The Pinocchio Effect

How can you tell if someone is lying?

It’s not always easy to tell when someone is telling pork pies. Some people are very good at.

But there are some tell-tale signs to watch out for that give the game away.

It would be convenient if someone’s nose grew like Pinocchio’s hooter as they spun their yarns but there is one clue that also stands out like a sore thumb – they talk too much.

Deepak Malhotra et al (2012) found in their research that on average, liars use more words than truth tellers and use far more third-person pronouns. In order to put some distance between themselves and the lie they start talking about him, her, it, one, they and their. They also discovered that liars tend to speak in more complex sentences because they are working harder to convince you and they use more swear words.

Co-author Professor Lyn M. Van Swol said,

Just like Pinocchio’s nose, the number of words grew along with the lie.

Why is this useful?

Well, we need to spot liars, they are all around us and schools have their fair share. Lying is complex and interwoven into the fabric of our daily lives and the above research offers us some warning signs regarding the veracity of those we are dealing with. Other clues that indicate someone could be fabricating involve facial touching, breaking eye contact and increased fidgeting.

It would be nice to think that our working relationships are all built on trust but sometimes people will tell lies in order to get what they want.

So if you want to know which student or colleague is trying to pull the wool over your eyes, listen for the one running off at the mouth and peppering their explanations with extra details.

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