Hundreds of studies have suggested that it is possible to tell if someone is lying through body language. Rubbing the nose nervously, tugging at an earlobe, sweating and avoiding eye contact are all signs someone is lying, we’re told.
But according to new research none of these observations are necessary.
The best way to discover if someone is lying to you is just to ask them. A study has found that people who regularly tell lies are happy to admit as much.
Frequent fibbers are more likely to possess “psychopathic” traits such as a lack or remorse or guilt, which means that they will own up to unscrupulous behaviour, scientists said.
To test the theory, 527 people were asked how often they had lied in the previous 24 hours. When the total number of lies was totted up, it turned out that five per cent of the volunteers had admitted to telling 40 per cent of the lies.
Scientists then examined whether the dishonesty of these self-confessed liars would be born out in a laboratory test.
Subjects were asked to roll dice and received a sum of money depending on the number they said they had rolled. Because the researchers were unable to see the actual numbers, participants were free to cheat and report higher scores.
Those who had already admitted to lying more frequently had higher winnings in the dice test, indicating that they had told the truth about their dishonesty. Bruno Verschuere, an author of the study at the University of Amsterdam, said: “The fact that participants who indicated lying often actually did lie more often in the dice test demonstrates that they were honest about their dishonesty.
“It may be that frequent liars show more psychopathic traits and therefore have no trouble admitting to lying frequently.”
Previous studies have found that on average people lie twice a day.
The new study, published in the journal Human Communication Research, suggests that this average is distorted by frequent liars and that a large proportion of people do not lie at all.