Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit

If you are a fan of the TV Series Lie to Me (like me) you are going to love this book by Dr. Paul EkmanTelling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage, Third Edition.

This book is the science behind Lie to Me. From breaking the law to breaking a promise, how do people lie and how can they be caught. All 20 years of Ekman’s knowledge in this field is encapsulated inside this fantastic book.

When people lie, their most evident, easy-to-see expressions, which people pay most attention to, are often the false ones. ~ Telling Lies

Who is Dr. Paul Ekman

Dr. Paul Ekman is a psychologist who has been a pioneer in the study of emotions and their relation to facial expressions. He is considered one of the 100 most eminent psychologists of the twentieth century. The character Cal Lightman of the television series Lie to Me is loosely based on him and his work. More on Ekman is detailed here: – Cutting edge behavioural science for real world applications

The Truth is Written All Over Our Faces – Lie to Me

Lie to Me – the TV series

Lie to Me, is about Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) and his colleagues in The Lightman Group accepting assignments from third parties (commonly local and federal law enforcement), and assisting in investigations, reaching the truth through applied psychology: interpreting microexpressions, through the Facial Action Coding System, and body language.

Me (Ernest) reading Telling Lies – “I give this book 5/5 stars!”

The Book: Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage, Third Edition

Ok so you can tell I enjoy Lie to Me for all the WEALTH of educational, useful and practical material this show offers. The book Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage, Third Edition is a companion to the show’s science. It digs deep into the research behind the accepted theories and introduces the reader to work Ekman done with the Secret Service, FBI, CIA etc… There are also extras which are not in the show like the difference between “manipulators” and “illustrators”.

Manipulators are hard to control and people cannot stop doing them for very long, especially when they are relaxed. They include all those movements in which one part of the body grooms, massages, rubs, holds, pinches, picks, scratches, or otherwise manipulates another body part.  For example; covering the eyes was common among patients who felt shame. Also people have a tendancy to move forward with interest or anger and backward with fear or disgust.

Illustrators however are called by the name because they illustrate speech as it is spoken. The best clue to deceit is when the number of illustrators changes from the norm. For example: people tend to illustrate more then usual when they are furious, horrified, very agitated, distressed, or excitedly enthused. Also the opposite applies. Knowing one’s common illustrators will help you understand what state of mind they are in.

Emblems however are common signs like the finger or the shrug which everyone knows what these mean. Emblematic slips happen subconsciously in response to emotion. Where emblems occur in presentation area (between the waist and the neck area) emblematic slips are never performed in the presentation area. Best indicator is to remember that when “emblematic slips” increase, illustrators decrease.

These indicators are part of the detecting deceit from Words, Voice, or Body group. If you are suspicious of a lie, pay more attention to the voice and body. The voice, like the face, is tied to the areas of the brain involved in emotion and is a great indicator. You might want to check out The Invention of Lying which gives viewers a comical yet revealing truth about the influence of lying and it’s impact on our society.

More to come

“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that, poof. He’s gone.” ~ Verbal / Keyser Soze – The Usual Suspects

I started learning about clues to deceit et al some time ago because I was interested in catching lie’s people tell to take advantage of someone. Having been a victim several times, I decided to take action. Since then I have a number of interesting books on body language, micro expressions and practised on Dr. Paul Ekman’s Facial Action Coding System (FACS) software to improve my cognition in categorizing facial behaviors based on the muscles that produce them.

I wanted to know with more accuracy who is “full of it” and who is telling the truth.

I plan to blog more about deceit, body language and micro expressions in the coming months. I believe understanding the people around you is an important trait which one can masture to help with building better rapport, friendship, relationship and to be in a position to stop liars from misleading you. Wouldn’t it be great to know if that sales man just wants a quick sale and isn’t interested in your needs or whether that deal is shonky, and / or misleading.

Essentially, this knowledge helps you make better informed decisions about practically anything in your life. That’s something worth knowing!

I love questions, so ask away!


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Microexpressions: The truth is written all over our faces

Body language is a fascinating topic. It has always been on my top topics of interest. Body language is a form of non-verbal communication which consists of body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements. We humans send and interpret such signals subconsciously. And thus is where the power of being able to consciously decipher and make sense of body language come in.

