Giving away the lie- gestural slips

When the stakes of a situation are elevated and one party decides to deceive the other, it is tough for the deceptive person to conceal all of the indicators of deception.  One of the most difficult aspects of concealing lies, are gestures.  Here, we will take a look at a few gestural slips that are indicators of deception and should raise a red flag.

1. Touching the lips


This gesture is often an attempt at self pacifying, and is rooted in the psychological association with the comfort we had as a child during breastfeeding.  The liar often needs to reassure himself, and this is one way in which he will do it.

2. The Rodney Dangerfield

collar pull

The late comedian Rodney Dangerfield was best known for his catch phrase “no respect” and pulling on his collar.  Because the stress of lying can cause the nerves in the neck to tingle (Desmond Morris), the liar will often pull on his collar as a way to ventilate and relieve the irritation.  This cue will come more often when the liar is not confident that his lie is believed.  This is one you will see when you have the liar on the ropes.

3. Ear Pulling.

ear pull


This gesture is associated with “hear no evil”.  Many times when caught in a precarious position, the liar will not want to hear your side of things.  It is often also associated with not wanting to hear what he has to say himself.  This gesture is often accompanied with a guilt/shame display (looking away and down).



4. Insincere chest touch.

Sincere emotion

Sincere emotion

In moments when a person intends to appear sincere, they will often touch their chest.  If it is a honest, heartfelt moment, look for them to touch their chest with their dominant hand over the heart with the full palm.

When being insincere, the liar will often touch their chest with fingers only and sometimes with the non dominant hand.  Quite often the area of the chest touched is not directly over the heart (think pledge of allegiance). Of note, is when a topic is sensitive or associated with negative feelings, a person may gesture away from himself

Assad gesturing away from himself.

Assad gesturing away from himself.

5. Disappearing thumbs.

lacking confidence

lacking confidence

An easy read into how confident a person may be feeling is the thumbs.  Thumbs up displays should be considered a positive display of confidence.  When the thumbs disappear, your liar is losing confidence in his story.  I have seen this display numerous times during suspect interviews.  If you are in sales or a public speaker, try to avoid this as it sends a negative message to your audience.

As always, keep in mind that each of these are indicators of deception but none of them by themselves guarantee your subject is lying.  Look for more than one indicator at a time and look for gestures that are consistent with what is being said.  If you are able to keep context in mind, you will be able to spot these gestures easily and interpret them accurately.  Good luck!


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