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The Science Of Lying - Part 1

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

Did you know that looking at eye movement can help determine if someone is lying to you? Or can it? The Science Of Coaching investigates the truth and the myths uncovered!

There has been much research relating to what happens to a person's eyes when they are lying. In the 1980s there was research carried out by NLP practitioners looking at eye accessing cues (eye direction). However, more recent research has confirmed that these theories are not scientifically accurate.

There are many other studies looking at areas like gaze aversion, direct eye contact, rapidity and frequency of eye movement. As well as other reports looking at how we can use eye-movement to detect if someone is telling the truth. A study of Judges in 2019 showed that they were able to detect if someone is lying through emotional features as well as the accuracy and patterns of their reporting.

The absolute truth is that none of these ways of reading eye-movement are 100%. As humans we are not the best lie detectors. Even if we use artificial intelligence and videoing to watch the human face, there may be many other reasons why the eyes move in a certain way. However, you can watch some aspects of eye-movement and potentially determine if somebody might be deviating from the truth, then investigate further. So how do you do this?

Establish A Baseline

One of the most important things you need to do is establish a baseline. How do they behave under "normal" conditions? To establish this, ask some basic questions which are more likely to relax the person and which they are not going to lie about. For example:

  • What colour was your first car?

  • What is your favourite food?

  • What is your favourite colour?

Watching their eye movement during these first few relaxed meetings with easier questions can help you establish how they usually behave.

This may need to be done over more than one session or meeting, to really get a reading of how they react under non-stressful conditions.

What Am I Looking For?

You may want to look for the direction their eyes move in when they are truthful. This is known as visual recall. If they usually look in one direction when recalling information and then look in another direction suddenly after a different question, they may possibly be constructing an event (lying) and you may want to delve a little deeper into the conversation.

Eyes darting from side to side can indicate nervousness. If this person's eye movement is usually calm and gazing forward with some movement, then the eyes dart after a question, this is an area you may want to investigate further.

Rapid blinking, can be a sign of nervousness or lying. Again, if you have established a baseline over a few meetings and you notice an increase in rapidity suddenly you may want to ask why. They may just have something in their eye!

Lack of eye movement can indicate lying. A study in 2013 suggested that lying requires a higher cognitive load and therefore people who are lying may have a stronger gaze with little eye movement.

Take A Holistic Approach

Understanding exactly what is going on in that person's life, and why they may be behaving in that certain way is essential. For all you know there may be an underlying medical condition, there may be something happening that's making them nervous, there may be another reason for a change in eye movement. This is why it makes seeing a lie through the eyes so challenging.

How Is This Related To Coaching?

Having the ability to recognize and notice when there is a potential deviation from a usual pattern, then ask questions around this may be useful for depth of coaching. Of course this is led by the client, but asking questions when you see a shift or change in eye movement coupled with language, body language and other cues, may uncover areas of challenge for them.

For a discussion about this article further and Executive Coaching please connect with

Caroline Langston is the Founder of Successful Consultants Ltd, an executive, personal and career development coaching company in Hong Kong, with her partner Patrick Bennett founding the practice in New York. She is also the Founder of Recruiters Give Back, a nonprofit providing free information and coaching to people who are unemployed. Caroline is also the Founder of The Science Of Coaching. Caroline is dedicated to coaching people for success and happiness in their careers and lives. She is a Certified Professional Coach at International Coaching Federation standards. Certified Team Coach and is also degree qualified with further certifications in Neuro Linguistic Programming at Master Practitioner and Coach level.


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