How good is the average person at catching a lie?

How good is the average person at catching a lie? Flip a coin.
Every day we lie and are lied to. No one wants to admit it and most of the time it’s just small things, a white lie about how a person looks or perhaps their afternoon plans. Sometimes though we’re at the receiving end of a larger lie, like in a sales meeting or a job interview. Being lied to in any situation can have no lasting effect or can impact us (and society) drastically. From increased costs at the counter every day to a loveless marriage, the risks of missing a lie are real. Sadly most of us are pretty bad at spotting lies, and on average we can only tell the truth from lies 53% of the time. This holds true for everyone from the ‘life-inexperienced’ college student to the seasoned self-professed lie catching experts such as judges, police and fraud investigators.

Why liars don’t get caught.
Being lied to and not catching it costs everyone. Whether it’s added dollars in insurance premiums, a dangerous criminal back on the streets or the emotional investment made into a marriage that no longer makes sense to stay in, we all pay a little something. But how does this happen?
Cognitive biases are shortcuts the human brain has developed over many generations in order to help make our lives easier. The unfortunate part is that they can (and are) used against us in our daily lives. In ancient times (I’m talking way… way back. Way before straw and mud huts even) people learned to survive by being part of the crowd because it (understandably) made everyone else in the group nervous when someone was different. So the cognitive bias cheerfully known as ‘the Wisdom of the Crowd’ developed and became part of the ‘intuition’ we humans know and love today.

What to do about it
As much as Collective Intelligence is a thing and it can help, in the case of lie detection, it hinders us. Hollywood has regrettably lent a hand in perpetuating the stereotyped depiction of how lies are told to us by the sheer volume of the TV shows depicting imprecise clues of what makes up a liar. Case and point, just about everyone agrees that looking down and or to the left (or just averting the gaze in general) shows that a person is lying, when in fact this is a completely false assumption. As a matter of fact, people tend to maintain eye contact for longer than is normal when lying. But everyone tends to believe this because it’s what everyone else thinks (there’s the cognitive bias working against you). But how to avoid this you ask? In short, you can a) never speak to anyone again, like ever.. (guaranteed to prevent being lied to), b) you can read a book or books. Most of which contradict each other, sometimes even in the same book, or c) get trained by an expert to catch the lie.

There’s a few of them out there (I mean that literally, there are very few actual experts). Dr. Paul Ekman from the Paul Ekman Group is considered the father of Lie Detection and is the most well-known, he pioneered the research on micro expression detection back in the 1960s but hasn’t lead any research past 2001. Dr. David Matsumoto from Humintel (who worked with Dr. Paul Ekman) has formal education in the field and uses the model created by Dr. Ekman for his training program and his latest published work is from 2018, but his primary role is research and not training. Dr. Matthew Kane from Solaris Intelligence has elaborated on the research done by Dr. Ekman and developed a more accurate training model based on recent research for lie detection from 2016. Then there are those that offer lie detection training and have no education on the subject, none actually. Zero, zip, zilch, (but they put on a good presentation) so theirs is really just opinion based training and not much else.

This article was written by Solaris Intelligence and we wanted to offer full disclosure on the competition out there to give the reader a chance to make an informed decision. Stay tuned for our next blog post to find out more about cognitive biases and how they impact our ability to spot lies.