Leading Article: Some tell-tale signs

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The Independent Culture
SO THERE we have it. There are lies, damned lies - and lies about spotting liars. In that respect, police officers are brought up in the same school of lie-detection as the rest of us. And now we discover that it has all been a myth.

When presented with videotapes of known liars, experienced police officers were unable to tell the difference between the mendacious and the mundane; they had a 50 per cent chance of identifying the liars correctly. In short, stabbing a pin at random on to True and False labels would have been just as accurate.

We have been taught for years to assume that avoiding eye contact is a sure sign of dodgy character. But, says a study carried out at Portsmouth University, the police failed to notice more important signs that might have provided crucial evidence.

Look at people's hands (they should not be too still); listen to the voice (it gets higher when its owner tells lies); and watch out for structured answers.

So there's the solution for the perfect liar: wave your hands around, speak in a deep baritone (this includes women), and talk chaotically. Nobody will know what you're on about. But at least you won't be accused of telling lies.

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