You hear between 10 and 200 lies a day, according to a TED-Ed video recently reported by Life-hacker. Luckily, researchers have uncovered some ways to spot someone who’s fibbing to you — even if their pants haven’t caught fire.
For much of human history, the video points out, we’ve worked to create technology that catches liars based on physical cues. Tools like polygraphs, brain scans, voice stress analysis, and blood pressure monitors haven’t proved entirely reliable and are also not admissible in courts in the United States.
The video suggests taking a different approach, using communication science to analyze how people talk when they’re fibbing, rather than trying to catch liars by detecting changes in their bodies.
Here are four things liars say when they talk to you:
1. Liars don’t use the pronoun “I.”
Liars often avoid speaking about themselves directly, and instead describe other people and situations in order to distance themselves from the lie.
For instance, someone accused of cheating on their partner might say, “Nothing happened,” rather than “I didn’t cheat on you.”
2. Liars use negative language.
According to the video, liars often express negativity because they feel subconsciously guilty about not telling the truth.
Instead of simply saying “My car broke down,” they might add “It’s such a hassle! European cars are so temper mental.”
3. Liars avoid nuance, and instead offer simplified explanations.
When someone is lying to make a point, they often will generalize or use simple, technical terms.
A few from American politicians:
“I am not a crook,” late President President Richard Nixon famously declared in a press conference about the Watergate Scandal.
“We have tremendous problems with crime and other things,” presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said at a March campaign event in North Carolina. As reporter Isaac Arnsdorf wrote on Politico, “Crime rates have declined dramatically since the 1990s and remain at historically low levels.”
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” President Bill Clinton claimed, before ultimately admitting that he had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
4. Liars use long sentences.
“Even though liars keep descriptions simple, they tend to use longer and more convoluted sentence structure, inserting unnecessary words and irrelevant but factual sounding details in order to pad the lie,” the video points out.
Remember that time Britney Spears lied about staying a virgin until marriage?
If not, here’s what she told the British tabloid the Daily Star:
“The virginity issue. It’s a personal decision and it reflects how I feel right now about myself. There are so many emotions involved that I would like to be able to wait until I know I’m with the right person and I’m married.”
Later, it became clear that she had decided not to wait (which, just to be clear, is totally fine!) when Justin Timber-lake rudely revealed they had slept together in a 2002 interview with Barbara Walters, Bustle pointed out.
In conclusion, your friend’s piece-of-crap phone that he totally hates probably didn’t die while he was talking to his parents on the freeway driving to a doctor’s appointment. Or maybe it did. You never know.