How To Spot Deception

Written by Dr. Eric Perry

“He who has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore.” ~Sigmund Freud

In my profession, it is important to know if someone is lying to me or more importantly to themselves. Whether it is a small lie or a malicious lie, everyone lies at some point. Research shows that on average, people lie 10 times per day. Many people lie to keep the peace or to inflate their ego. Others might lie because they are pathological liars or have a personality disorder.

Lying appears to be part of our genetic makeup. It develops early in children and peaks in adolescence when a person begins to establish their identity and independence. Lying declines as we mature and begin to embrace our true selves. Being able to spot deceit or an outright lie may be useful in our every day lives when dealing with our children, co-workers, employees or when buying a car. It can also help us identify individuals that want to harm us. A prevalent trait of narcissistic personality disorder, psychopaths and sociopaths is their ability to lie in order to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. When trying to spot a lie we must listen to what is said and not said. Further, we must look at all of the exhibited behaviors.

This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list. Every individual may have their own unique way of exhibiting lying behavior, but here are some general examples of behaviors that researchers suggest may be indicative of lying or deception:

1. Refuses to answer the question
When asked a question, the person may simply refuse to answer. They will choose to remain silent, unable to formulate an alternative truth.

2. They don’t answer the specific question that has been asked
A person who is lying will avoid answering the question and will instead make a convincing statement. The statement may be true but it is not an answer to the question. For example, when you ask your child if they skipped school and they answer by saying “I would never do that. I am a good student.” In another example, say you are missing money at work and ask your coworker, “Did you take the money that was here?” and they answer by saying, “I have been working here for years and am a good person.” These statements might be true, but they are not answering the specific question that has been asked. The person is trying to convince instead of conveying the truth. Convincing statements are a strong indicator of lying. You might need to ask more questions to get to the truth.

3. Responds to a question with aggression
Individuals that are being dishonest may feel like they are cornered when asked for a truthful statement and may respond to your question with aggression. They may attack your character in order to shift the attention away from them. Statements such as “Why are you always picking on me?” “Why are you wasting my time with this?” and “Don’t you have anything better to do?” are examples of aggressive responses to being questioned.

4. Inconsistent statements
The dishonest individual will provide inconsistent narratives. They are not able to keep their original story straight and will simply keep making up new statements.

5. Evokes religion
A person who is being deceptive in answering questions may use phrases such as “I swear to God” and “God as my witness” in order to convince the other person of the truthfulness of their answer.

6. Perception qualifiers
When answering a question the individual may dress up the lie. They will use words such as, “In all honesty,” “frankly” and “honestly.” We all use these words and need to be aware that these words may indicate deception when answering a question. A person needs to look at all the behaviors of a person to see if there is actual deception.

7. Verbal /non-verbal disconnect
The person’s physical behavior does not match what is being said. An example of this is nodding the head no when saying yes. Take a moment and say yes while nodding your head from side to side to indicate no. This is a big indicator of deception. It can be difficult to do unless there is deception. It is important to take into consideration that there may be exceptions to this based on cultural differences. Another indicator of deception is when someone is relaying a difficult and emotional event such as a murder or death and the person smiles or laughs.

8. Dressing up a lie
When a person is being deceptive they may feel the need to dress up the lie and subconsciously exhibit grooming behavior. They may fix their tie, arrange their hair or clean their nails.

9. Fight or flight response
The person’s subconscious response, when cornered for truthfulness, may be a fight or flight response. They may feel flushed and place their hands on their face. They may touch their nose, play with their ears or actually place their hand over their mouth as if they are physically trying to stop themselves from stating the truth. Another response could be that they start to scratch their hands.

The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a professional relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a medical professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.

Dr. Perry

Copy of Dr. Eric Perry

“I help ambitious and high achieving individuals manifest a life of success and fulfillment in order to achieve the life they truly desire.”

