Most lies succeed because no one goes through the work to figure out how to catch them. Usually it doesn’t much matter. But when the stakes are high there is reason to do that work.
The kinds of questions to ask when catching someone in a lie
Lie checking isn’t a simple task, quickly done. Many questions have to be considered to estimate whether or not mistakes are likely and, if they are, what kind of mistakes to expect and how to spot those mistakes in particular behavioral clues. Questions have to be asked about the nature of the lie itself; about the characteristics of the specific liar and of the specific lie catcher. No one can be absolutely certain whether or not a liar will fail or a truthful person will be exonerated. Lie checking provides only an informed guess. But making such an estimate should reduce both believing a lie and disbelieving the truth mistakes. At the least, it makes both liar and lie catcher aware of how complicated it is to forecast whether a liar can be caught.
Increase your accuracy of spotting lies with lie checking
Lie checking will allow a suspicious person to estimate their chances of confirming or disproving their suspicions. Sometimes all they will learn is that they can’t find out; or they may learn which mistakes are likely, and what to look and listen for. Lie checking could also be useful to a liar. Some may decide the odds are against them and not embark on a lie or not continue their lie. Others may be encouraged by how easy it appears to get away with a lie or may learn what to focus their efforts upon to avoid the mistakes they’re most likely to make. 38 questions have to be answered to check a lie. I have gathered them into a single checklist.
An easy lie for the liar should produce few mistakes and therefore be hard for the lie catcher to detect, while a hard lie for the liar should be easy for the lie catcher to detect. An easy lie would not require concealing or falsifying emotions, there would have been ample opportunity to practice the specific lie, the liar would be experienced in lying, and the target, the potential lie catcher, would not be suspicious. A hard lie could involve a combination of concealing and falsifying emotions, the liar would have to “think on their feet” to make up the lie and possibly remember other previous lies, the liar would be inexperienced at lying, and the target would already be suspicious of them.
Try for yourself
Want to increase your chances of accurately catching someone in a lie? Download your own lying checklist! For more information and context on how to use the checklist, check out Dr. Ekman’s best-seller, Telling Lies.