Peter Collett’s The Book of Tells: Lie Detection With Friends & Loved Ones

Learning with Lisa Tan

Today’s a cheery message regarding lie detection with friends and loved ones! 🥳

Although lies form a large part of our exchanges with other people, we’re actually not very good at telling when someone is deceiving us. Research on lie detection suggests that people only detect 56% of lies they’re exposed to. Which is just a little better than a coin flip.  In fact, as people get to know each other better, their ability to detect each other’s lies does not improve – it sometimes gets worse! 😧


One. People become more confident in their ability to detect each other’s lies as they get to know the other person well. However, their accuracy doesn’t necessarily increase. Usually just their confidence.

Second. As ppl get to know each other better, they’re more likely to allow their emotions to get in the way of their analytical skills.

Third. As each person gets to know what type of evidence of deceit the other person is looking out for, they’re then able to modify their behaviour accordingly to reduce detection  😝

Reasons why humans are so poor at detecting lies:

1) Ignorance is bliss

One of the main reasons why individuals believe other ppl’s lies is because they want to believe them. Con artists understand this principle perfectly.

It’s found in politics, and in our everyday lives. A spouse may choose to fool themselves that their spouse is not having an affair, or parents may overlook the fact their son is taking drugs.

2) Threshold settings

Your assumption about the prevalence of lying can affect your ability to spot liars and truth- tellers.

People who are very trusting tend to set their detection threshold as v high. As such, they are likely to identify truthtellers accurately but not liars.

High suspicious people have the opposite problem – they manage to identify most liars but not truth- tellers.

3) Gut feeling

There are two ways of identifying a liar. By looking out for clues to deception, or by relying on one’s intuition. Research states that people who use their gut feelings are less accurate in detecting liars than those who try to base their decisions on “evidence”. Here, intuition is usually more of a hindrance than assistance.

Note: I disagree here. Think intuition is usually helpful in helping one build the bigger picture – eg/ intuition can pick up on micro tells, which then alerts you to the fact that something doesn’t seem right. Then you can consider other aspects (patterns, logic) and introspect further to see if what you feel is sound. But careful, do not over-rely on intuition.

4) Multiple causes

There can be multiple causes to everything, so do not overattribute when you find one suspicious “evidence” (Eg/ looking uncomfortable)

In another example, people who rely on the polygraph lie detector often make this mistake. The polygraph measures respiration, heart rate, and palmar sweating – all of which are the same indicators of anxiety (experienced while lying), but also arousal. Also, some people can lie without experiencing any anxiety. So, all these helps, but do not over rely on any one specific thing.

“Research on lying shows that there are no differences in the number of lies told by men and women, but there’s a difference in the type of lies they tell.

Men are more likely to produce lies that are designed to make them look more impressive, while women are more likely to tell lies which make other people feel good.”

Source: Peter Collett’s The Book of Tells



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