Research has consistently shown that people’s ability to detect lies is no more accurate than chance, or flipping a coin. This finding holds across all types of
people — students, psychologists, judges, job interviewers and
law enforcement personnel (Personality and Social Psychology
Review, 2006). Particularly when investigating crime, the need
for accurate deception detection is critical for police officers
who must get criminals off the streets without detaining
Traditional police practices in deception detection stem from
early theories on lying that assume liars will exhibit stress-based
cues because they fear being caught and feel guilty about lying.
This theory led researchers to search for reliable behavioral
indicators of deception. They examined behaviors such as
posture shifts, gaze aversion, and foot and hand movements,
without much success.
“There really is no Pinocchio’s nose,” says Judee Burgoon,
PhD, a professor of communication at the University of
Given these early findings, today’s researchers are exploring
new methods of deception detection. Instead of looking at
Researchers have developed
new strategies to help
police and other investigators
catch liars in the act.
By Laura Zimmerman