Our noses get smaller when we lie

Due solely to the 1940 Disney movie that popularized Carlo Collodi’s children’s novel The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883), popular culture portrays our noses growing longer when we lie.

It turns out the opposite is true. Our noses actually shrink when we lie — the reverse Pinocchio effect.

Harry Pettit reports for the Daily Mail, Nov. 9, 2018, that scientists at the University of Granada in Granada, Spain, discovered that your nose actually shrinks when you lie because its temperature drops.

When we lie, the temperature of the tip of the nose drops up to 2.16°F (1.2°C), while the forehead heats up to 2.7°F (1.5°C). The greater the difference in temperature between both facial regions, the more likely the person is lying.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Emilio Gómez, Research Director of University of Granada’s Thermographic Laboratory, explains that the difference in temps is triggered by the brain power we exert when telling a lie, as well as by anxiety that we’ll be found out: “One has to think in order to lie, which raises the temperature of the forehead. At the same time we feel anxious, which lowers the temperature of the nose.”


  • 60 students were divided into two groups and asked to complete a number of tasks while they were scanned by thermal imaging technology.
  • Students in the experimental group made a phone call of about 3 to 4 minutes to a partner, parent or close friend in which the students told a significant lie, e.g., that they had been in a car accident.
  • Students in the control group also made a phone call in which they told a truth — that they were watching distressing videos of mutilated bodies and car accidents.
  • Dr. Gómez emphasized that participants in both groups were made to feel anxious — the control group because of the distressing videos; the experimental group because they had to lie.
  • The temperatures of the noses of 80% of the students in the experimental group decreased.

Although the reverse Pinocchio effect on the liar’s nose is imperceptible to the human eye, the Granada scientists designed a lie detector test that can identify liars by tracking the temperature of people’s noses. The scientists claim their lie detector test is the world’s most reliable, with 80% accuracy, which is 10% more accurate than the polygraph test.

Dr, Gómez said that ideally, police interviewers could one day combine current lie-detector methods with images from a thermal camera to catch lying criminals:

“The ideal case would be to combine both methods, strategic interviewing and thermography, moving our system to, for example, police stations, airports or refugee camps. That way, it would be possible to detect if a criminal is lying or to know the true intentions of people trying to cross the border between two countries.”

See “Deception: NGO coaches migrants how to pretend to be Christian refugees to gain political asylum”.

9 ways to spot a liar:

  1. The big pauseLying is quite a complex process for the body and brain to deal with. First your brain produces the truth which it then has to suppress before inventing the lie and the performance of that lie. This often leads to a longer pause than normal before answering, plus a verbal stalling technique like ‘Why do you ask that?’ rather than a direct and open response.
  2. The eye dart: When we look up to our left to think we’re often accessing recalled memory, but when our eyes roll up to our right we can be thinking more creatively. Also, the guilt of a lie often makes people use an eye contact cut-off gesture, such as looking down or away.
  3. The lost breath: Lying causes an instant stress response in most people, meaning the fight or flight mechanisms are activated. The mouth dries, the body sweats more, the pulse rate quickens and the rhythm of the breathing changes to shorter, shallower breaths that can often be both seen and heard.
  4. Overcompensating: A liar will often over-perform in a bid to be more convincing by speaking and gesticulating too much, too much eye contact (often without blinking), and over-emphatic gesticulation.
  5. The poker face: Many liars employ the poker face and almost shut down in terms of movement and eye contact.
  6. The face hide: When someone tells a lie they often hide their face by touching their nose or covering their mouth.
  7. Self-comfort touches: The stress and discomfort of lying often leads to liars comforting themselves by rocking, stroking their hair, or twiddling or playing with wedding rings.
  8. Heckling hands: The hardest body parts to act with are the hands or feet; these body parts often tell the truth. Liars often struggle to keep their hands and feet on-message while they lie. When a person’s words and hand gestures are at odds, it’s called incongruent gesticulation.
  9. Micro-expressions: These are very small gestures or facial expressions that flash across the face so quickly they are difficult to see. Experts will often use filmed footage that is then slowed down to pick up on the true body language response emerging in the middle of the performed lie. The best time to spot these in real life is to look for the facial expression that occurs after the liar has finished speaking. The mouth might skew or the eyes roll in an instant give-away. An example of a liar’s micro-expression is the duping delight — smiling with delight at getting away with a lie or a terrible crime.

See also:


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Auntie Lulu
Auntie Lulu
1 year ago

I find it most interesting that God the Father installed in us these various mechanisms. Basically, I guess we were meant to be truth telling entities.

1 year ago

Speaking of overcompensating…


Joseph A Magil
Joseph A Magil
1 year ago

I was wondering where my nose went.

1 year ago

Great post, Dr. Eowyn! The Hillary video was outstanding demonstrating all the hand movements and thump on table, plus emphatic speak…coupled with words “honestly” and “let me be clear” that tell us a lie follows. Thanks DCG for finding it. Obummer was a dependable lying fool using “let me be clear” profusely. Remember, Bill Clinton started off his press conference concerning Monica Lewinsky with “Let me be clear”, I did not have sexual relations with that women, Miss Lewinsky…in addition to his finger wagging at the podium. Has anyone watched the new 2 part documentary with Monica and her parents… Read more »

Steven Broiles
1 year ago

Why, then, do most politicians have any noses left at all??? Seriously: This is interesting, but I don’t think the methodology this study employed can be totally accurate, because the participants were told to tell some whoppers. I mean, when someone is in an experiment, they know they’re in an experiment, and their natural inhibition may be difficult or impossible to suppress. (Although what could have been done instead escapes me now). Maybe another way to conduct an experiment for this subject would have been one of more intellectual means. In other words, we need to know what the depth… Read more »

Tammy Hires
Tammy Hires
1 year ago

An interesting article, and I take Mr. Broiles observations on board. A shrewd point from Aunt Lulu too about Gods part in all of this!

1 year ago

Good question, Dr. E. Socio/psychopaths believe their lies and it has been established via operators of lie detecting equipment they DO NOT present with body/mind physicality that trip the machine, hence not acceptable in courts. Years ago I unwittingly hired a woman referred to me by someone I thought was a friend who called me 4 times begging I give this woman an interview. Yes, I was pre-occupied and unaware I was being set up. After checks were missing, orders didn’t show, etc.; each time I questioned her, she left me confused with more questions than answers. Months went by,… Read more »

1 year ago

This article concerns a thief and a female police officer in Maine who instinctively knew the thief was not lying.
Yes, it’s long, however – FAIR WARNING, if you start reading, you won’t want to stop as it reveals many things of the mind and more questions.