Catching A Liar Just Got A Lot Easier

Being able to catch a liar is a good skill to have. Whether you're dealing with a dishonest colleague at work, manipulative family members who are lying through their teeth, or an unfaithful partner who just tells you what you want to hear, being able to differentiate lies from the truth is important for your own sanity.

Of course, the truth does tend to reveal itself in time. As they say, what's done in the dark will be brought to the light sooner or later. But being able to identify a lie as soon as you hear it would probably save immeasurable time and pain. As it turns out, there is a hack you can use to help you figure out when someone is lying, and it doesn't involve being a naturally intuitive person (although that helps!).

According to 2023 research out of the University of Amsterdam's Leugenlab (Lie Lab) published in Nature Human Behavior, you simply need to pay attention to the specifics of what someone is saying to you. Typically, people who are speaking the truth will be able to provide authentic detail, while liars won't.

Look for the details

Listening out for the details doesn't feel like the most natural thing to do when you're working out how honest someone is being. Most of us naturally tend to focus on how a person says something when we're trying to decipher their intentions, rather than what they're saying. Is their voice shaky? Are they speaking loudly and proudly? Do they sound high-pitched? While these signs can sometimes point to someone being dishonest, gifted liars can train themselves to sound like they're telling the truth. But they can't give details that they don't actually know. And often, they'll avoid making up details, because that may blow their cover.

"... people who tell the truth can give a rich description because they actually experienced the event, whereas although liars can come up with details, this increases their risk of being caught," associate professor of Forensic Psychology Bruno Verschuere explained to

If you suspect someone is lying to you and they haven't given much detail, ask them questions about their claim. Imagine you're an investigative journalist and enquire about the what, where, who, and why (without sounding like you're prying, or they might become defensive when they actually are telling the truth!). A person who's lying to you will find it much harder to give you straight answers.

Other signs that someone is lying

There are more traditional ways of trying to catch a liar, even though the University of Amsterdam's research found that looking for the details is one of the most effective methods.

If you do feel inclined to listen to how a person speaks rather than what they say, look out for changing speech patterns. When lying, someone may be more likely to change the way they speak from their usual habits (via Forensics College). For example, if they usually talk slowly but suddenly change their pace when answering certain questions, it could mean that they're nervous because they're being dishonest.

Harvard Business School explains that someone who is determined to lie may actually give excessive detail in order to win over the person they're deceiving, along with themselves. However, they also tend to use more complex sentences, more swear words, and more third-person pronouns to remove themselves from the lie. So when you're looking for detail, also pay attention to the quality of that detail. Are they giving you genuine facts or long and elaborate pieces of fluff? If they seem to be selling a story rather than just relaying what happened, they could still be lying despite the detail they're adding. Always look for straight, in-depth answers rather than lots of words with little meaning behind them.