Everybody Lies ~ Lie to Me

In a previous post I delved into reading eye movements to help you become an effective communicator. This post complements the previous by helping you understand body language. Why? Because as John Borg attested, that human communication consists of 93 percent body language and paralinguistic cues, while only 7% of communication consists of words themselves. This means something extraordinary is happening under the layers of communication. Today, in our society we are primed with speaking skills and educated on the importance of good communication. Yet most of the magic happens beneath the spoken world.

Dr Paul Ekman’s research on microexpressions

Every person has 43 facial muscles that create the same expressions, says my favorite pioneering researcher in this space Dr. Paul Ekman. Unlike normal emotions which can last up to four seconds and are clearly yoked to the emotions on vocal and verbal display, “micro-expressions” are fleeting facial expressions that last between 1/25th and 1/15th of a second that occur when a person covers up an emotion. Something not even a poker face expert can avoid / control.

After 30 years of research in this field in Papua New Guinea with stone age tribes, Dr. Paul Ekman proved facial expressions of emotion are not culturally determined. They are universal across human cultures and thus biological in origin. Further, he summarized these 43 facials muscle types into 7 universal emotions. These 7 are scientifically proven to trigger the “same” muscles in each of our faces, backing up Charles Darwin’s theory that the facial expression of emotion was intrinsic.

This and more is documented in detail in Dr Paul Ekman’s book on emotions. Ekman examines and explains how, when and why we become emotional and how far we can change what we get emotional about; why we sometimes get emotional when others don’t; how to recognize and understand the subtlest signs of emotion both in ourselves and other people; and much more.

Lie to Me – TV show

Lie to Me was an intelligent series educating the viewer on micro expressions while wrapping the whole show in a 1 hour TV drama. Based on the real-life scientific discoveries of mentioned Dr Paul Ekman, the series follows Dr Lightman (Tim Roth) and his team of deception experts as the assist law enforcement and government agencies to expose the truth behind the lies. If you want to be entertained and learn the art of body language & micro expressions then this show is a must. They even show photos of famous people caught lying. You can get all 3 seasons off Netflix or Amazon.

The truth is written all over our faces ~ Lie to Me

The 7 key emotions

Ekman determined that all humans share the following 7 emotions: Anger, Disgust, Fear, Happiness, Sadness, Surprise and Contempt. According to Ekman, emotions developed through evolution as a sign of letting others know we sensed danger. Being able to comprehend an emotion consciously can help you understand people better. The following is a visual representation of these 7 emotions using Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) from Lie to Me TV series.

Study these. Learn these signs off by heart. Then try to spot them in people you interact with daily and on television. You will get better and better over time till it becomes an automatic function in your brain.

Knowledge & Application

Having this power to detect the 7 signs will allow you to:

  • Identify when you should back off from a dangerous conversation before it turns nasty/violent.
  • Change topics when the other party gets irritated and/or out of patience.
  • Bring peace and safety to people who are afraid or scared.
  • Immerse yourself with people who feel true love, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy towards you.
  • Help those that are have feelings of disadvantage, loss, and helplessness.
  • Catch a liar at work or in a social environment.
  • See whether that smile is truly genuine or fake.
  • Understand whether the other person has a lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike towards you.
  • Be in a better control of situations within your environment and adjust accordingly to best meet satisfying objectives.

It is amazing how learning to recognize these 7 simple emotions can drastically alter your lifestyle and bring better clarity in human interaction. If you are like me you may be too outspoken and sometimes this can cause a clash if you questions their “real intent”. People lie. It’s that simple. And if you are confrontational about their lies then be ready for some clashing. So hold yourself back a bit 😉

Other microexpression signs to watch out for

  • A fake smile is usually shorter than two-thirds of a second or longer than four seconds.
  • Innocent people flash the most genuine surprise.
  • Guilty people flash an emotion of fear.
  • Fear held for longer is a sign of something being hidden.
  • To catch someone responsible watch how their brows and mouth move, and for how long. Prolonged surprise gives you a cue for further probing.
  • Be cautious of people who give you half-smile or smirk since this is an unmistakable expression of contempt and moral superiority – aka Killer Contempt.

Enjoy your new-found knowledge!

~ Ernest

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