Professional liars are often hard to detect. Research suggests that people who look you straight in the eye may be lying. A study of deception found that ties associated with untruths, such as shifts in eye gaze and hesitation, were more common in honest people.

Scientists suggested that liars may be skilled at suppressing such signals. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh used an interactive treasure-hunting game where players were free to lie at will, to assess the speech and gestures of liars and study how listeners interpreted clues to tell truths from falsehoods.

They found that listeners judge truthfulness extremely quickly within a few hundred milliseconds of encountering a cue. However, they also found common cues associated with lying were more likely to be given by truthful people.

Dr Martin Corley, lead researcher, said: ‘The findings suggest that we have strong preconceptions about the behaviour associated with lying, which we act on almost instinctively. However, we don’t necessarily produce these cues when we are lying.’

So now we know!

The study is published in The Journal of Cognition.

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