When it comes to our nearest and dearest, most of us know the little signs to look out for to identify if they’re telling a lie.
For others it’s not always so easy, but experts have now revealed that one simple behavioural habit could be a major red flag to hint we’re not being told the truth.
A study found that when we lie, we are more likely to copy the behaviour and body language of the person we are lying to – and there’s a very good reason why.
When we lie our brains are forced to work overtime in an effort to keep up the pretence. This means the thoughts controlling our body language resort to mimicking what we see, as this can be done unconsciously and it’s less effort than thinking for ourselves.
Dutch researches at Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam used cameras to study the behaviour of people when they told the truth, and then compared it to when they told bigger and bigger lies.
It concluded that as it’s ‘harder for the brain to be dishonest than to tell the truth, we tend to mimic our victims when we’re being deceitful’.
Experts even said the pattern became clearer when someone was lying to their partner – particularly a big lie – when the mimicking behaviour became most noticeable. So look out for it next time.
The experiment looked at the effect on body language and movements when telling the truth, a difficult lie and a real whopper.
Results found that mimicking body language among those taking part in the study increased with the difficulty of the lie.
The experts said: “Our findings are consistent with the broader proposition that people rely on automated processes such as mimicry when under cognitive load.
“Lying, especially when fabricating accounts, can be more cognitively demanding than truth telling.
“Nonverbal coordination is an especially interesting cue to deceit because its occurrence relies on automatic processes and is therefore more difficult to deliberately control.”
So, the more we’re forced to think about the lies we are spinning, the more our body language automatically mimics the person we are trying to deceive.
Use your new power wisely.