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.”
9 ways to spot a liar:
- The big pause: Lying 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The poker face: Many liars employ the poker face and almost shut down in terms of movement and eye contact.
- The face hide: When someone tells a lie they often hide their face by touching their nose or covering their mouth.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- How to spot a liar
- Lying is a slippery slope: our brains become desensitized with repeated lying
- Sunday Devotional: Lies are a hallmark of evil
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