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Crime News CrimeCon 2022

From Speaking In Present Tense To The Number 3: How To Spot A Liar In 7 Seconds

Body language expert Susan Constantine explains at CrimeCon 2022 that fidgeting and averting a gaze are not necessarily the telltale signs of lying you should be on the lookout for.

By Gina Tron

Spotting a liar: it’s as easy as looking out for someone who's constantly averting their eyes, right? Not exactly, Susan Constantine, a leading authority on body language, told CrimeCon 2022 attendees in Las Vegas on Friday.

And while scoping out a liar isn't as simple as tracking eye contact, she gave some simple tips on how to really tell if somebody may be lying to you.

Constantine, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Reading Body Language explained that despite popular belief, there is no research to back up averted eyes, like looking down or up when asked a question, or fidgeting as signs of deception in and of themselves. She noted that determining a person’s baseline behavior – some people are naturally fidgety, of course, or look up when thinking because they are visual people – will help one know if such behavior is out of character or not. 

She told the audience that it’s still possible those sorts of cues could be a sign of deception but typically only if it is in tandem with other signs of deceptive behavior.

Constantine told the audience that the first sign of lying usually comes within the first seven seconds after someone is asked a probing question. 

She warned people to look out for incongruities: when someone’s body language does not match their words. She pointed to Chris Watts' interview with the media while his pregnant wife Shanann and their kids Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, were still considered missing. In the infamous televised appearance, Watts, who had in actuality killed his whole family, claimed he was worried about their well-being and stated that he had “exhausted” every lead.

“He’s lacking urgency,” Constantine said. “His facial expression is very flat. Does he look like someone who is really worried?”

She added that “he is such a bad liar.”

Other signs of deception include the story breakdown. She said when a person is explaining an incident, typically around 25 percent of their story should take place leading up to the incident, 50 percent during and 25 percent after. She said deviation from that general formula, especially one in which the person skips over crucial information, could indicate deception.

She also said that people who are lying tend to speak in the present tense. Those who are truthful tend to describe what happened with “I saw” or "I ran" but liars like to tell a story as if it’s currently happening, using phrases like "I see" and "so I run."

Interestingly, she also warned that the use of the number three could be indicate deception as well. She said that liars tend to gravitate toward that number when describing time lapses, such as saying something happened three times or three days ago.

CrimeCon 2022 is produced by Red Seat Ventures and presented by Oxygen True Crime.