This is an excellent, even must-read article.
Common wisdom has it that you can spot a liar by how they sound or act. But when scientists looked at the evidence, they found that very few cues actually had any significant relationship to lying or truth-telling. Even the few associations that were statistically significant were not strong enough to be reliable indicators.
In fact, researchers have found little evidence to support this belief despite decades of searching. “One of the problems we face as scholars of lying is that everybody thinks they know how lying works,” says Hartwig, who coauthored a study of nonverbal cues to lying in the Annual Review of Psychology . Such overconfidence has led to serious miscarriages of justice, as Tankleff and Deskovic know all too well. “The mistakes of lie detection are costly to society and people victimized by misjudgments,” says Hartwig. “The stakes are really high.”
Five decades of lie detection research have shown that people’s ability to detect deception by observing behavior and listening to speech is limited. The problem is that cues to deception are typically faint and unreliable. The aim for interviewers, therefore, is to ask questions that actively elicit and amplify verbal and nonverbal cues to deceit. We present an innovative lie detection perspective based on cognitive load , demonstrating that it is possible to ask questions that raise cognitive load more in liars than in truth tellers. This cognitive lie detection perspective consists of two approaches. The imposing-cognitive-load approach aims to make the interview setting more difficult for interviewees. We argue that this affects liars more than truth tellers, resulting in more, and more blatant, cues to deceit. The strategic-questioning approach examines different ways of questioning that elicit the most differential responses between truth tellers and liars.