Researchers: Humans Have Built-In Lie Detectors

Monday, 28 Apr 2014 06:49 AM

By Elliot Jager

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People have an inner capacity to tell when they are being lied to. The difficulty is that it's an instinct that's hard to tap into consciously, The New York Times reported.

Humans appear to be able to unconsciously detect lies even as they miss them at the conscious level, according to a study published in Psychological Science by forensic psychologist Leanne ten Brinke.

"Perhaps our own bodies know better than our conscious minds who is lying," said ten Brinke of the University of California-Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

In an experiment, subjects were asked to watch a video and make a conscious assessment as to who stole $100 and who did not. The results are usually only 50 percent accurate.

Next, researchers sought to gauge subjects' reactions when exposed to images of liars and truthful people for milliseconds – or just time enough to register in the unconscious.

When asked later to distinguish between liars and truthful people, the results seemed to indicate that humans are better at spotting lies at the unconscious level, according to the researchers.

Scientists theorize that in social settings people deceive themselves about liars, especially small harmless fibs, as part of our survival strategy.

There is no consensus among scientists as to whether it's possible to discern physical manifestations by those telling lies.

For her next experiment, ten Brinke is exploring a reverse lie-detector machine to see whether people who are being told a lie manifest physiological symptoms in their blood flow and perspiration.

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