Dr. Eric Perry |

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81 responses to How To Spot Deception

  1. Incredible read. Thank you for sharing this. I’ve survived a very horrid situation of three years and all of these ding, ding, ding. Sharing this on badass — it was a list different than this about personal rights that started helping me understand my situation.

    I was so very ill then and “caregivers” came into my life with their own agendas. I struggle with interpersonal relationships and understanding when someone is not good for me — online patterns are a different story — but in person, ugh. I’ve suffered greatly with abuse — and this list is amazing and so utterly accurate to my experiences.

    I’m working on compiling information like this for other Autistics and folks who can benefit from learning these behaviors in a way that’s recognizable to them — so when it happens, maybe someone else will have a clue a helluva a lot sooner than me because of your post.

    Thank you again for writing this.

    Liked by 9 people

  2. Bipolar Mom says:

    This is really interesting. I read the part about religion and I actually use the I swear to God statement whenever I get really frustrated. I didn’t think about it being used by a deceitful person to try to convince someone that they aren’t lying. After I read this, I thought about the times where I have heard it from others and it totally made sense. This was a really informative read.

    Liked by 9 people

  3. They are also good at “Smoke and Mirrors.” When I spot these people, I often say out loud, “Smoke & Mirrors, Smoke & Mirrors.” Had the unfortunate experience of trusting someone who turned out to be quite crafty in that area. He was also a classic narcissist. Thank you for your story of confirmation Happy Trails.

    Liked by 10 people

  4. One of my favourite shows Lie to Me is based on a man who reads micro expressions. And it’s fascinating. Goes hand in hand with your examples, most definitely. If you’ve ever been through traumatic situations in your life, these are easy to spot. With time, they may dim in our conciousness or subconciousness but they soon come back. This was an excellent reminder, so thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 10 people

  5. vishal4u says:

    I have found some of my colleagues doing some things mentioned in your post and I knew then and I am sure now they have habit of lying a lot.
    Helpful post

    Liked by 7 people

  6. This is a very helpful post. I’ve had many people, especially lately, do a good chucnk of this to me. I agree with a lot of the people here in saying this is a very accurate and resourceful thing to read

    Liked by 8 people

  7. trendsandrelations says:

    Thank you for this list I definitely needed to read this and I’ll have to keep it in mind

    Liked by 5 people

  8. My husband does most of those, especially the not answering or answering with something not related to the question. He also turns it around and projects on me or makes it about me. For example, if I caught him on a lie, he would say something like “What about that time when you did this or that?” and try to turn the focus of attention from him and onto me.

    Thank you for sharing. I’ll share this on my blog. I hope it will help other people dealing with someone with NPD.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. Andrei says:

    Yet again another helpful post Eric. Especially nowadays that the ideals of being honest and truthful has been blatantly bismirked and robbed of their values.

    Liked by 7 people

  10. adguru101 says:

    Reblogged this on olderfatterhappierdotcom and commented:
    Heading off on another road trip (post to follow); meanwhile, I thought this from MakeItUltra is something you’d find interesting. Wish I’d known these tips before I married my first husband, Psycho Ex — not to mention a few past co-workers. Enjoy and be vigilant!! xx Alisa

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Great Article !!
    Thanks for sharing, I actually do a lot of these unintentionally
    I think to make myself appear happier than I am….
    This was great for me; to recognize not only other people, but myself.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Season says:

    Very instructive and vital information I wish was taught in schools (don’t ask me what grade, you’re the psychologist!). I have found both personally and professionally these behaviors are indeed trends when presented with deception.

    Funny thing is, I’ve recognized these indicators without knowing I did! I bet a lot of people do! This does seem to be, in our culture at least, pretty innate.

    Thank you for your warm tone and clear, mindful communication. It’s a skill to be able to say what needs to be said with no fluff, and yet with gentleness and consideration to aspects that keep us from making a law out of what is said (which we humans seem to want to do!).

    I was moved to consider experiences with others, and also to look at myself here. Well done.

    Liked by 6 people

  13. cowboysteel says:

    Appreciated the article.

