Using NLP to Spot a Liar

Rintu BasuCase Study2 Comments

Yesterday I published an article about the body language of politicians in a UK debate. Today we will examine another political debate and body language where what they believe and what they say are two different things. This is a complex subject but in this article you will see one of the ways people give away the fact that they don’t believe what they are saying.

The Caveat

Lying is a complex business and taking one signal to mean someone is lying would not be sensible. I would suggest that if you see this sort of sign what you do is check, ask more questions or examine the facts a little more.

It might be that the signals are mixed for reasons other than lying. That said this signal is a good indicator that something is potentially amiss and should be checked out.

The Situation

JimMurphyMPThe other night some Scottish Parliament leaders were in a televised debate in the run up to the UK General election. Below is a video of the first part of the debate. I have set it to run at a particular point of Jim Murphy’s contribution about Labour’s chances of forming a majority government (13.08 to 14.17 if it doesn’t take you to the right place).

Just pay close attention to Jim Murphy for a couple of minutes and notice what you notice. Then we will discuss the implications.

Cognitive Dissonance

As a rough rule of thumb we are operate best when our thoughts, emotions and actions are aligned. When any part is misaligned we suffer some sort of disparity and that will leak out through our body language. Depending on the size of the lie, the implications, the person’s morals the disparity between reality and their version the leakage through their body language can be huge.

Magicians, use slights, misdirection and illusions to create their effects right in front of our faces. They have to train really hard to hide the signals that they would normal give them away. In the same way con men, liars and cheats have to do the same thing.

Jim Murphy’s Body Language

Did you notice when Jim starts talking about Labour winning the election he starts shaking his head. It is as if whilst he is saying they can win his body is telling us that he doesn’t believe it. When Jim says David Cameron can be beaten it is as if he caught himself shaking his head and desperately tries to nod instead.

A few seconds later when he is talking about the 2010 election you can see he is far more congruent. His voice is firmer and his body language is clearly in agreement with what he is saying.

Compare and contrast the two bits, they are seconds apart, and you will see a world of difference in how Jim is expressing himself.

Does That Mean He is Lying Though?

Actually this just means something is different in how he is representing the two things to himself. What that means is it is worth checking out. Over the last week or so I have noticed this behaviour in Jim several times.

Whenever I have seen him speak about Labour’s chances of winning an overall majority he shakes his head. With this sort of stuff you can never be completely sure but if I were a gambling man I would put money on Jim not believing what he is saying.

What Does that Mean to Me?

In general when you see someone you know acting incongruently you know there is something worth checking out. Also look for nods and shakes of the head as people speak. You will find it happens a lot and if their heads don’t align with what they are saying then it is absolutely worth paying close attention and verifying what they are saying. You will be surprised at how much this happens.

On the flip side spend some time thinking about how you act when you are confident, congruent and open. That way you will know what to replicate when you want to come across that way.

Lancaster Persuasion Lecture Deconstructed

In this video you will see me discuss how you can covertly use your words and body language to take people into trance and bypass their conscious minds. And in the notes you I deconstruct how I did that with the audience as I was talking to them about it.

But most importantly I show you how you can easily learn to do the same. Click through and read more here:

Lancaster Persuasion Lecture Deconstructed FAQ

2 Comments on “Using NLP to Spot a Liar”

  1. Viswa

    I believe, the way people use body language depends on a number of factors:
    1) the culture within which one grows up;
    2) how conscious is the person of accepted practices of body language;
    3) mood of the person at that point of time;
    4) and, yes, the degree of cognitive dissonance.

    1. Rintu Basu

      You are right Viswa,

      Body language has a strong cultural part to it. For example some cultures have a look to listen rule and others have a look away to show respect rule. Some police forces in different countries really screw up over that simple piece of body language.

      Whatever is happening inside your head will leak throughout your body. The only question is how much. Obviously with training and practice you can certainly change the degree of leakage and for example actors can deliberately set up “false” signals but the reality is it will show.

      Knowing that means you can look for it in other people as well as mitigate the effect for yourself.

      Thanks for the comment. It means I can add a little more clarity.



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