Liar Liar, Pants on Fire: How to Catch a Liar

Lying. I believe that if people could learn one communication skill they would want to know how to instantly tell whether somebody is lying or not. And funny enough, most people also want that one magic thing that is going to immediately let them know that somebody is lying, the same way people want the one magic line that will get them any girl, the one magic line that will get them anyjob…and the list goes on.

I would like to emphasize once and for all that if this was the case…if there was one line that would get you any job, there would be no such thing as the unemployed. But in today’s economy we see that it’s obviously not true.

However, my dearest friends, while there is no one way to tell whether somebody is lying, there are many indications that we are going to learn about in this article and when you put everything together, you can become a human lie detector! So with that said, lets jump right into it!

Establishing a Baseline

With every little trick in the book people forget one very basic precept, people are different! (This is called the Hawthorn Error, forgetting that different people do different things while lying). Therefore, while most people do in fact adhere to these guidelines we shall lay down you still have to realize the differences within people.

Allow me, my ill informed comrades, to give you a great example and also, to give away one of my trade secrets. I have a unique ability to tell when a girl is taken and when she is available, and this is again based on psychology. I am about to give this secret to you, get pumped: (This works for guys also ladies, it just happens to be that whether a guy is available or not isn’t particularly a concern of mine.)

When we walk into a room we as humans automatically look for two things:

  • The attractive opposite sex people in the room
  • Danger

So that is an automatic baseline that you can apply to everyone. For instance, most people when they walk into a room:


  • Will primp their hair.
  • Smooth their dresses.


  • Puff out their chest.
  • Head for the bar. (since they are comfortable there.)


  • Scan the room.
  • Check out opposite sex attractive people.

If people are deviating from this baseline at all it means that there is are circumstances that are changing their natural behavior (ie. Psychological reasons.) So if I see a woman who is not only not doing the things I mentioned above but is also in a bad mood, I can deduce that she has had either a fight with her boyfriend or has just broken up and therefore if you try to talk to her she will bite your head off.

If she is not scanning the room looking for a mate it means she is taken and no longer has to look for a mate, so it deviates from this baseline.

So now we are going to apply this to lying! Have you ever taken a polygraph test? The second you sit down they automatically ask you something called “Control Questions”. For instance, “What’s your name?”, “Where were you born?” questions that they can verify. What happens is they monitor your vitals.


So a polygraph test basically picks up when your body deviates from the baseline that the control questions established!

(So a great way of beating a polygraph test is to put a little tack in your shoe and at the beginning when they ask you the control questions, step down on the tack- this will automatically up your pulse rate, so later when you are lying and your pulse is high, they will assume that you aren’t lying and that you are just naturally nervous! This was the trick they did in Oceans Thirteen, but it’s an old trick lol. Cool no? Now you can rob banks and get away with it. Glad I am adding something to the world.

(Another way is to learn to believe your own lies…but that’s for another article).

So now, let’s talk about how to establish a baseline for somebody’s behavior.

Professional online poker players will routinely lose the first few hands so that way they can learn when their opponent is telling the truth or not. Since them losing forces the other person to show their cards, the skilled poker player is able to tell what the person’s baseline is when he is winning, and therefore later in the day when there is a deviation from that earlier baseline, he knows that his opponent is bluffing. This is called, forcing a baseline.

So when you are speaking with somebody, ask them questions that they have no reason to lie about. For instance, “What color was your first house?” and then watch their response. Ask several questions like this and it is establishing a baseline.

Try this trick: Tell somebody to think of three thoughts, 2 of the thoughts are going to be true and the other two are going to be false.

Now have them think about thought 1, thought 2 and thought 3… here is the trick: watch the eyes. Two times the eyes are going to go in one direction (the two true facts) and a third time the eyes will go in a different direction (the lie.) This is actually a really cute parlor trick once you have gotten the hang of it.
We will discuss this a bit more when we get into Eye Accessing Cues during Lying.

Another example is if a person is shaking their leg and then stops shaking it when they start telling you something, that is a deviation from the baseline and it is a good guess that they are lying. (this is a pretty popular one by the way.)

Quick Tricks to Telling Lies

Alright, here we go. There are some very quick ways to telling when somebody is fibbing or not. (I like the word fibbing. Don’t know why, sounds more fun don’t you agree?). So yes, fibbing.

So here we go, put a lot of these together and you will become a pretty good lie detector (combined with the other articles we have on telling lies!)

1. Touching the mouth, lips, ear, or nose.

When we are children and we tell a fib, we unconsciously send our hands to cover up our mouths. Which is why when a child is lying they will clamp their hands over their mouths, they realize that something evil is coming out of their mouth and they try to stop it.

However, as we get older we learn to control our hand movements. So that’s why a teenager when they are lying will sometimes rub their lips, grownups tend to touch their nose (called The Pinocchio Effect,) tug on their ear’s etc… Actually Johnny Depp happens to have a great tell that every time he is lying he itches his ear by slightly hitting it from the back. (Picked that up when I watched an interview with him…I later found out from a friend that works with him that he had been lying in the interview.)

2. Keeping eye contact

This is an interesting one. Many people believe that when we lie we actually break eye contact. But this is simply not true. Ask somebody what color their house is and watch as their eyes flit around searching for the necessary information. But when somebody lies, they have no reason to go looking for that information within their brains and will therefore hold eye contact.

Now, I would like to point how hard telling lies is. Some people, when they are lying will have different eye movements, (which I will get into in another article called, “Lying and Eye Accessing Cues” I am very original at coming up with names for my articles). Some people, will break eye contact, other people won’t. That’s why it is so important to establish a baseline!

