases of lies.

Liar communication is recognizable. Indeed, whoever lies is laconic, reticent; his statements are often lapidary and sketchy, but excessively peremptory. Phrases are most often logs with rising and falling tones. The liar assumes clear and precise positions, points out with energy, so that the language and tone of voice reinforce the weakness of what he affirms. The most typical phrases of lying people are:

  • "I would never lie ...". In general, those who overreact and curl into overly rigid positions have something to hide.
  • He defends himself with accusations. The liar speaks little, does not lose balance, but takes firm positions against whoever lies, with an excess of emphasis, pouring the responsibility of the accusation on the other.
  • Does not ask logical questions. As much as the liar can cleverly answer, manipulate, and mislead you, he will not have enough energy to ask credible questions during his play. In this article you will find more information about a manipulator.
  • "The truth is that...". If the intention to tell the truth is stated and emphasized, there is reason to suspect that the truth-teller does not mean it.
  • Use false scruples. Be careful when someone says "I don't want to tell you this, but ..." and meanwhile says, or "I don't want to hurt you, but ..." and they do. His real purpose is to say so, but without suffering the consequences.
  • The habitual liar is more controlled. People who tend to lie tend to speak very fast and in a high-pitched tone; those who tell sporadic and occasional lies feel more uncomfortable, preferring to lie quietly; the unprepared liar, on the other hand, speaks slowly because he is searching for the right words.
  • Refuses to answer. In some cases, it may be a way to avoid responding by using phrases like "I don't think I'm the best person to talk about it."
  • Just repeat the question. Silence in response to a question is often universally perceived as a sign of a lie; thus to avoid these assumptions the liar repeats the question to give himself time to think.
  • Makes unanswered claims. The psychology underlying this behavior is the same as above: avoid awkward silences.
  • Give very detailed answers. People who lie often give richly detailed answers in two ways: responding too technically or too slowly.

Ask in detail.

Professor Edward Geiselman based his career on studying these lying behaviors, suggesting some techniques to unmask them that go beyond observing their behavior during a interrogation. Let's see the questions to catch a liar:

  1. Ask the person in front of you tell you his story backwards. Start at the end and take her on an exciting journey to discover potential leaks. Ask to be as complete, exhaustive and detailed as possible. This increases the cognitive load that will push the person to the limit with the result of discovering a lie in seconds.
  2. Start with an open question and go into detail. Ask open, generic questions at the beginning that do not imply a clear "yes and no" answer and then press him with more specific questions but always in order to get him to talk as much as possible possible.
  3. Don't interrupt the speech. Let him speak and focus on his pauses of silence to encourage him to move on.

Recognize a pathological liar.

Lying means altering the truth, affirming the false with full conscience and with the intention of deceiving. Lying is everyone's behavior and for different reasons, but sometimes lying can also indicate a pathology. People who lie pathologically recognize themselves in the intimate, in the real; They cannot be recognized in the virtual world, for example, through message exchanges (chat or sms).

They are people who lie about everything, not just about things related to relationships: lie about things in their family, invent serious illnesses or deaths of relatives, stories of actions they have taken that are worthy of high praise, other identities, other marital statuses, etc. The pathological liar is manipulative, self-centered, narcissistic and not at all empathetic with respect to the psychological dimension of other people; is a scriptwriter of stories in the confines of reality.

Know their background.

Can a lying person change? Like any other behavior that offers comfort and escape from stress, lying can create addiction (as much as drugs, alcohol, etc.) and therefore it is a difficult behavior to eradicate. As in the case of drug addiction, if there is not a strong alliance on the part of the person and, above all, everything, a strong motivation to stop using drugs, it is difficult to get results really positive.

To further complicate the situation, it can be added that often the picture of pathological lying is accompanied, or in short it is the tip of the iceberg, a personality disorder broader and more penetrating, in general the narcissistic personality disorder or the borderline personality disorder. In any case, nothing can be unsolvable, and the advice is, once the problem is recognized, go to a professional qualified who knows how to listen to both the truths of the liar and those of those who with the pathological liar are living.

In this article you can see how to help a compulsive liar.

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to How to detect a liar?, we recommend that you enter our category of Social psychology.


  • Andreozzi, L. (2015). The pathological bugiardo. Come know it and differentiate it. Youcanprint.
  • Pedrazzi, A. (2018). Bugiardi pathologici and partner nocivi. Menzogne ​​e manipolazioni ordite da chi dice di amarci. Recovered from:
  • RIZA (2014). Smascherare i bugiardi. L’arte di scoprire chi sta mindndo e chi close di ingannarti or manipolarti. Milan: Edizioni Riza.
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