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Humans are lousy lie detectors

An article in last week’s New York Times magazine contained the following amazing statement: “Repeating a claim, even if only to refute it, increases its apparent truthfulness.”

Although the article had nothing to do with sociopaths, the statement made me think of my ex-husband, James Montgomery. Among his many lies, Montgomery claimed to be a member of the Australian military, a decorated Vietnam War hero, and a member of the Special Forces. None of this was true, but from what I can tell, he’d been making the claims since at least 1980 (we met in 1996). They’d been repeated many times, for many years—which apparently enhanced their believability.

Like most of us here on Lovefraud, I felt like a complete fool for being so totally deceived. Why couldn’t I see the lies? But it turns out that I have plenty of company. Psychological research indicates that in general, people can distinguish truths from lies only about 53 percent of the time. That’s not much better than flipping a coin.

No signs of lying

Some people believe that there are physiological signals that someone is lying—for example, extraneous hand gestures or averting eye contact.

In one study, scientists asked more than 2,000 people from all over the world, “How can you tell when people are lying?” The number one answer was the same: “Liars avert their gaze.”

This may be true for some people, but it is not true all the time, and probably not true at all with sociopaths. Here at Lovefraud, we all have stories of the predator gazing into our eyes while he or she lied through his teeth.

Some researchers believe that liars tend to move their arms, hands and fingers less, blink less, and have more tension in their voices. Still, these behaviors are not consistent—some people who lie display them, and others don’t.

The point is, in hundreds of studies, researchers have found no reliable signal that indicates when someone is lying.

I don’t know, but I assume that the studies were done on general populations, and not populations of sociopaths. If we can’t detect lying in normal people, what chance do we have with sociopaths?

Truth About Deception

The situation gets even worse in romantic relationships. The reason, quite simply, is that we want to believe and trust our romantic partners.

“As people become more intimate and more emotionally involved they also become less accurate at detecting their partner’s deception,” states the website Truth About Deception. “People are too willing to give their romantic partners the benefit of the doubt.”

The Truth about Deception website is dedicated to explaining lies in romantic relationships, and the information presented is scary. For example, it states, “Most people think they are really good at telling when their partner is lying, but research shows that thinking you are good at detecting deception does not make it so.”

This creates, according to the website, a dangerous situation:

    As intimacy increases:

  • People’s confidence at detecting deception increases
  • People’s actual ability to detect deception declines
  • Partners have more reason to lie

The website suggests that the only real way of determining if a romantic partner is lying is through some type of monitoring or surveillance.

Awareness, intuition, evaluation

So what’s the answer? How do we know when someone is lying?

The first step is to realize that people do, in fact, lie. That’s how honest, trustworthy people get into trouble—we don’t lie, so we don’t expect people to lie to us. This is a dangerous blind spot.

Our initial clue that someone is lying will probably come from our intuition. If we get that hit, that inkling, that the truth is not being told, we need to pay attention.

Then, we need to critically evaluate what is being said, along with evidence that proves or disproves the statements. When facts are irrefutable, we should believe the facts, and not the pleas of the liar.



122 Comments on "Humans are lousy lie detectors"

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  1. robxsykobabe says:

    LTL:

    Funny you should say that about spinning class…IM A SPIN INSTRUCTOR!!! Hence, the name…robxsykobabe (aerobics=Im a group fitness/spin instructor psycho=Im a therapist babe=uhhh, what do you think :P)



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  2. learnthelesson says:

    Rbabe – 🙂

    Too funny – I remember you sharing the aerobics part…and that you werent ” Rob’s ex psycho babe” — but its sometimes easier for me to type it out as such !! 🙂 So cool youre a spin instructor! So cool!!!! And a therapist and a babe!!!! = A balanced woman, who wont ever let another throw her off course again — instead look for like-minded ones – whose actions are what show you their intent and ability to love and be loved!



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  3. knowledgeempowers says:

    I am tracking my xP, in terms of his online status. As long as I know he is online, playing his game, I know hes not on his way to me : )
    Being in no contact has helped so much, still think about all of it daily, still processing all the lies and deceit. But at least I know hes not on his way to destroy me and my life.
    I feel justified in this. Besides, the things I see in tracking, like him with other women, just reinforces all his lies and deceit for me, makes it easier for me to move on and stay in no contact and also gives me a good laugh knowing hes really a big fat loser who will never get on with his life or with anyone.
    The best knowledge is knowing hes incapable of love. You know why that sits so well with me? Because love is the greatest feeling in the world and he will NEVER really experience it. That is not something I would wish on anyone, but it seems very appropriate for him since he hurts everyone that comes in contact with him.
    I know it probably sounds sick but someone I have justified it in my own mind.



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  4. Aeylah says:

    robxsykobabe…Rbabe:

    Reading through the posts and came across yours on sneaking a peek on facebook and “friends” of his, and on your perceptions of him trying to send you messages. Boy did this strike a chord!

    I do belive he is. The S in my life did this all the time….even when we were still “togehter”. I would look at his wall and see how many new “friends” he had and there were allways women comming out of the woodwork! not to mention ex lovers that all of a suden were “friends” again. He gets more “hearts” than hallmark has cards, and his responce to my questioning them were always “they’re from my cousins”! oh but of course they would be because he had 20 of them, one being A KISSING COUSIN HE HAD AN INSESSTUOUS RELATIONSHIP WITH while with me!!!!!!! that I discovered later. This was one of the ways I knew he was still lying and cheating on me.

    Now fast forward to today…..I’ve been in NC for 4 weeks, but just monday I took a peek at his page against my better judgement and also discovered that he has opened it for viewing and posted photos of himself from trips we did together, purposly announced that he had sent “a very special heart”, received a “heart at it together” along with posting aknowledgements of how “special in his life his revived ex lover now new GF” is! and worst…..She the new GF (ex-lover)….changed the picture on her profile to one of herself with his house in the backgrownd….a bad one that I instantly took to be a clear message to me sayiing “I got him now” ! did I mention that he dumped her last time to come back to me? and she was devastated?

    …….So, I confess…I was really baaaad to go looking for pain, and yes, I do believe that all the changes and recent posts were a message for me. But I will look no more since this is only another form of contact and too much like picking at a raw scab.

    Knowing that the handsome lovable man I see in some of those picture is really an evil, cruel, exploitive man that I saw so many times with that fake smile and the empty eyes….is consolation because I know that the new ex-GF is getting all his attention now leaving me free to heal.

    no more peeking!…..lol



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  5. OxDrover says:

    Dear Aeylah,

    I think that is a good choice, NO PEEK! Cause when you peek, you at least think about him and are renting him “space” in your head! Since it isn’t an issue of safety to “keep up” with him, I think NO PEEK is the best option! TOWANDA!!!! (((hugs)))



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