Pursuing Truth: Expert Strategies for Detecting Lies, Half-Truths and Other Deceptions

By Dr. Ken Manges, Ph.D. | Forensic Psychologist

This post will provide brief outlines of basic techniques for detecting lies and determining whether a person is truthful, or less than truthful.

Detecting lies and how to distinguish this from a person being anxious

  • Observe twice as much as you speak Engage with open-ended questions to observe the common practices including eye contact, comfort with shaking your hand, how they stand in relation to you or the speaker, look to see if they block communication as a pattern (hands, eyes, arms, body) Consider yourself a polygraph and note the highs and lows of emotional expression If their voice goes up at the end of a sentence they are asking you a question, ask them for more detail. Ask if there is anything they could explain more fully.* Don’t confront when you hear a lie. Listen and take notes. Go on to another matter and then circle back to get more details. Persons who are fabricating break down in their ability to be sequential.

Myths about lying

  • There are lies of Commission and Omission There are lies that are told verbally (psycholinguistics) and physically (body language) Telling the truth from a lie is not always about what they say but how they say it.* Telling the truth is a matter of careful watching and listening, but you must know the person to tell if what they

Body Language to Observe in Detecting Lies

  • Some persons are auditory, others are visual still others are kinesthetic.
  • When you meet someone and you introduce yourself, watch their eyes.
  • If they avert their eyes it doesn’t mean they are lying about their name, it may mean they are nervous or they don’t like you. It doesn’t mean they are lying.


  • True or false: persons who cross their arms are withholding information
  • Fingers that are folded or interlocking
  • Gestures that are mechanical or lack fluidity is a sign of pretense. It may suggest a planned deception.

Facial indicators and signs to look for:

  • Hands to face/covering their mouth
  • Shaking your head from side to side while saying yes to a request or statement
  • Frowning as they say they are pleased or smiling when they say they are distressed
  • A genuine smile lights up their whole face

Head actions

  • Liars move away with or without jerky movements
  • Persons telling the truth move toward the speaker

Upper body

  • Posture: non-liars are more likely to stand tall
  • Anxious and intimated persons slouch and are hunched over