Proponents of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) have long claimed that it is possible to tell whether a person is lying from their eye movements. Research published July 11 in the journal PLoS ONE reveals that this claim is unfounded, with the authors calling on the public and organisations to abandon this approach to lie detection.
Professor Richard Wiseman (University of Hertfordshire, UK) and Dr Caroline Watt (University of Edinburgh, UK) tested this idea by filming volunteers as they either lied or told the truth, and then carefully coded their eye movements. In a second study another group of participants was asked to watch the films and attempt to detect the lies on the basis of the volunteers’ eye movements.
“The results of the first study revealed no relationship between lying and eye movements, and the second showed that telling people about the claims made by NLP practitioners did not improve their lie detection skills,” noted Wiseman.
“A large percentage of the public believes that certain eye movements are a sign of lying, and this idea is even taught in organisational training courses. Our research provides no support for the idea and so suggests that it is time to abandon this approach to detecting deceit” remarked Watt.
Tip: @RichardWiseman via Twitter
This Skeptoid episode talks about NLP who notes that all mentions of NLP in mainstream journals are critical. Here is one more to add. The positive results come from journals with less than stellar credentials. It’s enticing to think that we can spot liars by instruments or skills but humans are more tricky instruments themselves.