Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Eyes Don't Have It: New Research into Lying and Eye Movements

Knowing how to tell if someone is lying is something a lot of people want to know how to do, and followers of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) have long claimed that it is possible by noting a person’s eye movements.

NLP practitioners assert that when a person looks up to their right they are likely to be lying, whilst a glance up to their left is indicative of telling the truth – making it a widely-used approach to lie detection. But new research published in the journal PLoS ONE shows that this claim is unfounded.

Professor Richard Wiseman from the School of Psychology, together with Dr Caroline Watt from the University of Edinburgh, filmed volunteers as they either lied or told the truth.  Results showed no relationship between lying and eye movements.

In a further study, another group of participants, who were told about the NLP claims, watched the films and attempted to detect the lies on the basis of the volunteers' eye movements – this NLP knowledge did not improve their detection skills.

In a final study conducted in collaboration with the University of British Columbia, Canada, the team analysed films of liars and truth tellers from high profile press conferences.  During this review, the alleged tell-tale pattern of eye movements failed to emerge.

Most members of the public believe that certain eye movements are a sign of lying, and this idea is even taught in organisational training courses!  However, this new research provides no support for the idea and suggests that it is time to abandon this approach to lie detection.

The research paper “The Eyes Don’t Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming” can be read here:

1 comment:

  1. The design, implementation and conclusions in this research indicate a serious lack of thoroughness. I have addressed a few of the weakness in my blog article:

    Reg Connolly - Pegasus NLP