Can You Spot A Liar?

Link to Video

The theme of this TED-Talks video was “How to Spot a Liar”. Pamela Meyer begins this lesson by pointing out something very obvious, yet vital to making her point. Everyone in the audience is a liar, and not only that, but everyone in existence is as well. She then goes into describing what lying really is and why we all do it. Lying is a way to bridge the gap between who you wish you were and who you actually are, one’s fantasy versus reality. But if we all do it, is there really one fool proof way to spot a lie? Maybe not, but there are definitely subconscious aspects of a liar’s body language and communications skills that are easy to spot if you know what to look for. For example, when telling a lie, people tend to overcompensate for myths that are commonly believed about lying. People tend to look more intensely into other people’s eyes while lying instead of looking away. They also tend to go into more description than someone who is telling the truth, and also be more still rather than fidgety.

It’s actually ironic, because while talking about common subconscious signs in body language that a liar may exhibit, Pamela Meyer is also portraying certain subconscious communications skills that she uses to keep us interested in what she is saying. She uses hand gestures, voice qualities and visual aids to keep the audience entertained. Let’s take a smaller section of the video for example, time=11:39 through time=12:00, and analyze the speakers communication skills. Notice that while she is talking, the presenter is moving her hands in an outward, circular motion with her palms facing up. This gesture creates an inviting atmosphere that makes her seem more knowledgeable and trustworthy to the audience, and as a result, they are more likely to agree with what she is saying rather than question it. In addition to this, the speaker uses the word “we” instead of “you” or “they”. This puts the listeners under the impression that the presenter is on the same side as they are and deals with the same struggles that they do when it comes to this topic. This change in her wording makes her seem friendlier and less accusatory, prompting the audience to believe the points she’s making more easily. Also during this time, the speaker uses a visual aid to make her point more clearly to the audience. She shows an image of a smile known as the “duping delight” that a person may express after getting away with a lie. This helps keep the audience interested and connected with what she is talking about, especially since she leaves the topic of this specific smile open ended, saying they would return to it shortly with the use of some videos. All of these aspects came together to form an all-around inviting and trustworthy atmosphere where the audience was easily drawn in.

2 thoughts on “Can You Spot A Liar?”

  1. It’s interesting that you specificially pointed out how all these things she’s doing are subconscious. I read your post, watched the video in it’s entirety, read the post again, and then watched the specific clip you cited.

    Since TED talks are always about interesting topics, I found myself having difficulty focusing on the presenters body language since I was so focused on the content of her presentation.

    I wonder if she is paying attention to her own body language during her presentation. Depending on how much preparation has gone into the presentation, it’s entirely possible she’s planned out her gestures.

    1. That’s a really good point. It is entirely possible that Pamela Mayer planned out her gestures during the presentation in order to keep the audience’s attention. However, because she is a well known author and is very knowledgeable on the topic that she is talking about, I assume that she is very passionate about lie detecting. As a result, I think it’s safe to say that at least some of her gestures are subconscious ones. Many of her facial expressions, for example, reflect how passionate she is about what she is presenting about, especially when the speed at which she is talking speeds up. While these things could have been rehearsed, I think it’s safe to say that after performing several presentations and being in a number of talk-shows in the past, many of the speaker’s motions could be subconscious.

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