Research by academics at two universities has concluded that the common belief of lying eyes is a myth.
Widely held beliefs about Neuro-Linguistic Programming and lying are unfounded. Proponents of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) have long claimed that it is possible to tell whether a person is lying from their eye movements. Research reveals that this claim is unfounded, with the authors calling on the public and organizations to abandon this approach to lie detection.
It is often claimed that even the most stone-faced liar will be betrayed by an unwitting eye movement.
Lying eyes, which no fibber can avoid revealing, are actually a myth.
Verbal hesitations and excessive hand gestures may prove a better guide to whether a person is telling untruths, according to research conducted by Professor Richard Wiseman.
An important aspect of NLP involves teaching people about the relationship between their eye movements and their thoughts.
According to the theory, when right-handed people look up to their right they are likely to be visualizing a “constructed”, or imagined, event. In contrast when they look to their left they are likely to be visualizing a what is known as a “remembered” memory. For this reason, when liars are constructing their own version of the truth, they tend to look to the right.
Prof Wiseman, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire, said: “The results of the first study revealed no relationship between lying and eye movements, and the second showed that telling people about the claims made by NLP practitioners did not improve their lie detection skills.”
A follow-up study involving analyzing videos of high-profile press conferences in which people appealed for help in finding missing relatives, or claimed to have been themselves the victims of crime.
While some were telling the truth, others turned out to be lying. There was no evidence of a correlation between lying and eye movements.
Co-author Dr Caroline Watt, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “A large percentage of the public believes that certain eye movements are a sign of lying, and this idea is even taught in organizational training courses.
“Our research provides no support for the idea and so suggests that it is time to abandon this approach to detecting deceit.” The research appears in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.
Part of this article was originally published on the Independet
Richard Wiseman, Caroline Watt, Leanne ten Brinke, Stephen Porter, Sara-Louise Couper, Calum Rankin. The Eyes Don’t Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (7): e40259 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040259