    I’m a retired lawyer and recognize many of the cues of dishonesty you mentioned.

    Another layer seems apparent. A person’s belief they are being dishonest does not necessarily mean the information they are relaying is incorrect.

    I also reflect the most convincing and devastating untruths using a carefully manipulated version of what is often verifiable as true.

    Liked by 6 people

  14. Very good. The last point was interesting and concerns me as a person with chronic illness I tend to do these motions out of anxiety and Parkinson -type symptoms. I do sometimes wonder if people think I’m not to be trusted based on my body movements due to illness.

    Liked by 6 people

  15. Wow this is wonderful. I have someone in my life that lies a lot. In fact I say if they are talking there’s a lie in there somewhere. Trying to help this person tell the truth was the hardest thing for them to do. They said but I can’t tell the whole truth can I lie just a little! I said no the full truth is what people want. This person has since paid dearly for that lie they told in that no one trusts what they say. They asked me yesterday if anyone will ever believe them again. I told them that trust once broken is hard to regain but it can be done with transparency. It’s a scary thing to one that covers up and lies. I love your posts. 🙏🏼

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Susana says:

    Great post. Very useful. I also love the quote by Freud, it’s perfect for the post. Thank you Dr. Perry!

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Charm says:

    #2 , #3 & #6 all ring so true and familiar to me. I can admit that I’m guilty of #6. I use those words mentioned & quite a few times I was being deceptive. Great insight!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. healthyliving81 says:

    These are spot on. I will add that sometimes a liar will mix truth with lies and they will consider that the truth when it’s in fact a lie. They will give you a partial answer (half the story). Giving you a half answer will benefit them. Providing the full answer is honesty but truth and lies mixed together is a lie. Great post!

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Spaxx says:

    really insightful . One also needs to study eye contact, stuttering from the person being questioned as so much more. You really stated alot of areas to look. I appreciate!

    Liked by 3 people

  20. ziyajasmine says:

    Amazing blog!!!
    And yes , A friend of mine mostly avoids my formal questions that we normally ask a friend ..and another friend hurt me and when confronted , she swears by religion..Above all my father is the most deceptive human i ever know. I’ve seen deception and this post is relatable .
    Thank you so much !!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Lakshmi says:

    Beautiful explanations especially with respect to physical cue from behaviours are really useful ones. It is very important we identify these deceptive people.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Preetisingh says:

    Very important to know when and why a person tells a lie but itis in everybody’s blood to tell lies. Even half truths or keeping silent is a lie.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Excellent information, as usual, Dr. Perry. Many characteristics I hadn’t considered before. Someone long ago told me that if someone has to “tell me” how great/honest/successful/healthy/etc. they are, I should be able to decipher it on my own and, therefore, there is no need for them to make the announcement (unless, perhaps it’s untrue).

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Allison says:

    Spot on Dr. Eric. What a read!
    Deception comes in many forms and has crept into nearly all aspects of modern-day life.


    Liked by 3 people

  25. ERCWriting says:

    That bit about the qualifiers is so true. That’s why I’m wary when someone qualifies their statements with “I’m just being honest.” It’s always strange when they have to emphasize their honesty when it should come through with their tone.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. Thank you, Dr. Perry. This post caught my eye, as I tend to err on the side of believing people even when they are lying. I am currently dealing with a relationship where some lying has been happening, and I need to navigate figuring out what is true. So I find this very helpful. I appreciate it!

    Liked by 3 people

  27. An informative and thought-provoking article and I think many of us have come across the different types of liars you’ve written about.

    And we’ve all told lies at some point i.e. someone asks if you like their new hairstyle and you really don’t. But you’re not going to tell your best pal that you hate it, particularly if your both out for an evening – you know you’ll spoil her night.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. cheriewhite says:

    Eye-opening! I read the book, “Spy the Lie” by Philip Houston and Michael Floyd not long ago and I learned so much. I love reading about stuff like this! Thank you for posting, Dr. Perry!

    Liked by 1 person

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