3. Not making facial expressions

Think of a crooked car salesman. What comes to mind? Probably a guy in a tweed jacket with a big smile on his face. The truth is that we believe that somebody with a big smile on their face is lying when really the opposite is true! When we lie, we make as little facial expressions as possible since we don’t want to give away any possible indication to the person we are talking with that we are lying.

And here is the funny part. If you are actually lying to somebody, don’t make any facial expressions! Since we make the mistake of thinking that somebody who is lying is going to put on a big smile.

4. Excessive blinking

The amount that we blink is an indication of how much stress we are under. This is why when you are tired you tend to blink a lot, and it is the same thing when you are lying. You end up blinking a lot which is an indication of higher pulse rates.

Those are some quick tips that will allow you to start being able to tell whether somebody is telling the truth or not. In later articles we will be talking about eye accessing cues, telling through language, telling whether a story is true or not, explaining concepts such as leakage, facial expressions, and microexpressions. Basically everything you need so you are never lied to again! 

29 thoughts on “Liar Liar, Pants on Fire: How to Catch a Liar

  1. Carla

    Great article! I haven't read anything in great deal about the “science” of lying, but this is really interesting. I can usually tell if someone is lying if I already know that person.

    Young children who are lying is pretty easy to spot – they haven't had enough time on the planet to learn how to cover it up yet!

  2. Yehuda Neuman

    Ross, I have read telling Lies as well as Emotions Revealed as well as everything else ever written by Paul (including online Journals and Peer Reviewed). Everything I have said above is based on Telling Lies, and some stuff by Derren Brown who is fabulous as telling lies (although some of his stuff is admittantly conjecture.

    So no Ross, its pretty much based on the book you recommended (minus the part about eye accessing cues which I do say is really a hit or miss and is not very reliable.)

    All the best

  3. Yehuda Neuman

    Hey Ross, its funny you mentioned that book because most of the article is based on that very book as well as The Definitive Book of Body Language by Alan Pease.
    I appreciate you taking your time to read my stuff and I am glad we could clear that up. Feel free to comment more in the future.

    All the Best
    Yehuda N.

  4. Yehuda Neuman

    Hey Carla,
    Paul Ekman mentions that there is really no science to telling lies (the tv show Lie To Me would seem to disagree, gotta hate dramatized versions lol). But the most important thing is to establish baselines and deviations from that baseline are going to be the strongest indicator. All this talk about micro expressions, illustrators, emblamatic slips and the like are rare to occur and you have to be very trained to pick it up. Hopefully this article makes it all a little simpler.
    enjoy 🙂

    Yehuda N.

  5. AJ Kumar

    Yeah I agree, Yehuda is an excellent writer who can easily explain the complexities of psychology. Let me know what you try and how it works out for you.

  6. AJ Kumar

    lol! I think young children are really good at lying because they haven't developed the tell signs that give it away. Usually they come clean when enough authority puts them in place :D.

  7. AJ Kumar

    I am very intrigued with the baselines concept. I've heard it before, but thank you for explaining it so thoroughly. Lie to Me is a fantastic show, definitely over dramatized though 😉

  8. AJ Kumar

    Thanks for your input Ross, your commenting means a lot :). I hear very good things about that book. I've studied some of Paul Ekman's work, but not in detail.

  9. AJ Kumar

    Thanks for your input Ross, your commenting means a lot :). I hear very good things about that book. I've studied some of Paul Ekman's work, but not in detail.

  10. Yehuda Neuman

    Haha, Aj totally. One of my favorite examples is this. When you are on a subway (and this is easier because I am in New York) there is one common denominator to everyone on the subway, they will all have closed off hand gestures (hands crossed, grabbing wrists to reinforce good feelings).

    Children however will be running around making friends with everybody on the subway…because they have not yet been taught social culture. So children when they are lying will generally cover their they become more acclimated to social convention they will touch their lips and eventually as they become adults and become really socially acclimated they will…touch their nose- aka. the Pinocchio effect. 😉
    Its a fun progression. lol.

  11. Rebecca

    When your PUPILS DILATE, PULSE QUICKENS, you could also be seeking a mate or you could like the person who is asking you the questions.

    There is no credible way to tell is someone is lying. Particularly, when there are people who are good at covering up tell-tale signs of lying.

  12. Yehuda Neuman

    Yep, I mention that. And you got that from the show Lie to Me but no matter. Paul Ekman says in his REAL research (not the entertainment droll that is that show) that the only real way to tell lies from a person is to establish a baseline, as I mention in the article.

    The tips that I tell at the bottom are the WAYS that people would establish from the baseline. Hope that helps, feel free to comment in the future.

    (Oh and there obviously is a credible way of telling when someone is lying considering that Paul can do it with about 85% accuracy. ;-))

  13. Tim Brownson

    # 2 is plain wrong mate. The reason people hold their stare when they are lying has nothing to do with searching for information.

    When we lie we search in a similar manner, just in another place because we are creating rather than re-creating.

    People hold a gaze not because their mind is blank, but because they think it will make them look sincere.

    Having said all that it's better than most articles I read on this subject.

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    I definitely agree with the whole thing. Took me a while to read but it was well worth it. Im gonna read through a few other posts on this site and see if theres anything else thats good like this

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  17. Quincy

    This is interesting. I love the show lie to me and that’s how I stumbled onto your website. I found the part about eye contact particularly interesting. It has happened to me numerous times that people will accuse me of lying when I have absolutely nothing to lie about like if someone asks me what time it is or something like that. I believe it’s b/c I tend to break eye contact with people I strongly dislike, unless of course we’re in a heated confrontation. Not sure why this is. It’s always been a habit. When this happens it’s usually someone I find very annoying. And he’s asking me something I’d rather not be bothered with.

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