Long held to be the window to the soul, research published today in PLoS shows that the eyes are not the tell-tale Achilles heel of liars, despite what as NLP practitioners, Hollywood and innumerable armchair mentalists would have you believe. Snip:
For decades many NLP practitioners have claimed that when a person looks up to their right they are likely to be lying, whilst a glance up to their left is indicative of telling the truth.
Professor Richard Wiseman (University of Hertfordshire, UK) and Dr Caroline Watt (University of Edinburgh, UK) tested this idea by filming volunteers as they either lied or told the truth, and then carefully coded their eye movements. In a second study another group of participants was asked to watch the films and attempt to detect the lies on the basis of the volunteers’ eye movements.
“The results of the first study revealed no relationship between lying and eye movements, and the second showed that telling people about the claims made by NLP practitioners did not improve their lie detection skills,” noted Wiseman.
A final study involved moving out of the laboratory and was conducted in collaboration with Dr Leanne ten Brinke and Professor Stephen Porter from the University of British Columbia, Canada. The team analysed films of liars and truth tellers from high profile press conferences in which people were appealing for missing relatives or claimed to have been the victim of a crime.
“Our previous research with these films suggests that there are significant differences in the behaviour of liars and truth tellers,” noted Dr Leanne ten Brinke. “However, the alleged tell-tale pattern of eye movements failed to emerge.”
“A large percentage of the public believes that certain eye movements are a sign of lying, and this idea is even taught in organisational training courses. Our research provides no support for the idea and so suggests that it is time to abandon this approach to detecting deceit” remarked Watt.
“The Eyes Don’t Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming” can be read here.
Image CC Rocker_44, Flickr